New Businesses Ventures

Photo sketching, making cellulose insulation, and making peanut brittle candy were a few of the areas in which readers established new business ventures in the mid-to-late 1970s.

065 new business ventures - photo sketch

A photographer who was active nine months of the year found a way to profit from winter months by establishing a new business venture as a photo sketch artist.


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The following are new business ventures that readers came up with after reading articles in MOTHER EARTH NEWS.  

Cellulose Insulation Business

When I read "How to Make and Install Your Own Insulation ... for 5¢ or Less a Square Foot" in MOTHER EARTH NEWS I immediately began to use the article's information as a basis for experiments of my own. The story explained how to make cellulose insulation by grinding up newspapers with a hammermill, an Idea that I was sure could be turned Into a moneymaking venture!

So I purchased a used 100-HP hammermill (for $1,700) and Invested another $1,800 in a used truck ... $200 in a six-cylinder junkyard engine and transmission ... $400 in miscellaneous mounting parts and materials ... and $565 in scrap paper, chemicals, and insulation bags. Then I mounted the hammermill and the engine on the bed of the truck, backed the vehicle up to my garage, and blew the building about four feet deep in cellulose insulation.

After I tested the material to be sure that it met government requirements, I filled a number of sacks with the padding and transported them—for sale—to building sites and stores. The bags sold quickly at $3.00 each, and I soon found it necessary to raise the rate to $3.50 apiece for those that I delivered (an amount that brought my expenses for paper, chemicals, sacks, gasoline, and oil down to approximately 20% of my asking price).

Initially, I worked at my new enterprise on Saturdays only, but within three months I was putting in 60 hours a week—filling 120 bags in that time—and even that wasn't enough to keep up with orders. Consequently, I built a sackfilling machine, using a 12-inch-diameter auger ... and upped my bagging production to 100 every 12 hours. At this speed—once I've earned back my initial investment—I calculate that I'll be capable of realizing a $20-per-hour profit!

Gary L. Weaver
Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Photo Sketch Business

Not long ago I enthusiastically plunged into a new hobby, hoping to chase away the winter doldrums ... and my sideline has expanded Into a booming bootstrap business!

It all started when northern breezes began howling in earnest around these parts. Well—though I'm an avid amateur photographer during nine months of the year—when frostbite weather sets in for a spell, you can generally find me (and my camera) idly holed-up by the blaze of a potbellied woodburner ... and I'm usually racking my mind for a way to put that leisure time to good use! So, when I came across the article "Photo Sketch for Profit," I figured I'd found the ideal pastime for a frost-fearing shutterbug like me.

The initial "capital" needed to begin my enterprise was practically nil, since I already had most of the essential equipment (including a darkroom!) in the basement. In fact, my sole expenses were for a two-ounce bottle of tincture of iodine ($2.06), six pens (a mere 6¢ each), and a penholder (89¢ ... adding up to a grand total of $3.31! Thus supplied, I set to work transforming black-and-white photographs into attractive Ink drawings.

At first, I merrily pursued my new craft with out any intention of making a profit (or even of selling the sketches at all), but—when I discovered that there was an eager market for my artwork—I decided to make the hobby pay its way. My first customers were local merchants, who asked for a number of drawings on consignment. And the best part of the "sales" was that instead of paying cash—the storekeepers agreed to display sample drawings In their shops in exchange for the gift of a sketch. Now, thanks to that method of nearly free advertising, I have more orders than I can keep up with!

I sell most of the sketches for prices ranging from $15 to $30, while a contracted piece brings a minimum of $25. And a good portion of the fee goes in my pocket, because the actual cost per drawing is only about $4.00 or $5.00. The time spent on each piece can be anywhere from 30 minutes to as much as eight hours, depending on the complexity of the drawing.

Best of all ... I work my own hours, and I couldn't be happier! During the balmy days of spring, summer, and fall I snap photos to my heart's content ... and then turn those shots Into profitable sketches during the cold winter months. In fact, the only drawback to my home business is that my wife wants to keep all the pictures to decorate our house!

Terry Dean
Bowling Green, Mo.

Pokeweed Foraging

I was introduced to MOTHER EARTH NEWS in 1973 at a time when I was just beginning to realize that there was more to life than a 9-to-5 job. MOTHER EARTH NEWS gave me a great deal of encouragement during my "evolving" months, and by  1975 I'd Invested most of my working capital in some acreage in southern Illinois. My long-term plan was to start an experimental eco-community whose members would strive to tread lightly on the planet ... but before I could begin working toward such a large-scale objective, I needed to establish myself In a home-based enterprise that would support me when my few remaining funds ran out.

My first business idea came form an article entitled "Wildcrafting for Fun and Profit." My woodlands were full of wild pokeweed that would bring a good price if I could just find a way to pack up the foraged fare and send it off to the Chicago Wholesale Vegetable Market. So I rummaged the local retail marts for discarded crates in which to ship my 20-bushel loads ... and when the pokeweed season came to an end five weeks later—I'd earned a grand total of $575!

Summer was then in full swing, and my second season's moneymaker was waiting to turn a profit: I'd planted a garden that was productive enough to fulfill my own needs and provide me with a salable surplus as well. Consequently, I hauled my harvest to the local farmers' markets In my pickup ... or, on some occasions, I simply pulled the truck to the side of the road to vend my produce out of the back of the vehicle. During the growing season I sold my homegrown edibles one or two days per week, and made an average profit of $50 every time I went to market.

When my warm-weather ventures had supported me through two seasons, I decided It was time to organize a year-round source of Income ... and I settled on a business that was based on the story "A Home Where the Beefalo Roam." I've taken only the first few steps toward the establishment of that enterprise ... beginning with the conversion of some of my woodlands Into pasture, a task that has left me with timber both for fence posts (which sell for $1.00 each) and for firewood (priced at $80 a cord).

I'm now on the road to Individual self-reliance, and—as a result—I can finally begin to direct some energy toward my original goal: If any MOTHER EARTH NEWS-type folks are interested in joining me, there's an eco-community that's waiting to be built!

Wilbur Loyet
Box 55, Rt. 1
Olmsted, III. 62970

Making Peanut Brittle

Christmas is a time when everybody needs some extra cash, and I'm no exception. But December took me by surprise, a few years back, and the month was half over before I even realized it had begun. Needless to say, I was in a panic ... until I came across a moneymaking idea in THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS Handbook of Home Business Ideas and Plans. The article "How to Start Your Own Natural Candy Factory" held the answer to my prayers: a business that required no initial cash outlay, and only a minimum amount of time, to establish.

I decided I should select one seasonal treat that I could master and sell as my specialty, and peanut brittle became my choice. The candy—I reasoned—was popular, deceptively easy to make, and high-priced on the commercial market.

My starting point was a basic peanut brittle recipe, which I experimented with and revised until I'd perfected the formula. (Fortunately, I had the necessary utensils—a candy thermometer, a scale, and so on—as well as some peanuts and other ingredients already in my pantry.) I simply wrapped the finished product in waxed paper, packaged it in brown paper lunch bags, and went out selling.

To my delight, the brittle was an immediate hit: The sales were clinched by my offer to let each potential customer sample the treat ... and I returned home with orders totaling 50 pounds! It took me only a week to make and deliver that first batch of candy—plus 15 more pounds that had been requested in the meantime—all in my spare evenings. And—at $2.00 per pound—the product brought in a tidy $130 (with only $30 of that amount required to replace the ingredients I'd used from my kitchen).

All during that holiday season, the orders for peanut brittle kept pouring in ... but I was able to take things "slow and easy" from then on, because my first week's profits had already guaranteed me the rare luxury of a worry-free Christmas!

Carla Williams
Brookville, Ohio