Monday, March 14, 2016

Home Business Ventures

One of my brother's bird houses and a wooden bird he carved.
     Home business ventures are becoming more popular as technology makes it possible to do many things from home that were not possible years ago.  Some people may be looking for some ideas, or just some inspiration to make something happen.  I hope to be able to provide some inspiration for someone who has had this desire, but doesn't know where to start. 

     To start a home business you need a product or service to provide that is of value to others.  It could start with growing a pumpkin seed in your back yard.  It could be a skill that you are able to teach others like the use of a popular computer program.  It could be a service like cleaning out gutters, or walking dogs.

      I remember years ago, when I was a teenager, Dad had an idea of starting a lawn service business.  He had an old lawn tractor, and a trailer.  He made an ad with Mom's help, and put it in the classifieds of our local newspaper and we waited to see how many responses we might get.  We received one.  It was a number of miles away, probably around 15 miles.  We knew we were not going to make much money from the venture, though gas was cheaper back then.  We decided to do it anyway as a way to start our venture.  Dad figured it would be good to add up our expenses over time so we could figure out if it was worth making a trip like that.  He knew that there was the added cost of wear and tear on the equipment.  The venture was also a way we could work together as father and son.  The neighbors to the place where we mowed saw our work and asked if we could mow their yard also. That's something that is true of many businesses.  The customers come more from word of mouth or from watching the work being done at their neighbors than they do from costly advertisements.

      The venture didn't last long.  We once found it hard to get our payment, and the man of the house decided at one point it might be worth mowing himself. The neighbor didn't need their yard mowed after we had cut down some extremely high grass that they were unable to do.  It was a good experience despite it being so short lived.  Dad and I took turns using the riding mower which was fun to ride when it worked.  Sometimes our maintenance time seemed to be as much as our mowing time.  The push mower was good exercise, and for me, any amount of money was a great thing.

     It is great when people can do something that they really like and sell it.  Often times the product a person likes to make just doesn't have a market demand.  I think the lawn business could have really taken off if we knew how to market it because a large portion of the population has a lawns,  and many people don't have much time to work on them.  We also tried another venture that probably had much less demand even if we marketed it better.  Dad had a scroll saw, and we would make lots of cut out ornaments with it.  I remember making some wooden chipmunks of my own design and painting them with some delicate features.  We went to a craft sale and tried to sell the various wooden items our family had made.  We probably hardly came away with more than the cost of setting up our table.  Dad really enjoyed working with pine wood and a scroll saw, and the whole family seemed to find some enjoyment from it, but it didn't seem to have much of a market.  I was so happy that one of the few things that sold was one of my wooden chipmunks.

      My younger brother also had a love of producing things with wood.  There were barn ruins behind our house that had lots of barn board.  It was kind of like the idea of finding diamonds on your own property instead of searching for them abroad.  My brother came up with the idea of producing bird houses and feeders with that wood that would otherwise go to waste.  He did some marvelous work.  We took some of his bird feeders and houses to a local festival to sell them.  His handiwork received some good compliments, but few were sold because people at festivals have a hard time carrying things very far.  Once again, the trouble was marketing.  I knew a young man who was very successful at selling some fancy bird houses, but an advantage he had was that he lived in a densely populated area.

     Today I have a home enterprise of selling honey bee products.  When I first started beekeeping I remember a man from the honey industry say that you didn't have to worry about marketing honey because honey sells itself.  Such did not seem to be necessarily the case, and after years of producing honey I came to recognize that one of the areas of weakness for the business was marketing.  I made it a fervent prayer that I could learn to market my products.  That prayer was granted especially on a local basis.  For how rural our area is, the amount of honey that I've been able to sell has been tremendous.  It could be better, I'm sure, and it will need to be if I am to succeed in the future.  One thing that helps with marketing is to believe in your product.  Another is to be very familiar with it, and to share what qualities it has with others.  I went to local farmers markets with brochures that I had made, and told people how good honey is. Many people really don't know how good honey is.

      I've watched people go week after week at a farmers market trying to sell craft products that don't seem to sell.  They've had some great products, but they were at the wrong place.  Some don't mind as they are retired and vending gives them something to do.  People at farmers markets are mostly looking for food.  When selling a product, keep in mind who it is that you are selling to, and try to go where they are at.  People that are looking for crafts to buy are often thinking of getting them as a unique gift for someone.  The place for this is often a craft fair, or holiday event rather than a farmers market.  Even if you find that your product isn't received well at one place, don't get discouraged right away.  Some products need to be seen a number of times before people think of their value.

     Don't be afraid of starting small.  Debt is something that causes many businesses to fail.  By starting small, your mistakes are likely to be less costly.  "For who hath despised the day of small things?" Zech. 4:10.

     A business can start with putting a sign outside your house telling what service or product you can provide.    It can start with telling your coworkers, family, and friends what you have to offer.  By talking about your business aspirations you can get advice from others, knowledge of pitfalls in that venture, encouragement, and even possible sales leads.  This is a subject I could go on and on with as I've spent a lot of time studying it, but I hope these thoughts helped the wheels spin for someone.

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