Pet Sitting, Feather Crafts, and Other Business Startups

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A selection of feather crafts from a business startup established by one of our readers.

The following are business startups that readers established after reading articles in MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Feather Crafts and Apparel

My husband and I recently (and finally) settled on our eight-acre homestead in Arkansas, whereupon we were immediately faced with the cold realities of financial survival. So after reading Elizabeth and Allan Boyer’s article, Fine-Feather Hat Bands, I decided to try my own hand at creating with feathers. A neighbor raises pheasants, peacocks, oriental silkies, and other beautifully colored birds, and I was able to trade one of my pieces of homemade feather finery for some plumes to make more of these unusual articles. We both appreciated the exchange.

I invested $12 in a glue gun and adhesive sticks. After I’d rounded up the scrap leather I already had, I got down to business making hatbands that I later sold for $10 to $25 apiece. Gaining confidence, then, I began crafting other types of feathered wear: lapel and hatpins, combs, barrettes, belts, and braid ties ranging in price from $3 to $25 each. My first month’s sales brought a $500 profit and several satisfying trades as well.

Soon I began arranging with retail outlets (western-wear distributors, hair-styling boutiques, and dress shops) to accept my work on consignment. Most such businesses deduct from 10% to 20% for handling the sales, so I take that fact into consideration when setting my prices. The business is really moving, and I can’t even keep up with the orders coming in!

Thanks, MOTHER EARTH NEWS! Now, we’re making our way. In fact, we’re thriving!

M. S.
Springfield, Ark.

Small Pet Sitting

This past summer, after completing my veterinary-assistant training, I decided that rather than trying to find a full- or part-time job with a vet in the area, I’d put my skills and my love of animals to work by caring for other people’s pets in my home. And, although the idea of boarding pets came from Larry William Koontz’s article A Small Investment in a Pet Care Business Brings Big Profits (Larry tells how he and his wife board, groom, and otherwise care for dogs and cats), I knew that because of the location and size of my house, I wouldn’t be able to handle animals that’d need a back yard in which to exercise.

I decided that I could, however, take in smaller guests: the birds, reptiles, and rodents that are commonly kept in cages. People around here become very attached to such pets, and often don’t want to board their animals at the usual commercial facilities. After making a small investment in advertising (postage on the 20 letters I sent to feed and pet stores in the area cost $4.00, and I spent $3.00 to have 200 business cards printed), I was ready to open shop.

I started by taking caged critters into my home. Then, after receiving several requests to do so, I also began to visit other people’s houses to care for their pets there. However, before accepting responsibility for any person’s animal, I require two items: The first is the owner’s signature on a form releasing me from any liability in the case of an accident, and the second is written permission to take the animal to a veterinarian in an emergency.

Because my petite-pet-sitting enterprise is as much a hobby as a business, and since I want to keep it on a fairly small scale, I don’t promote it a great deal. Still, I do manage to average about $25 a week, after expenses. Summer is my busiest season, since children are out of school and families do their traveling then. (During that time of year I sometimes make more than $100 a week tending the tiny tenants!)

The greatest number of animals I’ve ever had under my care at one time all belonged to some neighbors who went on vacation and assigned me the daily care and feeding of their 61-pet household consisting of 30 rabbits, 30 guinea pigs, and one dog!

Although I’m not bringing in a fortune, I do make a little extra cash. Furthermore, I still have lots of time left for other projects. Expanding the business would be as easy as stepping up my advertising, and I can do so quickly if ever I need or want to!

D. L.
Cerritos, Calif.

Typing at Home

Frustrated by the routine of office work (and wanting more of my time to be my own), I decided to go to work for myself! However, I was still a slave to the clock when I read the article by Marsha K. Strong (Typing at Home for Profit) about operating a home-based typing service.

After reading the piece a number of times, I became convinced that my expertise (I’m not only a good typist but also a highly skilled medical transcriber) would make it fairly easy for me to find enough work to earn my living. And since the demand for my special skill seemed to be greater than the supply in my area, I limited my service to the medical field when it came time for me to set out on my own.

I already had the equipment and materials needed to begin my enterprise — a self-correcting typewriter, a transcribing machine (as it turned out, many of my clients had units of their own that I could have used), and a starter supply of typewriter ribbons and correction tapes — so my initial expenses were limited to the costs involved in filing and publishing the business name I had decided to use, having some forms printed, and advertising my service.

And since I’d elected to limit my business to medical transcribing, I chose not to advertise in the conventional manner but instead to go straight to my potential customers: I hand delivered copies of my personal advertisement, which described my skills and experience, to hospitals and doctors’ offices in the vicinity of my home. By handing out the sheets in person, I not only saved money but was also able to introduce myself to medical professionals face to face.

Well, after only about two months in business, I began to get more work than I could comfortably handle. So, not wanting my new job to become the dominant factor in my life (after all, I’d started the business because I wanted to have control over my days), I’ve had to learn to set limits on the assignments I accept.

My clients supply their own forms and stationery, so my expenses have been limited to buying the supplies I need to keep my equipment working. My monthly outlay is about $32 for typewriter ribbons and $19 for correction tapes. After expenses I average about $1,000 a month for some 25 working hours a week. I could increase my income by accepting more jobs, but I’ve found that my extra free time is quite valuable in itself.

Maggie Meyer
Los Angeles, Calif.

Button Making

After I read How to Start Your Own Home-Based Business, I set out looking for a bootstrap business that would be really right for me.

In September 1980 I found it: For $40 I purchased a buttonmaking machine and enough material to make 100 buttons. I displayed several of these badges with catchy sayings on them in the local diner and stores. I also printed up some flyers (that is, I photostated 48 copies for $1.20) and posted them on bulletin boards.

Then the responses started coming in, and I began to make buttons of all sorts of things, from pictures of pets to slogans for school groups. Right now I’m earning only about $28 maximum per week. That doesn’t provide a whole lot of extra income, but business is getting better, and the best thing is that this work is pleasure.

Mark Mitidieri
Sundown, N.Y.

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