Table Maker, House Cleaner, and Other Business Startups

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Texas table maker Joseph Hunka's first table had a ceramic tile top.

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

Table Maker

Like most MOTHER EARTH NEWS-types I’ve always had a strong desire to
be independent and self-sufficient, and I’d been working
toward that goal by saving up to buy a piece of homestead
land. After looking over some of the Good Earth’s price
tags, however, I came to the conclusion that my current
carpenter’s wages wouldn’t bring In enough cash to realize
my dreams. So instead I began to look for just the right
part-time job.

My search ended when I came upon an article entitled “Homestead Furniture: A ‘Natural’ Moneymaker.” After reading that piece, I took a swift
inventory of my garage store room. There I found a dozen or
so eight-foot pieces of rough cedar 2 X 4’s, some large
scraps of half-inch plywood, a bit of ceramic floor tile
(left over from a remodeling job I’d done the summer
before), and a decent supply of glue, nails, and grout.
With these materials plus some lag screws and flat washers
I bought for a grand investment of $3.56, I’d soon put
together an 18′ X 2′ X 4′ rough cedar table, with a ceramic
tile top, in a total of four short hours! The ceramic
covering was a big bonus, I thought, since It provided an
inexpensive, scratch-and water-resistant surface,
and at the same time eliminated the time
consuming “finishing” process normally required in furniture

No sooner had I completed my masterpiece than a friend
stopped by, admired my work, and offered me a deal: $25 in
clash plus two bucket seats to replace the dilapidated bench
I’d been suffering upon in my van. I promptly invested in a
new supply of ceramic tile and went to work once
again on my table making. Before I’d finished my second
attempt at the art, I’d presold three more tables for a
total of $135. That worked out to a $75 profit for
approximately 12 hours of enjoyable work or $6.25 per
hour! My home business has been going “great guns” ever
since. Needless to say, I am one thankful MOTHER
EARTH NEWS reader!

Joseph R. Hunka
Houston, TX 

House Cleaner and Handyman

I’m a Navy man with five years left to go before my
retirement. I’ve been planning for those “years of
leisure” with dreams of buying a small farm in Tennessee.
As a result, my wife and I decided that we should set up a
part time business to build a nest egg for our future …
so we turned to MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Three articles helped pave the way toward our new
endeavor: “I Wash Windows … and Live Like a King” and
“Clean Up With a Window Washing Business” and “You Can ‘Clean Up’ as a Freelance
House-Cleaner”–as well as a
piece called “The House Painting Business” in THE MOTHER
EARTH NEWS  Handbook of Home Business Ideas and Plans.
Those four write-ups were more than enough to put us to
work cleaning and repairing homes!

Our initial investment was only $35, to have business cards
and billing statements printed. Then we began
advertising by distributing the cards to all the real
estate agencies, paint stores, hardware stores, and
lumberyards in our neighborhood. Two days later we
had our first job.

Our working tools for both cleaning and
repairing turned out to be many and varied, but for the
most part they were implements that we (like most
do-it-yourselfers) already had on hand. We never bought a
special tool unless we’d already been commissioned to do a
job that required it . Then we would purchase the
device and charge it to “material” on the billing

It was necessary, of course, to come up with a fee schedule
for our clients. We decided to base the price for
our cleaning services upon the number of bedrooms in the
house. To spruce up a two
bedroom dwelling, for example, we charge $30. (Our service includes cleaning all the
appliances; disinfecting tubs, showers, commodes, and
sinks; washing dirty walls and woodwork; and
sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping the floors.) We charge an
additional $35 to wash all of the home’s windows–inside and
out–$10 for mowing lawns, and $10 to haul away trash
that can’t be handled by the regular garbageman. Our
interior painting fee is generally $40 per room,
while on exterior jobs our rule of thumb is 40 cents per
square foot of living space (a house that is 50 by 30 feet,
for example, has 1,500 square feet of living space and
therefore will earn us $600!). We charge a minimum of $5.00 per hour
for repairs (plus materials) on any job. So far the majority of our
fix-it work has included replacing
broken windowpanes, building new screens or rescreening old
ones, hanging doors, and patching holes.

We’ve found that we can stay as busy as we like with our
new business. And since we began our part-time
endeavor some nine months back, the two of us have netted a
total of $2,000. That’s above and beyond the added benefits of
tools left over from special jobs, and furniture and
bric-a-brac that have either been abandoned In houses by
tenants who’ve moved out or thrown away by current

All in all, our bootstrap business has been the perfect
moneymaker for us. The market is limitless, and the
experience itself has been a valuable reward!

Dennis Frank Burkett
Jacksonville, FL 

Scrap Metal Recycling

I’d been searching for a long time for that one bootstrap
business that would fit my lifestyle. I wanted to work what
I call “hobby hours”–approximately half of a regular
workday–and after researching MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ many back
issues, I found just what I’d been seeking: An article entitled “How to Earn
$500 a Month Recycling Metals.” A few short days after I’d
read that piece, I found myself In business … with a
total initial Investment of one tankful of gas!

My first week on the job was pretty rough going, because I
really didn’t know what to look for or where to look for
it. However, I kept referring to the article and
before long I began to get the hang of my new trade. Soon I
was specializing in nonferrous metals (such as copper,
brass, lead, and aluminum) since my hauling vehicle was
a car rather than a heavy-duty pickup truck. (Nonferrous
metals sell for an average of 20¢ to 50¢ per
pound, in contrast to their ferrous counterparts, which
usually pay only about 2¢ per pound. It would take a
few thousand pounds of Iron scrap to equal the profits I
can make hauling several hundred pounds of the
lightweight materials.)

In addition, I learned to scan hillsides, follow
clean-up and pick-up routes, and frequent garages,
filling stations and dumping locations In my searches. In
no time I was averaging $10 to $12 per hour ($14 to $16
during the warmer weather) and on several occasions I’ve
pulled In as much as $50 per hour!

In the summers my nine-year-old son accompanies me on my
excursions, and helps me to detect metals with his
trusty magnet. (My rule of thumb: If it doesn’t stick to
the magnet, grab it and throw it into the trunk.)

One of the nicest things about my bootstrap business is
that the entire family can take part in it. But even better
still, it’s an inflation-proof operation. The price of
scrap metal just keeps on rising!

L. Eugene Humphrey
Pittsburgh, PA

Used Book Seller

Last year after I was discharged from the Air
Force, I moved from California to Ormond Beach,
Florida with my pregnant wife and six year-old son. We
planned to wait out the winter “down South” before
returning to our home state of Indiana … and I’d decided
to enter school part time during the cold months. Finances,
therefore, were bound to be tight, so I began to research
various moneymaking ventures. As luck would have it, I
came across two articles in THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ Handbook
of Home Business Ideas and Plans: Clarence Sockwell’s “My
Paperback Book Exchange” and Paul Encimer’s “Used Books Can
Give You a New Life”.

As I mulled over the idea of running a book exchange, I
opened the yellow pages to check out my potential
competition. To my surprise, there was
not one used bookstore in all of Ormond Beach. With that,
my mind was made up. I would open the “Ormond Book

My first step was to call upon my small $1,000 savings
account as collateral on a loan for an equal amount of
cash. In this way, I reasoned, making loan payments each
month would be a form of forced saving. And, after I’d
repaid the money, my $1,000 would be there to use all over

Next came the search for appropriate bookstore housing.
After a good deal of checking around, I located a 900-square-foot building that rented for
$200 a month. Using my borrowed “seed money,” I furnished
my place of business with $150 worth of fixtures procured
from an old book dealer; $300 in paperback/hard-cover
inventory, gathered here and there around town as the
result of a small classified ad; and a variety of
homemade store signs. My final Investment went toward the
purchase of city, county, and state permits, a set of
business cards printed as bookmarks, and a little local

In four short weeks my project had gone from the idea stage
to an open bookstore: I was finally in business for myself!
In the first month, my bookstore pulled in $293. Eight weeks later both my gross and my
Inventory had nearly doubled! I was in my glory … but,
alas, winter had ended and it was time to move on to
Indiana as my wife and I had planned. So we sold our little
enterprise to a local business broker for a whopping total
of $5,000!

In Indiana at last, my family was able to make use of its
bookstore profits to purchase four wooded homestead acres.
I’ve taken a job working for someone else now, but pretty
soon I expect to have some “seed money” built up once again. When I do, I’m sure MOTHER EARTH NEWS will have another business
opportunity awaiting me.

Who knows? The next time you hear from me I could be
cookin’ up a homemade breakfast from my newly opened health
food restaurant!

John D. Long
Bloomington, IN