A Home-Based Business: Being Your Own Boss

Don Melvin describes he and his wife's journey from building their own home to running their own home-based business.

| November/December 1970

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    Melvin talks of his dreams of staying at home, being his own boss, and earning enough to adequately support family, with an organ refurbishing business.
    Photo by Don Melvin
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    Don Melvin points out the innards of one of the organs he has rebuilt. Note the cane and rush-bottomed chairs in the background and the round oak table the Melvins found in a dump.
    Photo by Don Melvin
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    The Melvins' home-based business included refurbishing furniture.
    Photo by Don Melvin

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For years I dreamed of a way to stay at home, be my own boss . . . and earn enough to adequately support my family. The several most unsatisfactory and unrewarding jobs I held during that period of time did much to inspire my desire for independence: I tried many forms of employment and—having never been satisfied with any of them and having never satisfied anyone else with them—I knew there must be a better way. Work, for me, was becoming more a "life sentence" than a job. However, in attempting to set myself free, I only became more enslaved by systems and people.

In my desperation, I considered all kinds of self-employment from raising rabbits to raising cain! . . . but the many "how to do" books didn't do for me. All the advertised home businesses required too much money and many of them—I later learned—were pure "con" outfits.

To cut the moorings and launch out into the deep, I knew, could only come through some original effort on my part. Going against the tide and being an up-the-streamer would cost . . . but the loss of my freedom was costing even more. My life would have been different, I'm sure, if only I had had the "herd instinct" . . . but when you can't join the ranks of the rat race—or beat it either—then you just have to be a lone rancher.

In 1961 I gave up teaching school (it was giving my ulcers ulcers) and started working door to door as a Rawleigh Products salesman. Although my parents thought this was a disgrace for a man with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, I enjoyed selling fairly well. At that time, it was the living in the same house with my parents that was beginning to really bug me. Since we were right in the center of town my two little boys didn't have much yard to play in. I wanted my own house as dearly as I wanted to be my own boss. I was only one step from Clay County over these two goals!

Then a nice lot just outside the city limits was offered for sale. The price was $1250 and I didn't have the full amount but I was determined to buy that lot and pay cash for it. The property especially appealed to me because it had no building code to worry about. Taking the money I had on hand—and getting my mother to go on a bank note for the balance—I purchased the lot and took possession. I wasn't letting any grass grow under my feet.

Then came the major problem of building a house. A mortgage was definitely out: We would build our own home somehow. There would be a way if I had to make one out of no way. Money, naturally, was still the number one mountain to scale: I was paying off the note at the bank, making car payments and doing my best to survive the money changers.

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