Entrepeneur Envy + Diversification

by Sandy L on September 20, 2010

I graduated from college in 1996.  One of my favorite classes was an elective where alumni would come in and give a talk about their businesses and how they started out.  One guy really stood out.  His business model was to do the jobs that no one else wanted to do.  He had about 10 different businesses and the only thing they had in common is that someone else didn’t want to do it.  He had one business where he rented out these giant 20 pack long porta potties for big construction jobs.  He was the only one who had them, and when contractors bid on a big job, they would usually have to put a 25% non-refundable deposit on them in case they were awarded the construction contract.  Because there were 3 to 5 contractors who bid on a job, every rental was paid for 2x over. It was pure genius.

I originally saw the enclosed video on get rich slowly.  For anyone who is questioning whether they should quit the rat race and pursue their dreams, I suggest you watch this video first.  Mike Rowe (the guy from Dirty Jobs) who gave this talk is extremely motivating  and really made me think about how I can approach my job differently. I think everyone should watch it.   He said it more eloquently than my memory recalls, but essentially, his 20 minute talk could be summarized in this statement: You don’t have to follow your passion to be passionate about your work.

Since that class in 1996, I always thought that I’d someday want to explore the entrepreneurial life.  The reality is that I like earning a stable income with benefits and I’m pretty risk averse.  Also, in 96, the stock market was going crazy so if you wanted to earn extra money, you could just invest in anything and proclaim yourself a stock market genius.   The last 10+ years haven’t been as easy…to say the least.

So what I’ve been pondering the last year or so is, if I had a windfall, where would I invest it? I don’t want any more in the stock market, but I want to make more than the 1% that banks are offering.

Diversify Using a Small Business Idea

So, here’s my latest thought.  Could I invest in a fun little business that could also be an  income stream during retirement? You learn this business as a weekend warrior and by the time you retire, you have a nice little thing to putter around with.  My dearly departed friend Ken had a sugar shack on his family’s farm.  He just did it for fun, but it’s the kind of thing I was thinking about.  You first invest in a little land with sugar maples, then you build the shack and every year, you invest a little more to increase your sugaring capacity.  (For the record, the ROI on that is pretty bad unless you already have the land.) Or maybe you always liked the arts and you decide that buying a large format printer can open the doors to a little printing business.

Let’s just pretend Obama passed a small business stimulus just for you and you were given $15,000 to get your business going. Do you have any thoughts to what that business might be? If so, what would you spend it on and what’s the payback time? To get the creative juices flowing, here is a list of businesses that can be started with $5-$15K. Now maybe mini-blind cleaning is not the top of your list, but dog breeder may be.

Not everyone has the guts to go out and take a $1MM loan to start a factory, but you don’t necessarily need to go that big to be a business owner.  I think I was limiting myself by thinking too big. I don’t necessarily need to replace my salary. I keep thinking back to the phrase, “it takes money to make money”..okay, what if you had it, then what?  I think a good place to start is some advice from Barb Friedberg gave on how to get rich. Her article goes into 4 important habits, but my favorite of her list is delayed gratification and Action.

I don’t know if this would be a goal I’ll follow through on, but it’s at least worth a little thought and discussion.

Would love to get people’s input.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

StackingCash September 21, 2010 at 2:10 AM

Ugh heavy lifting! 🙂 I’ve been tossing the side business/job around lately because of job dissatisfaction and trying to overcome a certain laziness that I’m affected with being born in America. Hopefully my Chinese work ethic will get me out there and make more money. By the way, nice blog!


Everyday Tips September 21, 2010 at 8:21 AM

Hmm… I am not sure what I would do. My husband talks about buying a coffee franchise or something, but I have no interest in that. For me, I might consider a cute bookstore, but that would go under in about 13 minutes with all the competition from B&N et al.

I am going to think about this!


Crystal @ BFS September 21, 2010 at 12:01 PM

I’d invest in a pet sitting business. Maybe use the $15,000 to build an outdoor air conditioned building with separate areas to petsit multiple dogs at a time. They’d need an area to chill in and be cool and a runner to the outside so I would have to clean out messes all the time. Yep, there is big money to be made with pet sitting! I don’t have much of an entrepreneurial spirit or I’d have done this already, lol.


Invest It Wisely September 21, 2010 at 12:34 PM

Haha, the Dirty Jobs show is so interesting! So many strange jobs out there, that are nonetheless necessary and have to be done!

I agree that one does not have to take a giant leap of faith. With the Internet, it is much easier to dip one’s toes into something that can be done after-hours. You can work on your passion on the side while still having the benefits of a stable income. You will just have to sacrifice some of your time, but that’s less of a risk than leaping without knowing where you will land.


Sandy L September 21, 2010 at 8:57 PM

All my ideas involve land usage in some fashion (bees, maple syrup, lumber) which is romantic, but not practical, profitable, or easy to do when you’re old and falling apart. However, I do enjoy physical labor as a hobby, so I think that’s why I gravitate to these things.


Money Reasons September 21, 2010 at 11:47 PM

I always wanted to be an inventor. So I think I would like to get that a try. I also think it would also be great to write a book someday. It wouldn’t have to be a big hit… I think it would be cool just to have something published with me listed as the author.

I also think it would be interesting to have a small store (like my grandfather did), but doubt that it would survive against Walmart…


Penny Stock Blog February 21, 2012 at 3:35 PM

I like the idea of a ongoing business that has limited liability. That requires little money to start. A business that is not subject to many government regulations. Does not require many special permits or licenses to operate. A business that can be quickly and easily shut down if needed. And a business that has limted contractual liability after its shut down. Requires not a very great deal of knowledge or experience to start or operate.


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