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How to Start a Car Wash Business: The Ultimate Guide

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If you’re considering starting a business, there are plenty of reasons why a budding entrepreneur might want to know how to start a car wash business. After all, car washes are in high demand. More than 2 billion take place each year in North America alone, and more than 72% of people report going to a car wash versus washing their own vehicle at home.

There’s more to a car wash business than merely making vehicles sparkle on the outside, too. The services car washes can provide range from washes to detailing and waxing to vacuuming and more. With so much to offer, starting a car wash business can provide an entrepreneur with a worthwhile business opportunity that can create steady revenue streams.

How to start a car wash business

If you’ve ever wondered how to start a car wash business, you’re far from the only one. There are pros and cons to starting your own car wash business of course, and plenty of financial considerations you’ll have to factor in. But if the math adds up for you, starting a car wash could be a great opportunity to be your own boss (and make the town’s vehicles sparkle, too). Here’s how to get started.

Step 1: Write your business plan

No matter the industry, opportunity, or location you have in mind for a new company, you have to start with a robust business plan before getting your operation off the ground. A business plan outlines your aspirations for your company, financial projections about the costs involved, industry research, and more.

In fact, a solid business plan does much more than just detail how you plan to get your company off the ground. It also provides you with a general roadmap for how you will run your business on an ongoing basis as well. Think of a business plan as your template for beginning your business and keeping it focused on a specific goal (or goals) after it takes off. You may even want to update your business plan from time to time so it reflects the changing goals and financial needs of your business.

Last but not least, you’ll likely need a solid business plan for financing and small business loan applications as well. Lenders want to know what your business is about, how it makes money, and what your overall vision for the enterprise is. Business plans make it easier for lenders to get this information in one helpful guide, which, in turn, makes it easier for you to make a compelling argument for why you need the financing you seek.

Developing a robust business plan doesn’t have to be a difficult undertaking, either. This is true even if you’re not the most confident writer or a math prodigy. Your typical business plan follows a conventional format. In fact, there are even business plan templates out there to make the process even easier.

Step 2: Get your car wash business registered

Once you’ve got your car wash business plan drafted, you’re going to want to get your company off the ground. But before you can dive in, you’ll need to take care of some additional preparatory work. Some elements of this are obvious, such as coming up with a business name. Other parts are a bit more complex, such as registering your business entity with the state and getting a federal tax identification number. Here’s what you need to know and what to do in order to get your business on the right side of the law.

Set up a business entity

Before you get busy washing and detailing vehicles, you’ll need to set up a business entity to make sure you’re operating within the full regulatory requirements of the town and state in which your business will be based. There are several kinds of business entities, each with different advantages depending on your operating circumstances and needs.

A limited liability corporation (LLC) is a popular option for most kinds of businesses. LLCs make it easy to set up your business, pay taxes, and give your personal assets some distance from your business’s financial operations. Plus, you can determine how you pay business taxes as well—even opting to pay them as part of your personal tax returns if you so choose.

On the more complex end of the spectrum are S-corps and C-corps, which both allow for more control over how a business pays taxes (but require a more complex governance structure and more rules about how business owners can pay themselves).

Step 3: Obtain business licenses

Every municipality is different when it comes to licenses and permits for businesses. It’s crucial to register for each if your location requires them, as they help enforce a set of standard practices between businesses. Perhaps more importantly, your state or town could shut down your business if you don’t have them. Remember that ignorance of the law is no excuse for not following the law: Be sure to check with your local secretary of state’s office or chamber of commerce to make sure you have everything you need. The SBA is another helpful resource to make sure you have all the licenses and permits you need.

One specific consideration for car wash businesses are regulations around waste containment and mitigation. Most states and local governments place strict rules on car washes aimed at controlling their waste water and grit-trap waste disposal, the air emissions allowed from customers’ cars, and the proper storage of fuel tanks. Operating a car wash is an inherently dirty business, and often requires the use of harsh chemicals. These rules help dictate what kinds of mitigation efforts are required for your business to reduce environmental harm.

Step 4: Get business insurance

Just about every kind of entrepreneurial effort benefits from having comprehensive small business insurance. The kind of insurance, as well as the breadth of your policy, depends largely on the kind of company you operate.

In the case of car wash businesses, there is a ton that can go wrong—and in the event of an accident or damage to a customer’s vehicle, you’re going to want to make sure your insurance can pick up a big portion of the bill. You’ll want to make sure your car wash business has good general liability and workers compensation insurance, at the very least. Talk to a business insurance agent or business lawyer for more specific information about your individual needs.

Step 5: Separate your business finances

Once you’ve set up your business registration, obtained any required licenses, and have insurance in the works, your next step toward starting a car wash business is setting up your company’s finances. The first step is making sure that your business has its own checking account, so that you’re able to keep your business and personal finances separate.

You might be wondering why it’s so important to keep business and personal finances separate. After all, the business is your business, right? Well, there’s more to it than that. You’ll need a business bank account in order to protect your personal assets. If you operate as an LLC, separate business banking accounts will prevent creditors (and, in the event of legal action, those who sue you) from being able to come after your personal assets as well as those of your business. Plus, having separate business accounts will make it easier for you to keep track of your company’s financial performance, pay taxes, and track your cash flow.

Once you have a business bank account, you’ll also want to find the best business credit card for your needs. You’ll use this card for all of your business-related spending, and depending on which one you choose, you can also receive cash back, travel rewards, 0% introductory APR, and more to help make the most of your money.

Step 6: Consider small business financing needs

Buying the machinery needed to operate a car wash can be expensive. So can keeping everything in working order on a regular basis. The equipment involved in most car wash businesses can cost more than $30,000 for a touchless system, and even more basic setups can still cost several thousands of dollars. Whether you choose to buy or rent your equipment, you may still find yourself in need of financing to get everything that comes along with getting your car wash business off the ground.

Thankfully, there are plenty of financing options out there that can make it a little more affordable to get your car wash up and running. Whether you need one large loan, rolling credit for incremental purchases, or financing that’s designed to help you buy equipment, there’s a solution out there.

If you’re able to get a Small Business Administration loan, more commonly known as an SBA loan, you’re in luck. These types of loans provide large sums of cash to qualified applicants at low interest rates and with generous repayment periods.

This can be an excellent option for small business owners who have an existing track record of success with other business undertakings, have good credit, and can show that their business will be viable over the long term. One of the most popular SBA loan options is the SBA 7(a) loan program. These loans can total up to $5 million, and can be used to raise working capital, refinance other loans, or even renovate your business.

Another type of loan, the SBA 504/CDC loan, on the other hand, is designed to help small businesses purchase large, expensive items that they might need for their operations, or even for things like commercial properties. This can be particularly helpful for car wash businesses, as much of the requisite machinery tends to be on the expensive side (and most certainly qualifies for the conditions of this loan program). You can borrow up to $5.5 million through this program, and have anywhere from 10 to 20 years to pay back what you borrowed.

Finally, the SBA microloan program can be a great option for new or smaller-sized businesses that need loans up to $50,000. These loans are great for companies that need smaller sums of cash to get themselves off the ground. Plus, borrowers can take up to six years to repay what they’ve borrowed, which is better than other non-SBA loans in most situations.

Business term loans

Getting approved for an SBA loan can be a pretty difficult thing for most small business owners to accomplish. That doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck with regard to getting small business financing, though. Another great option for accessing the funds you need to help move your car wash business forward is a business term loan.

Term loans provide borrowers with a lump sum of cash that they can use for appropriate business purposes. Your business may be a decent candidate as long as it’s been in business for a while, and both you and your company have a good credit score. The interest rate, payout terms, and the amount of money your lender provides will between applicants and businesses.

Equipment financing

Similar to the SBA 504/CDC loans, equipment financing can also help you obtain the money you need in order to purchase equipment and machinery that you may need to operate your car wash. These loans provide an attractive option to small business owners who may not have enough of a credit history, time in operation, or have bad credit. Instead of basing the loan approval on the track record of the borrower, equipment financing provides an alternative model for serving loans.

Borrowers approach their lender with the price of a piece of equipment, and the lender then provides the small business owner with the money needed in order to make the purchase. The borrower then pays back the loan, plus interest, over a set period of time. If the borrower can’t make payments, the lender will repossess the equipment purchased with the loan. This means you don’t have to offer up collateral to get the money you need, either, which can be great for businesses that are low on cash but big on financing needs.

The bottom line

There are plenty of boxes to check off when you’re starting your car wash business. But, taking the time to do it right is crucial. You’ll save yourself the headache of doing more paperwork when you’re knee-deep in running daily operations, and will prime yourself for success down the road too. Knowing how you intend to operate your business, what your financial needs are, and how you’re going to satisfy them all can put you at a distinct advantage.

With these steps toward starting a car wash behind you, you can move on to the next phase, like finding the perfect location, hiring employees, and marketing your new business to the community.

This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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How to Start a Niche Foam Party Business: Kid’s Party

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Foam parties have become popular and are great fun. If you didn’t know what a foam party is, it is a party or event where participants have fun dancing amidst foam created by a machine. The machine creates bubbles of foams that envelop the place, creating a fun environment at the party. If you are a business person, then a foam party business is a great idea.

You can get a foam machine and use it to throw foam parties and make money from it – relatively affordably.

photo credit: Roaring Foam

Can you make money through foam parties?

Yes, you can make money if you have a foam machine. Parties are common, and party-goers get bored with the usual stuff. A foam party is an innovative way of partying. It allows participants to let go, dancing in joy amidst the foam. This kind of party would be popular, and you can make money by offering a different experience to participants.

Creating a niche market

When you want to make money from a business, you will find that there are many others with the same idea. You need to do something different so you can succeed. This is where finding a niche market helps. A niche market is a specific category to which you can cater. Kids Foam Party is such a niche market. While there are many businesses catering to foam parties in general, foam parties for kids is a niche idea. This is a business idea that can help you succeed and make money.

Planning your business

Now that you have found your niche, it is important to plan your business before you get started. The first thing is to be clear with what you are offering. You are offering a foam party, which is an event where there is a dance floor filled with suds. When this party is offered for kids, they will enjoy it the most. They would not only dance but play in the foam and have a great time in general.

Taking proper safety precautions like setting the depth of the foam and insisting on face coverings ensure there are no problems.

What do you need?

It is obvious that you need a foam machine if you plan to run foam parties. A foam machine is not too expensive. However, you need not buy one immediately. Since you are starting off with a new business, you can get a foam machine for rent. This is a cheaper option allowing you to rent a machine and use it whenever you need it. This will allow you to do a pilot run of your party business.

If the response is good and you start getting many events, then you can consider buying your own foam machine. This would work out better for you.

Kid having fun in foam
photo credit: Roaring Foam

Planning and executing foam parties for kids

With these basic concepts in mind, it is time you start planning your parties. Since you have chosen the niche of foam parties for kids, you need to explore different options. You can have foam parties to celebrate birthdays. There can even be parties for no reason but just to allow kids to have fun. Explore different themes for foam parties and plan the events.

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind while planning and executing foam parties for kids:

  • You need to find a venue to host the foam party. The ideal location is outdoors, so the foam does not create a mess inside. When the weather does not permit, you need to find indoor venues with a fairly big hall to organize the event.
  • Apart from the machine, you need the foam solution to create foam. You need to have sufficient foam machine solution to last the entire party.
  • Safety is a very important issue in foam parties. This is all the more important when you are dealing with kids. You need to have a clear plan for ensuring safety in your foam party. Communicate the plan with your clients so they are assured of the safety arrangements.
  • If you are doing the party indoors, you need a tarp to cover the floor and walls. It is important to cover up all the electric and other outlets to avoid them being damaged.
  • Placing plastic furniture is better since it won’t get damaged due to bubbles.
  • Safety arrangements for the kids are very important. Wearing shoes is a must. You can insist on goggles or face coverings to prevent allergies from the suds. You need to take adequate precautions to prevent kids from skidding and falling during the party. There is always a risk of accidents at a foam party, and you need to do everything to prevent it.
  • Preferably, get a waiver from guests to protect against liabilities.

With all this planning, you are now ready to execute foam parties and make neat profits from them.

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What open source-based startups can learn from Confluent’s success story

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It’s common these days to launch an enterprise startup based on an open source project, often where one the founders was deeply involved in creating it. The beauty of this approach is that if the project begins to gain traction, you have the top of the sales funnel ready and waiting with potential customers when you move to commercialize your business.

In the past, this often meant providing help desk-style services for companies who appreciated what the open source software could do but wanted to have the so-called “throat to choke” if something went wrong. Another way that these companies have made money has been creating an on-prem version with certain enterprise features, particularly around scale or security, the kind of thing that large operations need as table stakes before using a particular product. Today, customers typically can install on-prem or in their cloud of choice.

“A key aspect of these kinds of technology-developer data products is they have to have a combination of bottom-up adoption and top-down SaaS, and you actually have to get both of those things working well to succeed.” Jay Kreps

In recent years, the model has shifted to building a SaaS product, where the startup builds a solution that handles all the back-end management and creates something that most companies can adopt without all of the fuss associated with installing yourself or trying to figure out how to use the raw open source.

One company that has flirted with these monetization approaches is Confluent, the streaming data company built on top of the open source Apache Kafka project. The founding team had helped build Kafka inside LinkedIn to move massive amounts of user data in real time. They open sourced the tool in 2011, and CEO and co-founder Jay Kreps helped launch the company in 2014.

It’s worth noting that Confluent raised $450 million as a private company with a final private valuation in April of $4.5 billion before going public in June. Today, it has a market cap of over $22 billion, not bad for less than six months as a public company.

Last month at TC Sessions: SaaS, I spoke to Kreps about how he built his open source business and the steps he took along the way to monetize his ideas. There’s certainly a lot of takeaways for open source-based startups launching today.

Going upmarket

Kreps said that when they launched the company in 2014, there were a bunch of enterprise-size companies already using the open source product, and they needed to figure out how to take the interest they had been seeing in Kafka and convert that into something that the fledgling startup could begin to make money on.

“There have been different paths for different companies in this space, and I think it’s actually very dependent on the type of product [as to] what makes sense. For us, one of the things we understood early on was that we would have to be wherever our customers had data,” Kreps said.

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5 Hobbies That Make Money and How To Get Started

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Money-making hobbies range from walking dogs to blogging to creating and selling homemade goods.

Read about these profitable hobbies, as well as what you can expect to make.

1. Driving

Enjoy cruising around town? Give others a ride and make money by becoming an Uber or Lyft driver. Uber drivers make an estimated $5 to $20 an hour, and Lyft drivers earn about $5 to $25 an hour, according to SideHusl.com, a review site for money-making platforms. Note that earnings depend in part on when, where and how often you drive.

To become an Uber or Lyft driver, you must be the minimum age to drive in your area. You must also meet specific requirements related to your driver’s license, insurance and vehicle. Learn about these exact requirements in our guide to becoming an Uber or Lyft driver.

If you enjoy driving but don’t want people in your car, look into becoming a full-service Instacart shopper, which involves shopping for and delivering groceries. Uber Eats and Amazon Flex also offer opportunities to deliver food and other products to homes. Each of these gigs has its own set of requirements, though, so do your research before signing up.

2. Caring for dogs

If your favorite hobbies involve belly rubs, smooches and long walks in the neighborhood, try Wag or Rover. These apps enable you to walk, dog-sit or board pups overnight for money.

Rover and Wag work in similar ways. They both require you to be at least 18 years old, pass a background check and meet other requirements. For both, you create a profile, set your own rates, and use the app to choose which gigs to take. (See our Rover vs. Wag comparison for more specific sign-up and payment information, as well as how the apps vary in the services they allow.)

On both apps, the amount you earn depends on what you charge, how much you receive in tips, and which types of services you provide. As you would guess, boarding typically pays more than walking a dog, for example. But both companies take a bite from your earnings. Rover charges a 20% service fee per booking, and Wag takes 40%.

3. Blogging

If you have a blog that gets decent traffic, try making money from it. Blogging for money can take a few forms. One way is to host ads on your blog through a service like Google AdSense, which is free. Here’s the gist, according to Google: If your website is approved, then you choose where on it you would like ads to appear. Then advertisers bid to place ads where you designated, with the winner’s ads appearing in that spot. (People make money on YouTube through the same service.)

You earn some money when a reader clicks on one of these ads — but determining exactly how much you’ll make is tricky. Explore our guide to Google AdSense to learn more about it.

You could also try writing sponsored content, meaning companies pay you to write about their products. Or, become an affiliate through the Amazon Associates program. That involves linking to an Amazon product from your content and earning a commission when one of your readers clicks through and buys that item. Learn more about how to make money on Amazon through your blog.

4. Posting to social media

Love posting to social media and building a following? On Instagram and TikTok, many users earn money through sponsored photos and videos. Say you regularly post about your at-home exercise regimen. You may agree to post about a retailer’s resistance bands or sweatpants in exchange for cash or free products. (Sponsorships and affiliate marketing are also ways to make money from podcasts, in case that’s one of your hobbies.)

Sponsors may reach out to you to set up this kind of arrangement; you could contact them; or, in some cases, you may consider working through a third-party agency.

The type of content you post, as well as your number of followers and their engagement, will likely impact sponsorship opportunities. Learn more about how to make money on Instagram or on TikTok.

5. Selling your wares

There’s a marketplace for just about everything. So if you’re skilled in a hobby, consider trying to profit from it. For example, if you create jewelry or have an eye for thrifting quality clothes, try selling those items at a local flea market or yard sale, or on a neighborhood website such as Nextdoor or Facebook Marketplace.

Or look into an online market that could attract a wider range of buyers. Consider Etsy for crafts or Poshmark if you want to sell clothes online.

These websites charge fees that will cut into your profits. This guide to selling stuff online will help you think through the math and determine if your hobby can become a viable business.

What to consider before making money from your hobbies

Before taking any of the routes listed above, keep in mind that this work will likely affect your taxes. See our guide to self-employment taxes, which includes expenses you can deduct, and how to avoid penalties.

And as you aim to profit from your hobbies, consider whether you will continue to enjoy them through this new business lens. Let’s say knitting helps you relax. Will it continue to do so if you’re pricing, promoting and shipping your homemade wares through an online marketplace? And that blogging hobby: Will writing still be fun or cathartic if you’re occasionally throwing in a sponsored post?

It may be hard to answer these questions until you give the money-making approach a shot. But it’s worth reflecting on the potential trade-offs as you think about turning your hobby into a job.

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