If you're mechanically inclined and have an entrepreneurial spirit, you might consider opening a small engine repair shop. This could mean working with a wide range of small engines - from lawn tractors and mowers and other outdoor power equipment to small motorboats, motorcycles, and dirt bikes - or you might opt to specialize in a niche area.

It's a stable field, though, and small engine mechanics are always needed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the need for workers in this field will remain steady. In fact, it anticipates a 3% increase in these jobs between 2019 and 2029.

Of course, starting your own company is much different than working as a mechanic for someone else. There's a lot of planning and paperwork involved in operating your own business, and you need to stay organized to achieve success. This article will walk you through everything you need to know about starting a small engine repair business.

Education or Training Requirements

The training and education needed to work as a small engine mechanic will vary based on the type of engines you decide to work with. To work with motorboats or outdoor power equipment, like hedge trimmers, chainsaws, or leaf blowers, you can usually enter the field with a high school diploma and some natural ability to work with these small motors. Much of your training will come on the job.

For more complicated motors, such as motorcycles - and because newer models use computerized systems - you might consider a postsecondary certificate program before jumping into the field (although you'll still receive plenty of hands-on training).

Often, different manufacturing companies will provide training and certification for their specific brands. For instance, Briggs & Stratton, Toro, or Generac might offer several days of workshops on their line of lawn mowers and other outdoor power products. Kawasaki might set up a series of classes on its motorcycles, teaching everything from oil changes and tune-ups to rebuilding their engines.

Licensing requirements also vary based on the motors you decide to work with. You likely won't need a special license to get into the lawn mower repair business, but some states require motorcycle mechanics to have a license. You'll need your driver's license to work with motorcycles, though, and a business license is likely needed for any endeavor. Check your state, county, and city business requirements.

Also, many brands offer their own certification programs for their products. These aren't required but will demonstrate your expertise.

Figuring Out Your Small Engine Repair Business

Before launching your small engine repair company, you'll need to make important decisions about every aspect of your business. Here are just a few matters to consider:

  • Services offered: Which type of small engines will you work with? Will you work with mostly lawn mowers and power tools or will you go in the direction of motorcycles and motorboats? Will you specialize even further by focusing on specific brands? Will you sell products in addition to offering general services and repairs?
  • Target market: Define your target market so that you understand who to promote your business to. For instance, if you repair lawn mowers, your target market might be commercial landscapers or homeowners in your city.
  • Average range of prices: As you determine pricing for your company, look to your competitors to see what they charge. You want to stay within a competitive range, especially as you're getting started. Lawn mower repair typically costs between $80 and $100 depending on the scope of the problem, for instance.
  • Amount of work you can take on: Be realistic about your time and don't bite off more than you can chew. Stay cognizant of how much work you can take on at any given time. It's possible that when you launch your business, you might be the only employee. As you grow, you can consider hiring mechanics to work with you.
  • Business costs: What is the cost of starting and operating your small engine repair shop? You'll need to purchase tools and other equipment. Will you have a work van to pick up and deliver lawn mowers and other power tools? Will you be renting space for a repair shop or working out of your home garage to start? Do you have employees? Don't forget to consider business insurance costs, too.
  • Business plan: This document will serve as the blueprint for your new business. It can be adapted as you grow and evolve and will include many of the above items. Specifically, your business plan should include an executive summary about what your company is, who works for you, which services you offer, and where you're located. You'll also include a more in-depth company description, market analysis, business structure outlining how it's organized and managed, a complete list of services and product lines, marketing and sales information, and financial projections.

Getting Your Business Set Up

Once you have a business plan in mind, here are the steps you need to take to launch your small engine repair shop.

Legal Requirements for Your Small Engine Repair Shop

As you legally form your small engine repair shop, the first thing to consider is which type of legal business structure you want to adopt.

The most common business entity types are sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations. Each type has different pros and cons and affects how you're taxed, your personal liability, how you raise money for your business, and the type of paperwork you need to submit to your local and state governments.

Once you've determined the structure you want, select a unique name for your company. There are two things to keep in mind when choosing a name, though: the marketability of it and your state's legal requirements. From a marketing perspective, you want a name that resonates with customers and also clearly states the services you offer. As for the legal stipulations of your name, each state has different naming requirements. Many require you to have a unique name unlike any other business in existence, and some states will prohibit you from using certain words. Check your state laws before getting attached to a business name. Most states will also have a database of existing businesses for you to search.

Research whether there are any local licenses, permits, regulations, and required insurance you need to have before launching your business. This will vary by state and even by city or county. Do your research and make sure you have every required document in your hand before you start doing business.

As a small business owner, understanding federal, state, and local tax requirements is integral to your success. How you file your taxes will be based on the type of business entity you opt for. Most businesses, though, will use their employer identification number (EIN) as their tax ID. You should apply for this after registering your business with your state, county, or city. Whether you have employees, you'll need to pay various taxes. Each state also has different sales and use tax requirements on the sale of goods and services, so check your state tax laws. If you have any questions about taxes, it's best to consult a local tax expert.

Once your business is registered and you have the necessary documents, you may want to open a business bank account. Most business bank accounts require you to provide your EIN or Social Security number, your business formation documents, ownership agreements if you're in a partnership or corporation, your business license, a certificate of your assumed name, and monthly credit card revenue (or an estimate if you're just starting up).

If you're running a brick-and-mortar shop and are renting or have purchased space for your business, don't forget to obtain your certificate of occupancy. This document should be issued by your local building department to establish that your space is up to code. Check with your local government to make sure there aren't any other legal requirements or documents needed to operate your space.

Marketing and Promoting Your Small Engine Repair Shop

Now that your business is ready to go, you can't expect customers to magically find you. You need to have a marketing plan to reach those in need of your services. Your marketing plan should include a mix of traditional marketing and digital outreach.

Here are a few easy ways to promote your new business:

  • Build a website. You can hire someone to create a website for your business, using a site like Upwork to find talented freelancers. There are also numerous point-and-click website builders, such as Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix, that are intuitive and easy to use.
  • Create social media profiles. Even if you don't personally love social media, it's important to make business profiles on Facebook, Instagram, and other sites because that's where your potential customers are. You should consistently post to your social media sites - don't just create them and forget about them. Your posts should be educational and engaging without focusing only on your sales pitch. You should use social media to form a relationship with your customers.
  • Use branded media. Branded media, such as a logo, social media banners, color schemes, and slogans, will help your business stand out in the crowd. Hire a graphic designer to help you create branded content for your company.
  • Write a blog. Blogs are an excellent way to draw in new customers and are a great section to add to your website. A blog should be informative and tackle specific topics. It should draw in people who are looking up specific issues, such as general maintenance required for Husqvarna brand snow blowers or how frequently the oil should be changed on Honda ATVs. Once they read your blog and recognize your knowledge and expertise, they might engage you further for services.
  • Don't forget traditional mailers. Even in this digital age, traditional advertisements mailed to homes and businesses can draw in new customers, particularly in a field like small engine repair. You might consider sending mailers to all commercial businesses in your area, as well as larger companies that you know have their own lawn maintenance department or fleet of motorcycles, powerboats, and ATVs. You should also target homeowners in your surrounding area.
  • Set up online business pages. Claim your Google My Business and Yelp pages. These sites offer easy ways for local businesses to connect with customers who are looking for specific services.

Operating Your Small Business Repair Shop

The day-to-day operations of your small engine repair shop - billing customers, offering estimates, tracking payments - might seem overwhelming, but Skynova offers a full range of accounting and invoicing software to lighten your load. Our full range of software for small business owners makes it easy for you to focus on what you love most - working in your shop and repairing small engines.

Skynova can help you in the following areas:

  • Billing: Our invoice template lets you customize and easily submit invoices to customers.
  • Estimating jobs: Learn how to create an estimate for any small engine repair job and use our free template to send an estimate to potential customers.
  • Track payments and costs: Our accounting software module tracks all money going in and out of your business, helping you keep accurate records.
  • Receipts: Generate receipts for your customers at the end of each transaction using our receipt template.
  • Bill of sale: If you decide to sell new or used equipment in addition to providing small engine repair services, our bill of sale template can help you track any transfer of goods in exchange for money.

Rely on Skynova for All of Your Small Business Needs

If you enjoy working with your hands and tinkering with small engines, opening a small engine repair shop could be the right career move for you. There's a lot of planning and organization that goes into operating your own repair shop, from determining your legal structure and registering your business to taking care of day-to-day operations.

Luckily, Skynova's accounting software and other software products, including our easy-to-use business templates, make it easy for anyone to run a successful small business. Use our intuitive templates to bill customers, track payments, send out estimates, and handle all of your accounting paperwork so you can focus on what you do best: repairing small engines and working with your customers.