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.
ILLUSTRATION: TERRY DEAN
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
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
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
Bowling Green, Mo.
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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