“Build a business from what you have.” This mornings’ radio show ignited a thought that I’ve been discussing with coaching clients. The same concept has even worked through with some of my consulting clients as they need to come up with ideas to help them make money fast.
The killer idea that ignited this post was Kevin Cullis‘ question about using what you have to make money, instead of buying a business with negative costs of regulations. Cottage industry is always an answer, but how? Build a business from what you have. I’m a big fan of cottage industry. Mom’s working from home. Education via home school and industries that children can participate in at home? Oh yeah, I’m all about that kind of industry.
The key is to take a look around you and figure out what you have that will build your business. What skills do you have that you can use? What software? Do you have equipment you could use?
Build a business from what you have.
Several years ago, I had a soldering iron and a massive amount of silver solder left over from a job I’d done on contract. I realized with the fair coming up that it would be a great way to earn some money if I used some of that silver.
The kids gathered small stones from our driveway, including a lot of “eye of the tiger” and I used silver solder to make bracelets. By including those polished stones, and shaping the silver with tools I had on hand, the bracelets were not only beautiful, but delicate and shapely. It doesn’t take a lot to polish eye of the tiger, so my 4 and 5 year old boys got that job once we created the shakers to polish the stones. They walked around the house all day for several weeks carrying a shaker and polishing stones. I created banded bracelets out of silver, and formed them over glass bottles to make the bracelets. Then with some copper wire and a little more solder, added fittings to hold the stones on the bracelets.
Mom stopped by and suggested we create wound copper wire bases, so the bracelets could be used as “arthritis bracelets.” By adding copper, we increased value as well as market. The additional stability was quality, simply by adding the copper wire base.
With a collection of about 200 bracelets we arrived at a local fair, set up our $20 tent to sell our wares. We walked away 12 hours later with our pockets full of change.
Cost of supplies to get started? Nothing.
We had everything I used to make those 200 bracelets. And to replace everything, I checked on prices. I could have purchased everything I used with the exception of some costume jewelry stones I used for variety for less than a hundred dollars. So, including the cost of our table, our mark-up allowed us to multiply our earnings by ten times or more, the cost of materials. Not bad for a few hours of work over a period of about six weeks. The lowest priced bracelet was $10 and the highest priced was almost $200 because it had some turquoise set into the silver.
The key to building that kind of business is:
- Having some materials on hand and an idea of what you can use them for.
- Be willing to be creative.
Mom’s idea to make braided copper bases for most of the bracelets increased their value, and gave us a dedicated market in a niche of people who generally had money to spend for such items.
- Use your own innovative ideas, and come up with additional materials you can get for almost nothing. (those eye of the tiger stones were part of our driveway base and are prolific in southeastern Colorado)
- Adding a few pieces of costume jewelry from my jewelry box exponentially increased the value of our product, without adding any cost to the production. I had been given the jewelry mostly, and it wasn’t something I wore.
- Having a market where you can sell your merchandise.
- Presentation is everything.
We set up an old black velvet skirt that I hadn’t worn in years on a table with bottle tops cut to poke up and hold the bracelets on our display table. A cup holder with poles on the sides held more bracelets. And a curtain rod on stands at the back held even more. When one sold, we rotated out more of the expensive bracelets for the front of the display and kept changing our presentation with the sold items, so it always looked like we had plenty to sell.
- Get creative and come up with ideas you can do yourself.
Some of us like to call this process Brain Storming.
In person, we gather around a table with steaming cups of coffee, paper, pens, and heads filled with ideas, talking about whatever comes up and jotting down notes. The key is to write down ideas as they appear, and come back to them later. Don’t review the idea when it pops up… Let it meld for a while on paper.
When we get together… We think about it. Write it down. Put it into print. Then we hash out the ideas and sort them through, by discussing how we could implement each idea.
As each idea is discussed, more ideas are added. The more ideas we come up with, the more we have in our “stash.” Most of us use the same notebooks for brain storming, until it’s full, and save them for other sessions.
I use mine for blog posts.
More often than not, a brain storming session for one person will benefit others too. We can’t always come up with brand spanking new ideas… But we can rethink and rehash old ideas. The key is to find the right idea for the right person. Because what works great for one, probably isn’t right for another.