Doll Clothing Patterns, Rural Photographers, Draft Horse Information, and Other Business Startups

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Friends and neighbors provided the customer base—and word-of-mouth advertising—for rural photographers Nancy and Russ Chorpenning of Ohio.

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

Doll Clothing Patterns

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

Rural Photographers

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

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

Draft Horse Information Directory

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!

Kayo Fraser
The Reach
Sagle, ID

Newspaper Firelogs

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!

Roland Bell
Fort Worth, TX