Some of the biggest names in business all started out with a discreet garage office. Amazon.com's founder, Jeff Bezos, built his empire from the garage of his two-bedroom home. Google has a similar story. The leading Internet search giants started up over a decade ago when co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin rented a garage space to work out of. Hewlett Packard, Apple, HCL and Borland all share the same stories.
Yet, most small businesses fail within the first year. The mistake that most small businesses make is to invest in things that don't offer them any kind of real return. Office products, new computers, expensive office spaces, are all classic money drainers. The amount normally spent here should be redirected to your business, in investments, brand identity, market analysis, research and networking -- all things that can get you more informed and your business more exposure.
When launching a garage startup, keep it simple. Focus on functionality and cost-effectiveness; there are a few important factors to consider in order to have your space be both effective and eco-friendly. Considering that 40% of houses were built prior to the era of energy efficiency, it's definitely worth taking a moment to address possible gaps in your garage office.
Getting Your Garage Eco-Ready:
The key here is to think "refurbish and repair." Amazon's Jeff Bezos crafted his first set of office tables from wooden doors, angle brackets, and two-by-four pieces of lumber from Home Depot. The idea is to save money and resources by using what you have to create a makeshift environment that is both functional and eco-friendly. Try reupholstering old sofas and chairs, creating makeshift desks, or staining or painting furniture to give it a new look. The possibilities are endless if you pair imagination with a little bit of elbow grease. After all, just because you're working in a garage office, doesn't mean it has to feel like it.
Insulate Your Garage
Adding a couple inches of insulation will help keep outside noise at bay (think cars, noisy neighbors, gardeners), which is particularly important if you expect to regularly be on the phone with clients or vendors.
A possible solution here is the use of spray foam insulation, which is definitely something to consider if you're based in the northern or eastern states. Depending on the company providing the foaming services, foams are also available in eco-friendly medium density polyurethane.
Aside from insulating walls, you may also want to consider your garage doors. Considering that most doors are large enough to take up an entire wall, and are made of plastic or basic metals, this is definitely an area to consider tackling.
Additionally, homeowners who purchase an energy-efficient garage door now through December 31, 2010 may qualify for $1,500 in federal tax credits -- not to mention the purchase could also be marked up as a business expense. But if your budget is a modest one, you still have the option for a DIY garage insulation.
Get Through the Winter
A regulated temperature plays a big part in creating a conducive work environment. Regardless of where you are, winters are one of the biggest challenges for a garage office.
A higher efficiency rating (contrasted against the high and rising cost of natural gas), makes electric heaters the go-to solution for heating garage offices. Electric heaters also protect against carbon dioxide poisoning. Unlike natural gas furnaces, with electric garage heaters you don't have to worry about deadly gas leaks. And since electric heaters don't produce emissions, they're definitely the green choice for any eco-minded office.
Many cities and states also offer incentive programs to homeowners who switch out traditional heating for electric heaters. Additionally, many utility companies offer similar perks to those who heat with electricity rather than natural gas.
The next step in any eco-conscious garage office involves the same type of thinking that goes into any other sort of green office.