Carved wooden signs turned out to be the right business startup idea for one man in White Cloud, MI.
PHOTO: HARRY KLAUS
The following are business startups that readers established after reading articles in MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
One day last year I attended an arts and crafts show,
and after viewing the large variety of handmade items on
display I began to think about selling my own handicrafts.
After all, I'd been crocheting Christmas, wedding, and baby
presents for friends and relatives for quite some time! I figured, why not use my skill to make some extra
That same week, while still toying with my business idea, I
read MOTHER EARTH NEWS for the first time and there was a piece entitled "How to Go to Work for Yourself." I read it and reread it, and
finally decided to follow the article's advice. So, I
registered with the tax department (at a cost of $1.00),
invested $25 in a set of business cards, spent $75 on a
supply of yarn, and began crocheting! (I even used my
vast mounds of leftover yarn to create a variety of
multicolored vests, afghans, and the like.)
Within just a few months I had a large enough stock of
clothing and gift items to really start business. My work
had been displayed at three arts and crafts shows and I was
beginning to create my own designs (some of which were
submitted to needlework magazines). I'd been working
steadily on custom orders (as a result of a commission to
sell on consignment at a local gift shop) and—after having
an article accepted by Crochet World—I'd even been asked to
do a regular column for that publication!
Each craft show has earned me approximately $45 per day, my
custom orders have proved even more profitable, and I have
a future steady paycheck from Crochet World coming my way.
Sure, it may take some time for my business to make its
first million, but meanwhile I'm sure having fun getting
paid for my hobby!
Barbara A. Chojnacki
Carved Wooden Signs
After living in suburbia for most of our lives, my family
and I finally bought a piece of country land and began
construction of a home. That undertaking required quite a
bit of cash, though, so we soon found ourselves kicking
around a number of moneymaking ideas.
At first we tried out a basement cleaning/junk-hauling
business ("I Pick Up Profits From a Pickup"), a venture that provided us with numerous
fringe benefits. (The most abundant of such gratuities were
scrounged items that had either been thrown away or left
behind, many of which became building materials for the
40-foot geodesic dome we were constructing.) Our enterprise
also provided a fairly good income on the average,
but it quickly became clear that the earnings were not
steady enough to meet our needs.
As it turned out, however, I'd acquired quite a few
woodworking implements from those hauling jobs, including a
saber saw and a Skilsaw, and I'd paid about $100 for a
router and a few assorted bits to round out my tool supply.
The router had already had a couple of trial runs: first
at the request of a friend who needed a sign with his name
carved on it, and several more times when (after I noted
how well my first attempt at the craft had turned out) I
produced a few placards as gifts. Shortly thereafter I read
"Dimensional Wood Signs ... How to Make 'Em and Sell 'Em",
Parts I and II respectively, and I knew without a doubt that I could turn my hobby
into a profitable venture.
At first business was rather slow,. but my family took on
a variety of small woodworking jobs—in addition to an
occasional junk hauling gig—and somehow we managed to
survive. Then my skills began to improve, my reputation
spread, and I was being commissioned to build signs for
organizations (including a series for the local chamber of
commerce) and individuals alike. As my enterprise expanded,
so did my assortment of appliances. Before long
"Signs by Harry" could produce just about every type of
placard imaginable and had grossed $7,500 in its first 12
months (this year I expect to double that amount!).
My family and I put plenty of hard work into our home sign
business, but none A our good fortune would ever have come
to pass if it hadn't been for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. In
fact, I still often refer to Wow first sign craft articles
to help me along in the course of my workday.
And—every other month—I eagerly anticipate the
arrival of the latest issue wondering what
new do-it-yourself idea you'll involve me in next!
White Cloud, MI
Home Food Business
I belong to a food coop in Middletown, Connecticut that
not only sells the best natural foods around but also
boasts a magazine/book section and a free lending library.
Therefore, MOTHER EARTH NEWS is readily available to
me. As a result, I've had quite a bit of help from you
over the years, particularly in setting up home
For example, you ran an
article called "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Free Lunch ... It's Called the Solar Greenhouse!" After reading that
piece, I promptly built myself a "hothouse" (largely from
free, recycled materials) and began selling organic
produce to the Middletown Co-op. (The greenhouse expanded
my growing season and provided me with enough surplus
fruits and vegetables to bring in quite a nice profit.)
Shortly thereafter I stumbled upon a write-up called
"Sprouts Fill Our Pockets With Cash" and I immediately added sprouts to the kinds of
produce I was selling to the co-op and to local
restaurants. I planted the shoots in little
"greenhouses"plastic shoe boxes with lids and delivered
them still growing in their containers to my customers.
(Alfalfa sprouts—plus a blend of alfalfa, crimson clover,
radish, and fennel—became my specialties.)
Business proceeded fairly well for some time, and then one
day I discovered you article entitled "How to Start a Home Bakery of Your Own." I
realized that the establishments that bought my organic
veggies would be likely candidates for the purchase of
home baked goods as well, and that such a project would
be a convenient way of bringing in a little extra money. So
I invested a few dollars in some pans and fresh-ground
flour, and set out to bake a passel of whole-grain loaves.
Before long I started playing around with some recipes of
my own: I came up with a few unusual varieties of bread—such as carob-raisin-cinnamon-whole-wheat—and then sales
really began to pick up. (One-and-a-half-pound loaves of my
novel recipe—which cost me 40¢ apiece to produce—sell for
I'd noticed, too, that consumers were growing more and more
fearful of sugar- and preservative-laden foods, and I
thought there must be some way around using those hazardous
ingredients in the production of many popular edibles.
Consequently, I began experimenting with dessert and snack
food recipes. In no time I had three big sellers:
 Homemade Halvah (a Middle Eastern sweet made of toasted
sesame seeds, carob powder, sesame butter, and honey), 
Peanut Witter Cups (a confection prepared from carob
powder, peanut butter, and honey), and  Carob Pudding (a
blend of carob powder, honey or barley malt, and regular,
soy, or nut milk) ... or Fruit Pudding (the same recipe
with arrowroot and fruit juice substituted for the carob
My home food business—dubbed "Johnny Random Cottage
Industry"—has provided my family and me with quite a
comfortable living for a number of years now. All
because MOTHER showed us that-even in the midst of today's
oppressive economy - self-sufficiency is not impossible!
Hand Braided Rugs
Like many of your readers,
my husband and I were
trying to gather together enough money to buy a small
homestead ... but it seemed that our goal would take
forever to accomplish if we had to depend on one salary. I
wanted to contribute to the savings we'd been slowly
accumulating, but with five children to care for, I knew
I couldn't hold down a regular job. Consequently, I put
myself in your hands in the hope of finding a
home-based source of income.
As luck would have it, I came across an article entitled "Grandma's Four-Strand Braided
Rug" that was definitely for me! I knew I could get
all the scrap material I needed—free for the hauling—from
two clothes factories in my immediate area, and I was aware
that handmade rugs would be a hot item at the local flea
market. But where, I wondered, could I get the money to
rent a flea-market table for an extended period of time?
Once again, I trusted in MOTHER EARTH NEWS and—as
always—she came up with the solution in a piece
called "How to Earn $500 a Month Recycling Metals." The children and I promptly gathered up
a horde of aluminum cans and transported them—along with my
offspring's old metal swing set—to a nearby recycling
center. With that money in our pockets, we set out
toward the flea market.
There we rented two stands at a cost of $3.00 per table per
day and I displayed my wares for sale. I'd made two
sizes of floor coverings: a 2' X 3' rug priced at $3.00,
which takes an average of two hours to cut, sew, and weave; and a 3' X 5' version for $5.00, which takes about
three hours to produce (my daughter helps me with the
braiding). The young'uns accompany me to my selling post
every weekend, and sales have been averaging $20 to $50 per
At this rate—thanks to MOTHER EARTH NEWS—my family's
"fantasy" homestead is very close at hand!