Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Losing Your Job? Time to Bootstrap!

"When you get knocked down, just pull yourself back up by your bootstraps."

Bootstrapping, (a specialty sector of Microbusiness that requires very little to get started) has been a part of American Culture since the very beginning. Very few early settlers came to America to get a job with the local equivelent of WalMart. They came, in droves, to start their own farms and businesses, and most did it without loans or great resources. They did it by seeing and recognizing a need and filling that need by the sweat of their brow.

Even if unemployment rates go to 20%, that means that most people still have jobs and they will always need people to do the things that employed people never find time to do-take care of children and pets, landscaping, home repairs and renovations, cook and clean. As long as their are people, some of those people will need sevices and products. The key to Bootstrapping your own microbusiness is to figure out what people in your area need and how you can fill that need.

Setting up a Microbusiness can be the best way to financial security in these uncertain times. It may seem too expensive or just plain impossible to be your own boss but thousands of people make the jump every year. Ideally, a microbusiness is started as a side job in addition to your "real" job but in the case of a layoff, a microbusiness may be the perfect way to plan out a better future while enjoying the cushion offered by unemployent insurance.

Very few people get rich with a microbusiness but you get to work your own hours, most business will be paid in cash and the harder you work, the more you make--which beats working harder so your boss can make more!

A Few Ideas For a Bootstrap Business:

Neighborhood Newsletter/Newspaper. Sell advertising and collect news in a specific area. Distribute copies to that area and offer subscriptions. Profit depends on how many ads you can sell. Startup needs: Computer, printer, software.

Dog walking/Pet sitting. Take care of neighbors pets during the day or over night as needed. Startup needs: Fenced yard, spare room or garage, a few kennels.

Sick Pet Care. If you don't have any space or yard, you can still do sick pet care. People call you when their pet has had surgery or is recovering from illness. Only 1 or 2 pets are cared for at a time. Daily charge is $20-$25 per day or more. Startup needs: Old blanket to toss over the sofa that can be washed between pets. Handout business cards to local pet shops and veterinarians to get started.

In-home child care. Run an ad and offer to babysit. Daily charge is $25 or more per day. Startup needs: A few toys, classified ad.

Parking lot cleanup. Clean small parking lots that are not big enough to call a broom truck. Startup needs: Broom, dust pan, garbage bags.

Garden Hoe. Offer to do minor maintenace on gardens for neighbors, hoe gardens, trim bushes, pick up trash. Startup needs: small hand tools, gloves.

Garden installation. If you are already a vegetable gardener, your neighbors may be eager to have you install a food garden for them.

Sewing and mending. People pay $2.00 to replace a jeans zipper and $4.00 to hem a pair of pants. A custom prom dress runs $200 and up.
Startup needs: sewing machine, sewing supplies, a little skill.

Garage/Bake sales. Cook up a bunch of goodies and then have a combo garage and bake sale. I always make more money on the baked goods than I do on the garage sale but people will not stop to look unless I call it a "Garage Sale." A dozen homemade cookies is $5.00 or more.

Catering. If you have a knack for special foods, sell that skill for parties. If homemade bread is your thing, set up a delivery route to get fresh bread out to paying customers.

Micro Nursery. Divide up your house and yard plants and have periodic sales in your yard. Add bedding plants in the spring and summer.

Calling Agent. Offer to schedule appointments for a local builder. Many companies need phone people to set up appointments for inspections, construction estimates, etc. Charge by the number of calls made or ask for a commission.

Housekeeping. Clean houses or specialize in cleaning up apartments between tenants or new construction cleanup. Startup needs: general cleaning equipment.

Visiting Companion. Visit elderly people in their homes. make a meal or two or help with cleaning up or just sit and play cards and talk. Startup needs: Pass out business cards to doctors offices, senior centers and pharmacies. Find your local senior services group and register with them.

Micro B&B aka Boarding House. Set up a spare bedroom as a guest room and offer get-aways. If you don't want to invest in the nice guest room trinkets, call yourself a Hostel and register on the national Hostel sites. You can get away with 4 bunk beds in a bedroom and the guests tend to clean up after themselves!

Here are some ideas I have found on other sites:

Be a Tutor.

Run a Welcome Wagon

Helpful Links:
Microbusiness Development Centers in the US

NOTE: I have tried to only list the best home business links. If any of them turn out to be scammer site, PLEASE TELL ME IN COMMENTS. I will remove the link asap. Never, under any circumstances PAY to join a "club" to make money---SCAM!

Have any ideas for a microbusiness that can be started for under $250? Please post them in comments! I would love to see what other people are doing in this nasty job market.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The New Economy-Tailor Your Business to Survive.

One of the problems with big businesses is that it takes so long for them to change to fit market conditions. The usual big business response to a a failing economy is to cut jobs. That response makes the economy that much worse so the big businesses fall in on each other like so many dominoes. Big businesses waste money on advertising programs that are out of date, pushing luxury items to a consumer base that is cutting corners to survive, again the delay time is the killer for big business. Instead of looking to the future, they are stuck 5 minutes in the past. Instead of leading the way in trends, they are held back by past performance and unrealistic sales goals. This stubborn adherence to the tombstones of past profit margins will be the end of them and really that is a shame considering how well big business can manage large numbers of trained, work-ready, people.

In light of the coming economic changes, I suggest that businesses also change the way they operate.

Heavy manufacturing could switch 1/2 of their workforce over to energy technologies. Let GM build wind turbines. Let Chrysler build solar energy plants. If there isn't a market for the machines, then set up power plants and sell the electricity. Require local power companies to buy percentages of the power at slightly over base cost so that companies can afford to keep building and employing people.

Big Box stores should be focusing on basic durable consumer goods like solar panels, food preservation systems, Do-It-Yourself kits, and support for these products. If I could get a Circuit City credit card to buy a computer or big screen TV--why can't I buy solar panels instead? Why not hydroponics equipment to grow food at my house?

Massive grocery stores can help buy converting all store roof tops into greenhouses. These stores waste a lot of energy in the form of excess heat, so this is a natural way to use the heat one more time.(This goes double for Google's Blade Farms which produce enough heat to supply thousands of homes as well as acres of greenhouses!) Food grown would only need to be transported to the produce department rather than halfway around the world.

Contractors can pull back from building new houses and offer more basic services such as retrofitting existing houses with white roofs and energy efficiency packages--90% of American homes need this service at a reasonable price. In many cases programs already exist to help seniors and low income people buy these improvements for their homes and even for their rental homes.

Landscaping companies can focus on lawn removal and food garden installation. Help people start gardens and offer reasonably priced consultation. The time of gouging for these services is over...just help people get started for a price that makes it affordable for the people who need it.

Auto dealers can help by renting some of their unwanted trucks by the hour, so people can use them to haul supplies for home projects. Most people can't buy a truck but would rent one if they were easier to get and affordable.

Cities and States can help by making more land accessible to grow food. What is the use of acres of grass in a park when people are going hungry? Most parks already have water systems installed, so open them up to groups of people for gardening and even small livestock projects. Currently community gardening programs are overwhelmed with waiting lists of a year or more in most cases. This proves we need to devote more City owned land for these programs.