Home Business Entrepreneurs: Recycle Tires, Home Typist and Typesetting Business

The Bootstrap Businesses column showcases home business entrepreneurs: how to recycle tires, a home typist and a typesetting business.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
January/February 1978
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Learn how to start a small business by recycling tires, becoming a home typist or start a typesetting business.
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Home business entrepreneurs enter into new businesses, including how to recycle tires, a home typist and a typesetting business.

Starting a Recycled Tires, Home Typist and Typesetting Business

What can a poverty-ridden pickup owner do to round up some extra cash? Plenty . . . especially if he gets hold of a copy of MOTHER NO. 46 (pages 104-106) and learns how to recycle tires. The chance to start your own business with no money down and still got paid on the first day got my attention.

The first thing I did was call up some of the recappers in my area to find out what they'd buy . . . and what they'd pay. I soon learned that not all recappers are alike. That is, some of 'am recap radials, some do wide tires, and others just want tires from passenger cars and pickup trucks.

So I made a list of the sizes each particular recapper wanted and the amount I could expect to get for each size. To my surprise I discovered that every recappable tire I brought in would bring me at least $2.00 to $2.50 depending on the size and whether or not it was a whitewall — and that the wide tires were worth $3.00 to $5.00 a piece.

Then (with my new list in one hand and MOTHER in the other) I hopped into my truck and headed for the gas stations. The tires were piled high, all right, and most were rejects . . . but with determination and three hours of hard labor I ended up with 37 tires in my pickup.

The recappers only took 13 of those tires, and paid me a total of $29.50 . . . but that still gave me a profit of almost $10 an hour my first time out!

Through practice I've become a lot more efficient and after just two months now find I'm collecting about 80 percent "good" tires. I've also learned that the big dealers (Goodyear, Firestone, Sears, etc.) and the local discount tire store are the best places to get tires. To keep from doing a lot of driving for nothing, however, I only go to the same dealers once a week.

Of course I admit the number of recyclable casings as well as the price you'll got for 'em varies from place to place. Unless you try, though, you'll never know how much you can make by recycling tires. But I can testify that my monthly income is at least $200 more per month than it used to be.

Ralph Larssen,
Angwin, California


Six years ago we (my husband, two boys, and I) were at a crossroads in our lives. Having just resigned as principal of a private school in the Los Angeles area, we felt the need for "getting away" from the hassles of the city.

We had tentatively decided to relocate to San Diego's North County area but were without a notion of how to support ourselves. That was about the time my husband came across a copy of MOTHER NO. 9 . . . with the "$12,000 a Year Home Typing Business" article. Due to my husband's natural Interest and abilities in the graphic arts line and my former typesetting work (on the Vari-Graph) this seemed a natural for us!

We followed the steps outlined in the article and contacted the San Diego IBM office. Their representative (who has since become a good friend) was most helpful in supplying us with the Selectric Composer, showing us how to operate it, and even helping us locate contacts for our service.

My husband started seeking typesetting work by making the rounds of the local printers and organizations. One of our first regular jobs was typesetting the monthly bulletin for the local Farm Bureau office. Their general secretary seemed most interested in our work and where we had the bulletin printed after it was "set".

To make a long story short, this man (the secretary) soon offered us a partnership in setting up an "instant print" shop in the community. We accepted and incorporated the typesetting business into the print shop. That first year can be summed up by: hard work and long hours. (Many times I typeset till 2:00 a.m. at home while my husband printed at the shop in order to meet a customer's deadline.) After a year and a half we agreed to buy out our partner.

Today our shop is still going strong and my husband just opened a second one in a nearby community. We've added two more boys to our family . . . and have a lovely home with a big garden and a few chickens on an acre of land. I still set type evenings but that Solectric Composer will be all ours in a short time.

I've thought of writing you many times in the past . . . to thank you for your good, practical articles. We've enjoyed watching MOTHER grow as we did.

Carol Galloway
Escondido, California


There I was October 7, 1976, waiting for a plane in the Cincinnati airport, when I happened across your paperback on home businesses (The MOTHER EARTH NEWS Handbook of Home Business Ideas and Plans). All of the ideas In the book were supposed to be low capital enterprises capable of turning a nice profit . . . so I bought a copy . . . and my interest was immediately aroused by the possibilities outlined in the articles (taken from MOTHER) concerned with operating a typesetting business.

After returning home (Nashville) I reread the typesetting articles several times. The "plot" was fascinating: low Investment, high return, rent or lease the necessary equipment. It sounded too good to be true . . . and I was skeptical if Jan (my wife) and I could really make a living at typesetting.

I was sufficiently intrigued, though, and began to check out the market for such business in Nashville. A call to the Small Business Administration netted no help. My conversations with the IBM and Compugraphic sales people were confusing (but clearly indicated that the equipment was expensive).

Then I talked to the man who handles most of the advertising for the company that I work for. He was encouraging . . . even to the point of promising to give us some work should we actually take the plunge.

Spurred on by the promise of business, we began to gather information on IBM, A.B. Dick, and Compugraphic. Prices were not surprisingly, considering inflation, higher than indicated in the Handbook, but the big question was what type of machine to buy. A quick check of the equipment price lists showed that we'd need about ten thousand dollars to purchase a typesetter, type fonts, and a processor.

In a perverse way I was happy. "Aha!" I said. "Another inflated account which doesn't make sense unless you have ton to twenty grand to invest, which it you do, there are all sorts of (other) things to do."

That's the beginning of our story, however, not the end. We didn't have the capital, nor the expertise, to start. So what? We decided to do it anyway . . . and that was the key.

We felt that the potential to earn a living was real enough, but we were intimidated by our total ignorance of the field. So we decided to learn something about the business first and the two of us enrolled in a graphic arts program at the local technical school.

Just then, however, we fell into a ready-made situation. My contact at the advertising agency called to tell me that he knew of a small agency which had recently acquired a used Compu-Writer II. The fellow who had it would be glad it turned out to show it to us and let us try it out. Since the CompuWriter salesman had been of such little help, we jumped at the opportunity.

To eliminate the suspense, the man with the CompuWriter had a lot of type to set . . . and no time to do it. We got to know him and ended up forming a corporation and buying the CompuWriter II, processor, paper, etc., all for about 60 percent of its replacement cost. We were in business.

All of this happened within 60 days of the time I first read the Handbook. During our first month of operation (December) we billed out almost one thousand dollars and should double that our second month. We're currently completing a 400-page catalog which will make our month if we do nothing else. We will, though. (We have the orders now.)

We rented an office and three of the other tenants are our customers. Within another two or three months we expect to be able to pay ourselves a salary.

What about the ten grand? Well, we started on a thousand dollars . . . each partner put up five hundred. We have no debts and, to date, all of our bills have been paid out of sales.

How difficult is typesetting? My wife and I set our first job with the instruction manual in one hand and the copy to be set in the other. It took us 46 hours to set 17 pages of copy but the job netted us $250 ($5.50 an hour, or $2.25 an hour apiece). Typesetting is tedious work and requires complete concentration. To make it profitable you must be an accurate, consistent typist and be willing to put in some long hours.

Despite claims from the manufacturer, our machine breaks down with depressing regularity. I've learned to solder, replace chips, follow a wiring diagram, and am on a first name basis with the CompuGraphic service technician. The processor is still a Chinese puzzle to me. It frequently ruins copy but slowly we're learning to cope with these day-to-day disasters that (at least) keep us from becoming bored. As you might have guessed, we never did got to take that graphic arts course . . . but we plan to in the future.

I still work at my other job and then put in three or four hours each evening setting type. Saturday is but another day to get caught up. We're not Independent (yet) but expect to be within a year. Of course, our partner who knows the graphic arts has been a tremendous help. Without him we certainly could not have progressed as far, as well, or as quickly.

Not everyone will find the situation we did, but neither would we if we hadn't been looking for the opportunity. I'm convinced we made the right decision. It sounds corny, but I spent 30 years telling myself that I would do this or that if "I had the money . . . knew the business . . . was sure it would work, etc." Yet we started this venture not knowing a pica from a lead.

This letter should perhaps have waited until our business was showing a profit . . . but I'm sufficiently pleased with our progress to date that I wanted to write and thank you for giving us the incentive to start our own typesetting business. We're paying our bills . . . end we haven't borrowed any money. For now, that is enough.

Allen Merise
Nashville, Tennessee


Gall Williams's article "The Best Home Typing Business of Them All" in MOTHER NO. 25 (pages 44-49) seems to have one large drawback . . . the large initial investment for the required equipment. And the more business you got, the more equipment you needed. But what if you weren't planning to freelance typing for more than a year?

As a college student, I was surrounded by a much less demanding market . . . one that required only a typewriter that typed English. For the needs of most students — even professors — you just don't need a fancy IBM Selectric or a dictaphone or any other fancy stuff. Most that do require such equipment are willing to provide it themselves.

After dabbling with typing for my friends while still in college doing term papers, theses, job applications, resumes I moved to Cincinnati. (The University of Cincinnati has 36,000 students and a good-sized faculty, certainly enough to support 20 or 30 home typists.)

During my nine months as "Brown's Typing Service" I've made enough to buy a $300 electric portable typewriter (Olympia Report de Luxe), pay all my expenses, paper, ribbons, repairs, advertising (I advertise in the university newspaper the last half of each quarter, which costs me $1.40 a week) and support two people comfortably. All with about four hours of work a day. I charge 50 cents a page for double spacing of straight narrative type, more if the job is difficult. About half my customers give tips.

The necessities for home typing on this scale are: [1] the ability to type or quickly learn to type at least 50 words per minute, [2] an electric typewriter ($100-$300 to buy, $20-$30 a month to rent), [3] a means of advertising, and [4] a local college or university big enough to advertise to. I've had about 75 customers In nine months . . . and about 10 of them have provided half my entire income for that period.

A knowledge of grammar and spelling is practically essential . . . and most of the customers that come to a college typing service in the first place do so because they lack such knowledge. Some of the work I've seen is barely readable and since many professors grade students down for spelling and punctuation errors your customers will expect you to protect them. If you can do so successfully, these clients will be back again and again.

There are two other "intangibles" that have been important to me. One is a friend who operates a typewriter shop and gives me discounts on supplies and repairs. The other and more important one is that I usually like typing. (Even though it requires a good deal of natural manual dexterity, an enjoyment of reading the written word, and a picky eye for details.)

For those of us who have business to finish up in the city before breaking out into healthier pursuits later, thanks, MOTHER, for the help.

Beth Brown
Cincinnati, Ohio


When I first read Bob Stevenson's tire recycling article (issue No. 46) it sounded like just what I'd been looking for . . . except maybe a little too easy. Well, I gave it a try and I'd like to tell you and your readers that it really works! 

Finding the right buyer of recappable casings, I'll admit, was a little difficult. Some just didn't need any size tires, some wanted only one size, and one guy wanted just whitewalls. But after a few phone calls I located a tire man who agreed to take all the 14- and 15-inch car tires (at $1.25 apiece) and certain truck tires (for $20 each) that I could provide.

With this in mind I hitched up my trailer, headed for the local gas stations, and started rounding up all the good car and truck tires I could find. Within an hour I had loaded 50 car tires and three truck tires and was on my way to deliver them.

As I was driving I remembered what Bob had said in his article about not expecting to sell many tires on the first trip and by the time I reached my destination I didn't expect to sell a thing. Instead I sold one truck tire and 32 car tires . . . for a grand total of $60 for three hours' work!

A few weeks later with a greater knowledge of what to look for I made another trip with less tires (one truck tire, 32 car tires) and came home with $56.25.

I live 40 miles from where I sell my tires, so-to save on gasI don't make too many trips. It's still a good deal for me. For someone who lives close to a city, though, with tires and buyers easy to get to, the tire recycling business could be a real gold mine.

Thanks MOTHER (and Bob Stevenson) for showing me this worthwhile venture . . . that I not only enjoy . . . but can do whenever I like.

Wild Man
Mauk, Georgia


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