If the saying is right, and history does repeat itself, then it certainly is right now. A century ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see mobile businesses. Milk, coal, ice, fruits and veggies: All of these could and would be delivered right to your home from the back of a carriage.

peddlers_wagon-1860s

(Peddler’s Wagon, 1866 via)

Now, though, mobile businesses are making a roaring comeback. What started with food trucks has evolved into a variety of businesses-on-the-go. Dog grooming, beauty salons, tailoring: Entrepreneurs are foregoing the old school brick-and-mortar approach for the even older school method of, well, “pedaling” their wares. And it makes complete sense when you think about it. Here are things to consider:

Lower, or no, rent for physical space

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(The Fashion Mobile, TheFashionMobile.com)

Yes, there’s vehicle upkeep and fuel costs to consider, but it’ll still be cheaper than what’d you pay leasing a building or storefront. Kathleen Goff realized this when she wanted to open her own boutique in Nashville. “When I ran all of the financials,” she said, “I realized how much money you’d have to have in order to get a brick and mortar store started. I, then, started wondering if it would be possible to do what food trucks are doing with clothes. And it is! I found about 12 in the country (at that time). Most of them, however, were selling vintage and hand made goods and I knew that I would want my store to be more like a boutique. So I added a chandelier and crown molding and it really does feel like a boutique on wheels!”

When Tiffany McCrary moved her vintage clothing store from a 3500-square-foot retail space in New York City’s SoHo district, to a 100-square foot trailer, it opened up all new kinds of business for her. “I can sell clothes affordably now,” McCrary told U.S. News. “When I was paying SoHo rent, I had to price accordingly. Now everything in the shop is $10 or less and everyone seems to love that.”

Outdoor advertising

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(Photo: RogerSigns.com)

When you consider billboard outdoor advertsising could cost you tens-of-thousands of dollars per year (Go to the Lamar Advertising website and play around with their price quote and find what outdoor advertising cost in your area ), it quickly becomes evident that having a moving billboard on the side of your truck is far more valuable than you think. You’re not only reaching customers when you’re parked, you’re making impressions every time you leave your driveway–and in some cases, even in your driveway if it’s on a busy street. How many businesses can say they have that?

Movable malls

truck-rally(Food Truck Rally via WikiMedia Commons)

What do you think of when you think of malls? Stores, food court, annoying guy flying the remote-controlled helicopters? Yeah, us too. But event planners are now rethinking the term. Instead of purely inviting food trucks to an event, they’re opening up spaces to all kinds of mobile vendors, meaning that events in the past that may have drawn customers away from your brick-and-mortar are now great opportunities for you to meet new customers.

Go where the customers are

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(V’room ‘n Groom, Elma, New York, vroomngroom.com)

Perhaps the two most valuable aspects of starting a mobile business, though, are your abilities to go where the market is and specifically cater to customer’s needs. When Jane Trice started Nashville’s A Breed Apart Mobile Pet Spa in 2008, it seemed like a crazy idea. There was a recession. But being able to take her business to her clients allowed her to target a market that she probably wouldn’t have been able to with a brick-and-mortar shop. “If your target market is in an affluent area,” she said, “mobile eliminates the need to meet zoning requirements. Specific to my business, one of my target markets is upscale. I could never get zoning approval for a pet grooming salon where my clients are.” And that, she says, is making all the difference. “The service industries are full of mediocrity and substandard customer service. Know the size of your target market and what they want—specifically what you can provide better than anyone else. It is not that difficult to distinguish yourself by being brilliant at the basics.”

(Featured photo:  Moodysfoodtrucks.com)