Startup Businesses: Organic Plant Nursery, Chinese Cooking Classes, and More

An organic plant nursery and Chinese cooking classes are just two of several startup businesses readers established in their homes after reading MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

| May/June 1980

  • 063 Bootstrap Businesses
    LEFT: A dollhouse  built by Sue and Bob Brooks. RIGHT: An Al Cornett art print.

  • 063 Bootstrap Businesses

The following are startup businesses that readers came up with after reading articles in MOTHER EARTH NEWS. 

Making Dollhouses

Not long ago I began looking for a way to replace the salary I'd relinquished by giving up the nine-to-five grind... so my husband suggested that we take a look at some of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' back issues.

There were a number of articles on woodworking, but Bob and I were particularly taken with several toymaking projects: "The Art of Making Wooden Toys," "Old-Timey Toys From Christmas Past," and "Old-Timey Wooden Playthings."  In fact, my husband and I were so inspired with the idea of producing handmade toys that we promptly withdrew to our workshop and came up with a design for the construction of a dollhouse.

Bob already owned a table saw and a jigsaw, so the only tools we needed to buy were several paintbrushes and a utility knife. Next, we scrounged or—in a few cases—purchased an assortment of building and finishing materials (scrap lumber, nails, glass, fabric, paint, and accessories) ... for a total investment of $15. Then Bob set to work creating the five-room structure (complete with movable windows, miniature wooden furniture, and a stone hearth made from pebbles)... and when he'd finished, I started working on the shingling and interior decorating. I painted, papered, arranged furniture, and added all the necessary trimmings (such as bathroom fixtures, kitchen appliances, accessories to complement the fireplace, wall hangings, floor coverings, and potted plants).

When our labor of love was completed, my husband and I could no longer put off the task of pricing our masterpiece. So we embarked on a survey of the quality and cost of commercially made dollhouses, and discovered that there were structures selling for $70 to $90 each... models that were not nearly so durable as ours, required the addition of a number of accessories, and—for the most part—came in kit form (to be put together by the purchaser). Nevertheless, Bob and I decided to set our fee below the going rate—with the cost depending upon the size and degree of detail desired by each individual customer—and our most recent dollhouses have sold for $50 to $70 apiece.

My family and I have finally managed to establish a home-based enterprise that's been successful, rewarding, and—in short—exactly what we've been looking for... and we owe MOTHER EARTH NEWS our thanks for the inspiration.

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