A doll clothing patterns designer, rural photographers, and the founders of a draft horse information directory are among the readers who were inspired by MOTHER EARTH NEWS to start businesses of their own.
The following are business startups that readers established after reading articles in MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
Three years ago I was faced with the need to supplement my income when—at age 48—my total earnings were suddenly cut to $300 a month. I wanted to work at home and, if possible, put my artistic talents to use. So I began to scan MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Bootstrap Businesses feature. Two letters in particular captured my attention. The writers had each managed to establish a thriving sewing enterprise, and reading about their good fortune shifted my imagination into high hear.
Although I'm not an expert stitcher, I figured that—with my drawing ability—I could comer the market in pattern designs. That was the beginning of "Du-Hickies Patterns by Mail." I knew there were plenty of commercial clothing designs already widely available, but toy pattems, l felt, would be something of a novelty.
I began by creating a number of blueprints for small figures—which I priced at $1.00 per set—as well as designs for larger dolls, animals, and assorted creatures ranging in cost from 50¢ to $1.50 each. Then I invested $100 in paper, ink, envelopes, and a classified ad in a crafts magazine, dragged out an old mimeograph machine that I'd had stored away for years, and before long found myself earning an average of $200 a month. (I've since had a steady 150% increase in business each year.)
Still—despite my success in the pattern trade—I was itching to make use of my ink drawings. Consequently, I drew some sketches of birds and sent them off to be printed on attractive (but inexpensive) notepaper. I now carry mail order stationery—which sells in packages of 12 notes and envelopes for $2.00 a packet, postpaid—in addition to my toy designs. Moreover, my business ventures didn't end with number two. As soon as I caught a glimpse of the story of A. Rosan's newsletter success, I set about putting together a bulletin for bird fanciers. And—though that publication is still largely in the planning stages—I expect to complete its first edition within the next year.
I've lived by the words of opera singer Beverly Sills, who states that every 50-year-old woman should have an exciting new beginning: I am now 51, and—thanks to MOTHER EARTH NEWS—I'm on the threshold of my third fresh start!
Helen M. Fairfield-Hickey
Quaker Hill, CT
My family's main source of income is a seasonal summer business, and that—as you'd imagine—leaves a gaping hole in our budget during the winter months. So our interest was aroused when we came across the article "You Can Make Money in the Country With a Camera."
My husband Russ and I have always been photography buffs. We were familiar with the developing process, so we decided to convert a small closet in our home into a darkroom. Our $50 investment covered the installation of a counter, a sink, and the necessary plumbing (most of the job was done using scrap lumber and fittings that we already had on hand). We were then faced with the rather large expense of stocking our new work space: A used darkroom setup with a color enlarger and a variety of supplies came to $500; chemicals, paper, and some miscellaneous equipment totaled $200; and we were in business.
Instead of depending on commercial advertising to get our enterprise off the ground, we let our friends and neighbors do the job for us:
Over the years Russ and I had taken many pictures for our own enjoyment, and members of our community had often requested that we make them copies. For financial reasons, we'd rarely been able to oblige ... but we were soon to have our chance! We approached our potential customers with samples from our film file, and immediately began to take orders! From there, our patrons took over by showing off their purchases to family and friends.
Our endeavor is still in its infancy, but we've already taken on some fascinating photo assignments. Last fall—for example—our area suffered a severe storm, and we were called on by many local residents to photograph damaged buildings for insurance records. To date, our supplementary income has averaged only $35 to $50 per week. However, our earnings have been increasing slowly but steadily, and the prospects look quite good for the future. In the last few days alone, we've (following another MOTHER EARTH NEWS tip) scheduled shootings of several local prize-winning fair animals, and we've been asked to put together a photo feature of a 100year-old renovated roadside inn for a popular decorating magazine!
Nancy C. Chorpenning
New Holland, OH
When my husband Alex and I bought our first Belgian mare, we promptly contracted an Incurable case of "draft horse-itis". We discovered that "animal power" is both economical and environmentally safe—since the beasts run on homegrown "fuel," supply organic fertilizer, and give birth to their own replacements—and before long the two of us became active members of the North Idaho Draft Horse Association. Soon we were helping to organize draft horse shows ... and beginning to be considered all-round experts in the field.
People quickly became accustomed to approaching us with requests for information about repair shops, suppliers, and the like, and Alex and I found ourselves routinely telling folks where they could go to find wheelwrights, harnesses, plows, and breeders. Then one day we happened upon "Small-Time Operator" in MOTHER EARTH NEWS ... an article that started us thinking that we could pass on our knowledge, for a profit, by putting together a draft horse directory.
I wrote to a number of magazines to investigate their advertising rates and, at the following association meeting, Alex and I handed out typed, photocopied information sheets presenting the idea for our guide and stating our rates for listings and display advertisements. Shortly thereafter, we received our first 1/2-page ad, along with a payment of $100. With that money, we ordered stationery and envelopes and had our directory's logo drawn up. In addition, we put a deposit on the book's printing stock, and had our info sheets professionally typeset and printed to send out to potential advertisers. Then we placed an ad in one of our favorite draft horse magazines—in hopes that it would bring in enough cash to cover our printing expenses—and soon the dollars started rolling in.
Our first issue of The Reach boasted more than 125 advertisers. Though at the time of this writing we are still paying the printing costs, we calculate that we'll have earned a small profit by the end of 1980. The directory is scheduled to come out in annual editions, with the second issue—which will sell for $3.00 per copy, postpaid in the U.S. and Canada—slated for January 1981. Alex and I hope that our guidebook will serve as a link between both new and long-established businesses and the people who are looking for them ... rather like the reach on a wagon, connecting the two sets of wheels: buyer and seller!
Since I had a paper route for a number of years, and accumulated an abundance of "extra" newsprint, I've tried just about every possible way to roll newspapers into firelogs. My handiwork had—until recently—never been too successful, because the ignited "logs" would Invariably smolder and fume up the place with an awful smell. But when I read the MOTHER' EARTH NEWS article "How to Build and Use a Sawdust Stove," the solution to my problem started to become clear.
Your stove consisted of a sawdust-filled container with a chimney that was formed in its center by using a broomstick. I began to play around with the chimney idea until I came up with an iron-rod corkscrew configuration that would act as a forming tool to wrap my newsprint around. The design worked to perfection! Each hollow newspaper log bums from the inside out, since the coil creates a chimney inside the rolls. The "flue" provides a rising draft, which supplies oxygen to the fire, and—by automatically eliminating ash—keeps exposing newsprint to the flames as the fire bums. The length of combustion depends on the amount of paper used: Five pounds will last about two hours, and ten pounds will burn for about five. In addition, the diameter of the corkscrew controls the temperature that the blaze will reach. (I've found it best to use a core with a diameter of at least three inches. A four-inch-diameter tool, which exposes more burn area to the flames, will allow the temperature to reach about 800°F!)
The results of my work were so encouraging that I promptly went out and applied for a patent. I've since set up displays in two local stove stores and have purchased enough supplies to start manufacturing and marketing the item. I invested $25 in office materials, $130 in iron rods (coat hangers will not do, since they oxidize), and $65 in patenting fees.
Though my business is still in the very initial stages, I've already had my picture in The Dallas Morning News, along with a write-up about my project ... as well as an offer from Progressive Farmer's "Handy Devices" columnist to have my design featured in that magazine. So I'm beginning to get some exposure now, and I expect the wheels to start turning soon. I'm waiting to hear from a number of manufacturers that might be interested in my invention ... and I just may send my idea off to the President himself!
Fort Worth, TX
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