Home Business Ideas and Stories

Learn how Linda Martin became a transcriber; Stanley Collopy started a hauling business; and David Poulson started a candle making business.

Handmade Candles

Turn a hobby into a business like David Poulson from Rutland, Vt. did when he started his home candle making business.  


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Linda Martin from Norco, Calif.: 

Thanks to MOTHER — and to Gail Williams, who wrote the piece "The Best Home Typing Business of Them All" that pointed me in the right direction — I now make $600 to $800 a month working at home as a transcriber ... that is, someone who does typing for court reporters.

Since I can't improve on Gail's write-up, I'd just like to relate how I attained my present status as my employer's number one typist.

First, I went to the public library (the law section) and made a list of all the court reporters and deposition businesses within driving distance. Then I typed up a resume (in which I included a special note stating that I was excellent at spelling, grammar, and punctuation) ... and began pounding the pavement.

Everyone who interviewed me asked the same questions: Do you own your own equipment? How good is your spelling? Do you live close by? How often are you willing to come in to pick up and deliver work? I told them all that I would rent my equipment at first, that my spelling was outstanding, and that — though our homestead is 35 miles from the city — my husband could make daily deliveries on his way to work. Luck must have been with me, because on my first day out I landed a job.

Right away, I arranged to rent both an IBM Selectric typewriter and a DeJur Grundig Stenorette dictating machine. (My total initial investment was $150 ... $35 a month for the Selectric rental, $40 a month for the Stenorette, and a $75 deposit.)

When I went to the office for training the next day, my boss (I work for just one company) was patient and thorough. He encouraged me to call any time I had a question (which is why our phone bills — for a short time — zoomed to $50 a month). His only caution was: "I don't care who makes the mistakes around here, just so they're caught before the deposition goes out the door." Taking that to heart, I asked my fellow workers to point out to me any errors I made. (In return, I often corrected mistakes made by the reporters.)

During that first month, I actually lost money. (I think I made about 50 cents an hour.) But — since my deliveries were prompt and my work was accurate — I soon found myself getting more and more to do, so that by the end of my third month I was making $3 an hour. Later — after purchasing my own equipment — my income doubled.

It's now a year since I started transcribing, I'm making $6 to $9 an hour, and yet I can still garden, bake, and care for the children and animals. In addition, we can now deduct a percentage of our house payments, utilities, car costs, and gasoline from our taxes. Even better, however, my job has allowed Ron (my husband) to return to college for his agricultural degree.

All things considered, I wouldn't want to work any other way. I hope other MOTHER readers will find home typing equally rewarding.

Stanley B. Collopy from Portland, Ore.: 

An article from MOTHER on hauling — reprinted in our local daily newspaper three years ago — inspired my brother and me to put our pickup trucks to work for us.

Two major facts prompted us to try what the article suggested: We live in a city of 500,000 potential customers and both of us already drive pickups. (Our trucks had cost us only $500 each, and no further capital investments were necessary in order for us to get started.)

We placed our first advertisement for hauling in that same newspaper, and — though rewarded with only moderate success In the beginning — it was through that first ad that we inherited the lawnmowing and yard work route of a deceased landscape gardener. (Landscaping was promptly added to our list of job skills, and townmowers with good service contracts on them were purchased for this part of the business.)

From yard work, it was only natural that my brother and I should progress to doing handyman jobs for our steady lawnmowing customers ... such things as interior and exterior painting, window washing, repairs on roofs, foundations, and electrical systems, etc. This bit of diversification cost us nothing, since we already owned all the required tools.

Our family business grossed $10,000 In 1976, or $6,000 apiece. That may not sound like a lot, but we didn't spend anything close to 40 hours a week at our business, and that — for us — is what counts.

This year — with the help of a Bel Saw course — my brother and I are adding small engine repair to our list of job capabilities ... and this, we hope, will at least double our current income.

David Poulson from Rutland, Vt.: 

Five years ago I decided to leave my home near a large Midwestern city (Cleveland, Ohio) and move to a more rural area. But first, I wanted to find a home business that I could depend on for a steady income before and after the move.

I was greatly encouraged by Chuck Ferrero's "How to Make $1,000 a Week Making Candies" article, and-since I enjoy handcrafts anyway — I decided to give candlemaking a try.

With $10 worth of supplies, I made a trial batch ... and sold all of those first efforts to my friends and co-workers! (I worked for a company that employed over 50 women, all of whom really liked the candies I brought In ... especially since I sold them for less than half of what they cost in local shops.) That first year, I went on to market several hundred dollars' worth of scented candles ... and turned a good profit in the process.

I shopped around for the best quality and most reasonable prices in scents, colors, and molds, and had soon acquired about $50 worth of both metal and plastic forms (which last indefinitely) as well as wax (from large oil company warehouses) and stearic acid (from a chemical warehouse) in bulk. As a result my profits improved, along with the quality of my products.

I found that tall, decorator candies in various shapes and colors are always good sellers, as are candies that are shaped like animals (frogs, owls, turtles, and so forth). I also did some experimenting and came up with a "beer bottle" candle (complete with wax foaming out of the top and down the sides) that ultimately proved to be one of my most popular items.

When I finally made my move from the city in the summer of 1973, I set up a candlemaking operation here in Vermont and sought out small shops that would either buy my wares or take them on consignment. The business worked as well in Now England as it had in the Midwest.

In conclusion, candlemaking gets my vote as a great "sideline" business for anyone who's regularly employed but wants to earn a little extra cash. Depending on where you live, candlecrafting could even turn into a terrific full-time business (even though it didn't for me).