Thursday, September 13, 2007

Poor Man's P.R. - Press Release Part 1

So, you’ve started up a home-based business and you have zero dollars in your publicity budget. What do you do now?

Crank up the fax or find postage and photocopying money. You’ll be embarking on the poor man’s publicity campaign: sending out the press release.

There are really only three categories of information you need to know to start your campaign: form, effective content and where to send it.


I’ve found journalists to be a cranky, overworked bunch. Assume the gal on the other end of the fax machine is some junior reporter-intern hopped up on a caffeine-speedball cappuccino, living on 2 hours of sleep and a dream. Assume she is just itching for a reason to throw your precious press release in the recycling bin. Ensure that it’s properly formatted and you’ll at least escape this fate - for now at least.

1. It needs to be on 8 ½ x 11 inch paper with one inch margins all round. Use only one side of the paper if mailing it out.

2. In the upper left-hand corner type in capital letters FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. If you want your release held back until a certain date, then type for example: FOR RELEASE JUNE 6.

3. In the upper right-hand corner type the date you’re actually sending it out. Things get lost in offices or mixed in the wrong pile. When your reporter-intern finds it, your release date should tell her if it’s still current or not.

4. Try to keep it to one page. If you absolutely can’t, then subdivide large hunks of information into smaller ones under their own headings, i.e. your biography, how your project evolved, etc. It’s much easier to read and absorb this way.

5. Use action verbs to begin your paragraphs.

6. If you’re sending your release out to TV or radio stations phonetically spell out difficult names to ensure easy pronunciation.

7. Spell check thoroughly.

8. Use bullet points or numbering where you can.

9. If you go longer then one page put a sub-title or phrase at the upper left corner of the second page describing the next section of text, ie. NAKED HAMLET if you’re directing a bit of nude Shakespeare.

10. Always double-check to ensure that you’ve included a contact name, phone number (day and night) and an address. Place this information in the upper right hand corner under the date.

11. And lastly, at the bottom type three hash marks - # # # - to mark the end or your release.

Poor Man's P.R. - Press Release Part 2

Effective Content

There’s no point in sending out a press release that isn’t focused on your objective: convincing more people to check out your business and its offerings. You’re pitching for customers, so make sure your best arguments for why you do it better are included in your release.

1. Be honest and straightforward. Don’t overhype. Don’t stretch the truth.

2. In the first paragraph put answers to the five W’s: Who? What? Where? Why? When? The first paragraph contains the most important information. The rest of the release includes information in descending order of importance.

3. Write in clear language. Keep it simple and easily understood, but at all costs do not patronize by spelling out basic information.

4. Add a few quotes of you commenting on your project, for example, “I saw a need that wasn’t being met, so I decided to post my thoughts on the hurdles facing micro-business entrepreneurs. Plus, everybody loves a good rags-to-riches story - and a formula for their own success. That’s what my blog gives them,” said Arleigh Cee regarding her blog, http:\\

The quotes are useful to journalists who may be scoping for a quick and easy filler piece. Basically, you’ve done all the work for them. If they’re facing a tight deadline and writer’s block, they don’t even have to call you.

See the example below of how I put my own press release together. (Note: the formatting's a big wonky here. Make sure you follow my instructions in Part 1.)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 11, 2007

CONTACT: Arleigh Cee


Challenging the belief that you have to have buckets of money to start your own business, Vancouver writer, Arleigh Cee is blogging - - to encourage kitchen-table entrepreneurs to come forth and prosper. From business ideas to p.r. and marketing advice Homepreneur covers the gamut of everything a home-based business owner needs to know.

Commenting on why she started her blog, Arleigh Cee said, “I’d noticed an increased interest in kitchen-table entrepreneurs on shows like Montel and Oprah. I think more and more people are wanting to escape the daily rat race and have more control over their time and finances. And most everybody I’ve spoken with has an idea for their own small-business. I consider it my job as a blogger to encourage people to get their toes wet, if only as a part-time hobby. And you never know, one of my readers could be the next rags-to-riches story I cover.”

Stepping out from the crowd of business blogs out there, Homepreneur aims to help people with tens or hundreds of dollars to invest, not the big money most business blogs assume their readers have to throw around. “I want to offer useful information to the kitchen-table entrepreneur, the little guy or gal who isn’t being offered much of anything these days. I want to see them thrive and get rich,” added Ms. Cee.

- # # # -

Poor Man's P.R. - Press Release, Part 3

Where to Send your Finely-Crafted Press Release?
The next step, of course, is making up your fax or mail-out list. For most small business owners starting out, I’d suggest a local list is the first one you should put together. It’ll require a bit of phoning or Internet searching, but it’s not difficult at all. Look up the web-sites for local radio and TV stations, local cable access shows, community and city newspapers - whatever you can think of. Often they’ll post a fax number or address to which you can direct your press release. Phone to see if there’s a features or lifestyles editor that might be interested in your story and to whom you might direct your press release. Make sure you include a fax cover page that directs your release to the person you want. And most importantly double and triple check that your name and contact information are accurate.

I hope this is useful and that you have a very successful public relations campaign.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Business Idea - New World Candy Order

Seek out suppliers of different types of candies from all over the planet. The more countries you can source from the better. Then simply sell these candies at a farmer’s market stall, a mall kiosk or online. You’d be surprised how many expatriates yearn for that sweet treat from back home that they grew up on.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Business Idea - Specialty Bread Shops

Cobs bread bakery franchises are sprouting up everywhere. Frankly, I don’t see the point of shelling out a hefty franchise fee. Anyway, bake like crazy a few days in advance of a farmer’s market, making certain, of course, that your rustic breads will hold up. Come up with a great marketing angle. Hand out free samples. And sit back and count the mountain of dough you'll make from selling your loaves.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Business Idea - Sandwich Wagon

In Vancouver, the modern day gold rush took the form of catering firms feeding hungry film crews - that was until the Canadian dollar topped 95 cents, now things aren’t so gold rushy. But in any case for a while a collective fantasy fell over the city that anyone could start up their own sandwich wagon and make a bundle of dough. There are still plenty of other places besides film sets to market your wares. You can prepare your own sandwiches and soups in your own kitchen, buying your ingredients wholesale of course. Set up a steady, daily route at construction and factory sites, office buildings, and so on. And most important have a pleasant sounding horn or chow bell to announce your arrival.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Guerilla Marketing - Bribe the Weatherman

It's the way that my mind works, but I always think of Planet of the Apes when my mind turns to this topic. Gorilla - guerilla, I suppose...

Anyway, I was watching a beautiful example of it the other night on Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, a show on the Food Network where Chef Ramsey parachutes into failing restaurants, berates everybody in sight and saves the day or issues a restaurant autopsy of why it failed. In this latest episode, he was trying to save a quirky owner who favoured weird food combinations and powdered gravy mix. He cussed the owner out for a bit, told him to ditch the crap gravy mix and instituted a p.r. project which he called "The Campaign for Real Gravy". All staff were issued black t-shirts with the slogan emblazoned across the front, the owner was given a megaphone and told to sell his campaign to the people of the small village where his pub was located and free samples of Yorkshire Pudding and Gravy were freely handed out. There's even a website apparently at (I see that the website is stating that it was a phenomenal success and they're even looking for a new chef. It just goes to show how powerful guerilla p.r. can be.)

If you aren't thinking a megaphone and town centre blitz is the way you want to go, think about bribing your local t.v. weather reporter. If, for example, you're selling homemade jams and jellies, why not send a basket to your local station, and ask for a plug for your website or next farmer's market date? It doesn't cost much to try and the potential benefits could be huge.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Blogging Guru - John Chow

The hardest part of blogging is getting noticed. (Like most things in life, I suppose.)

If you want sound advice on promoting your own blog I heartily recommend visiting and reading John Chow's story. (He's created websites with over 200,000 page views per day, so the guy knows what he's talking about.) Type "promotion" into his search engine for ideas on how to increase your readership. Also, take advantage of his linkbaiting program as I am via this post. For your review of his website he offers a link back to yours. Find out more about it at and let me know if it works for you.

You may be thinking that my review is tainted by this outright bribery. Yup, it is. But I would still recommend visiting his website even if he hadn't offered this bonus. He has lots of interesting information on monetizing your own blog, plus an amazing amount of interesting links derived from his linkback program. Also, I like that he's up front about his affiliate programs. If he sells it or advertises for it, he backs it as a worthwhile product or service.

And lastly, I find his Fine Dining posts to be interesting. I note that Mr. Chow is eating a heck of a lot of lobsters. Could this be a more subtle side to his self-promotion as a successful blogger? This guy is one smart cookie.

Business Idea - Homemade Cakes and Pies

Before Martha Stewart started her catering business, she sold homemade pies at a table at her local mall and look where that got her. An oven, some great recipes and a mailing list for your brochure are all you need to get you on the path to world domination, one cake and pie at a time. Cakes cost less than a few dollars to make and sell for $20 and more. Produce and sell 12 cakes per day and you’ll net around $200.00 or about $4000 per month.

Business Idea - Xmas/Hanukkah Baking Service

Sweet Christmas sugar, Batman, I used to go crazy for my mother’s baked goods during the holidays. Shortbread, almond cookies, Nanaimo bars, brownies, sugar cookies with orange icing, and a peanut butter-and-marshmallow concoction that made me swoon. But who has time for all that work these days? Trade on maternal guilt and step into the breach. Sell your home-baked confections to overworked mothers everywhere. Wrap in colorful cellophane. Send price lists and samples to receptionists at large local offices and ask that they put the word out.

Business Idea - Pickle and Relish Maker

My mother is a pickleholic and a relish lover to boot, so I can see the viability of this business. There are millions of great recipes out there, find one or two, make up a few batches, slap on a down-home label and watch the addicts line up for their pickle fix. When I was a kid my parents used to take me to Klondike Days in Edmonton and buy me an ice cold root beer and a giant pickle to snack on - I suspect my mother’s influence in this - but I used to look forward each year to my pickle and root beer stop. ‘Course, I don’t recommend the roller coaster after this type of snack... Anyway, make specialty pickles, out of zucchini, pumpkin, watermelon rinds... For your relishes, try cucumber, onion, red pepper, cauliflower - the possibilities are limitless. Give out free samples with crackers. Sell at farmer’s markets, or online.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Business Idea - Roadside Fruit Vendor

Buy fresh fruit from farmers in season and then truck it into an area that can’t supply its own fruit. Sell it, either door-to-door or at a busy roadside rest area. Place signs well along the highway in both directions to alert customers to stop in time. Offer a good variety of tree-ripened fruit.

Business Idea - Ethnic Food Seller

Everybody wants the tastes of home. If you have even 100 families of one ethnic origin, find out if there is a store that caters to their needs. If not, consider setting up a small store. Polish, Greek, Turkish, Puerto Rican, Japanese are all cuisines that are expanding in popularity. Convert a room in your house into the store. Advertise to local cooking classes or offer your own cooking lessons and offer to sell your students the ingredients they need to recreate the dishes

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Business Idea - Gourmet Doughnuts

Doughnuts are not that hard to make and their profit margin is astronomical - around 80% or so! Many tiny storefronts can gross over $150,000 each year. Seventy cent doughnuts only cost a few cents to make. One fellow featured on “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” on the Food Network sells his gourmet donuts for $3.00 each. Offer unique flavours with interesting fillings. Sell to coffee shops or offer to take office pool orders and have them delivered. Hire a part-time student during busy times to assist with deliveries and sales.

Business Idea - Candy Shop

There are hundreds of success stories of candy makers that started out in a home kitchen and then grew into multi-million dollar operations. Every year North American consume over four billion pounds of candy, shelling out a collective $11 billion for their sugar fix. Use quality, gourmet ingredients and sell informally from home or at farmer’s markets and festivals. Sell non-perishable candy, i.e. caramels, and toffee by mail order or online.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Why do you want to go into business for yourself?

One business coaching book I’ve been reading states that this question should be posed before going into any business. I’m not completely convinced. I’ve seen people plunge into projects and do okay with very little self-reflection. (I’ve also seen the opposite, lots of work, no results, so maybe this author has a point... but I’m still dubious.)

In high school I had a teacher who liked to separate out the cynics on the first day of class, so he’d ask “What’s the first priority of every politician?” He’d sneer at the beauty-queen answers “world peace”, “save the environment”, “lower taxes” (well, the last may be more of a Republican beauty queen, God love ‘em) etc. And then the warm sunshine of his snaggle-toothed smile would fall upon the Chosen One, which for that year was me. My answer? “To get elected.” Because unelected politicians just aren’t worth very much.

It seems to me the number one goal of every business is to make money. More importantly make a profit. Other goals are just gravy, secondary trail markers that tell you if you’re on track or not.

The important thing is that at some point you have to give up the navel-gazing and just plunge in. Go make money.

I’d love your comments and/or your stories.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Business Idea - Classified Ads/Free Paper

I helped edit our yearbook in high school, so this idea really appeals to me. Put together a paper of just classified ads in either broad sheet or booklet form. Sell ads by undercutting your competition. Leave stacks of your papers in corner stores, gas stations or coffee shops free for the taking. Or deliver door-to-door. You’ll need a small office to answer phones and sell ads. Compose the master layout on your home computer. Photocopy your paper or have it printed professionally. One Canadian company started out this way and added jokes and very short stories to their paper of classifieds. They focused on distributing their papers to coffee shops and casual restaurants - anywhere a customer might linger and look for something to read. And now their sales are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Business Idea - Candle Sculpture

I remember a news story when Princess Diana died of an artist who had sculpted candles in her likeness and was selling them at the Place D’Alma, a site located above the tunnel. (They looked really neat, but I felt her timing was more than a little opportunistic.) Anyway, my point is you need only a small amount of creative talent to achieve some great results. I’m sure there are plenty of books on this particular type of craft. It’s an interesting and unique gift idea and your profits can be very large. Your raw materials for each candle cost you a buck or so and your finished products can retail for $20 or more. For about $200 bucks you can start up production in your own home and launch yourself on your way to becoming a sculpted-candle mogul.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Business Idea - Charcoal Portraits

Who doesn’t love a charcoal portrait of themselves? - Assuming the artist is responsive to my requests for “editing” my hook nose and prominent chin, I’m a beauty in charcoal. And everyone definitely loves a portrait of a loved one. Charcoal softens and warms the features of a sitter. If you are average or better at drawing, you can easily master this type of portraiture. (And if you’re a struggling novice, consider reading Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, it’s a phenomenal book. Your inner artist will amaze you.) Set up where loads of people pass by - sidewalks, parks, farmer’s markets. Draw for ten minutes for a fee of $20. Display and sell other artwork at the same time.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Business Idea - Hand-Painted Jeans

Oh, to have a svelte jeans-wearing body... For those that do, hand-painted jeans are very popular. Purchase jeans in bulk at wholesale prices on eBay (look under “wholesale lots”). Hand-paint interesting designs using fabric paints. Reassure your customers that the design will hold with careful washing. And then resell at four to ten times what you originally paid, selling to boutiques, department stores or on eBay. Take special, customized orders for a higher price.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Business Idea - Hand-Painted Kitchenware

This is truly turning trash to treasure. Any old pot or pan or other kitchenware can be dug out of the garage or bargain bin at your local thrift shop. Clean the item up, apply a base coat and then paint whatever grabs your fancy for an interesting motif. If nothing is grabbing your fancy, try checking out a Donna Dewberry book on “one-stroke painting” for inspiration.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Business Idea - Papier-Mache Folk Art

Newspaper, wallpaper paste and your imagination. No craft exists that is cheaper to get into. Some ideas for salable objects d’art from your papier mache factory: nativity scenes for window and fireplace mantel displays, mannequins, trays, boxes, dolls, doll houses, toy furniture such as stoves, fridge magnets, decorative plates and bowls and so on into infinity. Practical or decorative or both. Check out instruction books in your local library or on the web. Sell at farmer’s markets, craft fairs or stores specializing in folk art.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Business Idea - Become an Airbrushaholic

Maybe if I’m reasonably good, Santa will bring me an airbrush this Christmas. I love the results in subtle shading I see other people coaxing out of these babies. Lifelike pictures, electric designs. People who get into customizing designs for cars and motorcycles can make a very good living with an airbrush.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Business Idea - Car-Detailing

I’m told it’s a sleeper business which can be very lucrative. Basically, you’ll be hand washing and polishing cars inside and out. You can prep new cars or recondition used ones for a local car dealer or just freelance, providing high-quality cosmetic maintenance to classic or quality car buffs. Build a regular clientele by offering a complete package for $150. Work almost anywhere with a hose, bucket, wax and lots of elbow grease - parking lots, garages, alleys or the car’s own home.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Business Idea - Car Swap Meet

Turn a vacant lot into a swap meet for cars only. You charge people who wish to display their car in your lot for a flat fee for a specific day or week - no selling or buying on your part - your only cost is your ad to attract sellers and buyers and whatever insurance costs to cover “trip insurance” - so that anybody that may injure him or herself by tripping on a crack is covered for their expenses. Offer a food concession for bigger profits. Who doesn’t want a hot dog or hamburger when shopping for a car?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Business Idea - Car Transport Service

Snowbirds love this service. They can have their car delivered to their winter home and then simply fly to their destination. And used car and RV dealers often have to figure out how to get their vehicles delivered from one part of the country to the other. Find reliable drivers with good driving records in need of free one-way transportation and hire them by subcontract to deliver the vehicle cross-country. Google “car couriers” for ideas on how to connect with customers.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Business Idea - Used Car Consultant

I’m one of the many people out there who doesn’t have a clue what to look for in a used car deal. Mostly, I go on psychic impressions and pray that the relative I’ve dragged along for his car knowledge catches any problems. If a person doesn’t have a resident car expert in his or her family, though, I’d bet they’d just love to hire a used car consultant. The only thing you need for this is expertise in car repairs. Advertise that you’ll help prospective used car buyers find a reliable vehicle. Offer to take them on a tour of used car lots or accompany them to inspect a private seller’s car. Or they can just drive the car to you to inspect for them. Either way, charge them by the hour.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Business Idea - Kid's Birthday Party Planner

Okay, first things first: for this business, you have to love, love, love children, energetic, high-spirited, jumping, giggling, shrieking children for hours on end. If you’re not one of these sainted ones, if you’re like me and you like kids who are sedate little bookworms, then do not for a second consider offering a children’s party service. Just skip on past this entry. No one will know. If you are, however, steely-nerved and very entertaining. If you’re a self-starter with an energy level that amazes and frightens other people and you’re well-organized and like conducting fun parties for kids, then here is your calling. Working mothers and mothers with money will cheerfully hire you to take over the show for them. You will send out the invitations, gather up the refreshments, favors, decorations, games and prizes, provide adult supervision and the clean up. In some areas there are very few people offering this type of service.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Business Idea - Pinata Artiste

Kids adore pinatas. They’re pretty and when I was little appealed to my inner, greed demon. Although it was a rare time when my brother cooperated completely in the pursuit of candy, we had an unspoken arrangement that we would tag team the other kids lurking around the pinata, thus doubling our chances of a decent booty. Ah, the good old days. Anyway, if you’re interested in seeing the dark side of your child and her friends, string up a pinata. Better yet, go into business making them. They’re made from papier mache, so the materials are mucho cheapo. You can either follow instructions off the web or from a library book or let your creativity go wild with custom shapes, maybe a witch’s hat for a Harry Potter party, etc. Custom pack it with goodies ordered by Mom and charge extra for the service.

Business Idea - Children's Used Clothing

Kids grow like the Dickens, quickly making irrelevant that cute little sailor suit or dress that Mom was saving for a special occasion, not to mention everything else. So why not profit from the phenomenon? Very often kids grow out of items way before they’re worn out. Set aside a room in your house in which you can display your collection of good, used clothing for kids. Purchase your selection from thrift stores, garage sales, and so on. Resell at 300% markup or better. Repair, clean and press each item. Get bargains out of season. Meet customers by appointment only, serving one person at a time. This way you maintain more complete control of your time.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Business Idea - Wooden Toy Maker

The best wooden toy for me was a thing called a Jacob’s Ladder, little flat blocks of wood wrapped in ribbons that clickety-clacked up and down if you manipulated it right. For my brother his favorite wasn’t made out of wood, but tissue and packing tape - a set of bolo balls that my parents bought in Hawaii. He’d twirl those suckers for hours, usually somewhere near me if we’d just argued. Ouch, those suckers could pack a wallop. An argument for homemade toys is that they’re non-violent, ironic given my experience, but if you see the merits of fine workmanship and the boost in creativity that these toys can elicit give this business a whirl. Patterns can be found on the web, in craft shops, in books in the public library. There are old standbys that always sell well: doll beds, pull toys, yo-yos, animals, jigsaw puzzles, and those neat little, tilting mazes where you try to get the ball through to the end without dropping through holes on the way, or those cool, table top, wooden roller coasters that have a ball roll along, causing little doors to flap open and whirligigs to move.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Business Idea - Education Toy Online Retailer

Educational toys give the added bonus of bragging rights to parents about their genius children. What Nintendo game does that? Plus they make learning fun for kids. Now there are literally thousands of fantastic games and toys available, so why not consider setting up a mail order or web-based store retailing them? Search on Google the words: “educational toys; wholesale”.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Business Idea - Cardboard Playhouses

I remember experiencing serious playhouse envy when as a kid I visited a cousin and saw what her handy dad constructed for her: a sweet little, blue, two windowed playhouse at the back of their yard. Man, oh, man, I wanted one of my own. Kind of like my real estate envy now... Anyway, I think as long as the boxes are sturdy enough, this could be a viable idea. Build them in a way that they can be shipped flat by freight, sell them by mail order or on the web. Your customers assemble these cardboard playhouses and the kids themselves paint the playhouse. You can draw outlines of animals and flowers and other items on the outside of the cardboard and the kids simply color it all in. They can also be marketed to boys, if you design them as secret forts. Research safety issues before committing any serious cash to this business.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Business Idea - Kids Crafts Instructor

If you’re experienced with kids, then consider offering craft classes either individually or in groups. Target ages six to twelve years and look for lots of ideas from your local library or bookstore. Or offer birthday parties designed around crafting for kids.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Business Idea - Lamp Shades

Apparently, there’s a specialty market in lampshades. One Vancouver woman was making beautiful, silk shades and selling them out of her studio for $200-500 a pop. Pretty impressive. You can create lampshades to order right in your own home. Or just recover old wire frames that you’ve salvaged from thrift shops. Wire frames can also be purchased ready-made. Offer many different coverings: linen, plastic, parchment, silk, denim and fireproof papers. Place an ad under the “services offered” column in your local newspaper or yellow pages.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Business Idea - Fly Tying

The art of deceiving fish. Like the fish story itself, elusive and colorful, I’ve heard tales of people making a living off of fly tying, but have never actually met anyone that does. If you’re an obsessive fly fishing fan, you’d have a better idea than moi on how to market flies. One idea is to make up a large inventory during the winter, attach them to large cards and then sell them in fishing tackle outlets and sports shows just before fishing season opens.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Business Idea - Decorative Screens

I read about one fellow in the backwoods of BC who paints details from Caravaggio (sp.?) onto wooden screens and gets $5,000 a piece. No guarantees on that kind of money, but if you have even minor artistic talent and beginner’s carpentry skills, you can make a decent profit from these as a specialty item. An average screen is just three decorated panels connected by metal hinges. You can hand-paint them, wallpaper them, install glass louvers in them, mosaic them, or whatever sells. Wholesale them to department, furniture, gift and interior decorating stores. Put a brochure together, using pictures of your designs and send them around to interior decorators listed in the phone book or industry news outlets.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Business Idea - Concrete Molds

Kinda like molding ceramics, but much harder on your back. Buy ready-made molds of lots of different objects, oil the mold, fill with concrete, let it set up, dismantle the mold, clean and oil mold and set aside, let concrete cure, paint the item or just leave it as is, depending on what the customer wants. Make bird baths, urns, animals, outdoor chairs and tables or pretentious and uncomfortable indoor chairs and tables, statues, flower pots and planters, stepping stones, garden elves, gnomes, gargoyles and more. Sell to mortuaries, gift stores, florists, garden supply stores, etc. See public libraries for more information and related subjects.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Business Idea - Cedar Hangers

If you’ve ever lost a favorite item of clothing to a hungry moth, you’ll understand the value of cedar coat hangers. (Cedar also ends up in hope chests and jewelry boxes.) In addition, to repelling moths, cedar makes a stuffy closet smell good. Find an angle to personalize them, maybe carved monograms or other decorative feature and these could sell as a practical handicraft.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Business Idea - Bumper Stickers

Bumper stickers give voice to the voiceless everywhere and lighten up depressing traffic jams, if witty enough. They’re also a great way to advertise a small business. You can set up your own business to print and sell them to all kinds of clients. Pre-sell your orders to tourist attractions, to politicians, church groups, PTAs and gift and novelty shops. Design special stickers for tourist attractions in your area and design specialty stickers just for them, i.e. “I survived climbing Mt. Way-Too-High”, etc. Your overhead costs will be negligible compared to potential profits if you come up with a catchy marketing scheme

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Business Idea - Modern Day Blacksmith

The home renovation craze means that quality craftspeople are in demand. Wrought iron and decorative ironwork are being used in homes for things like banisters, plant and decorative wall hangers, railings and so on. Pick up this reviving trade and become a modern day blacksmith. Check out your local community college for courses.

(And this isn't that far-fetched. I actually have a distant great uncle who does ironwork.)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Business Idea - Bird Feeder Mogul

Be the quirky gal down the block who made her millions manufacturing bird feeders. Collect a selection of plans. Start producing and selling them by mail-order or eBay. Knockdown kits are great to market to parents looking for an easy, project to do with their kids. Sell tallow-seed mixes by mail. Obtain a list of pet-stores and gardening shops and sell at wholesale to them.

Business Idea - Steam Cleaning Service

Again the start up cost of this is not too bad, just the cost of your steam cleaner. Buy your first one used to decrease costs even further. (Check with a local equipment dealer.) You could go door-to-door cleaning car engines or you could work at truck stops cleaning truck engines and undercarriages. Or you could work late nights steam-cleaning restaurant kitchens which become caked with grease. Keep your eyes open for new ways to sell your service.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Business Idea - Apple Doll Maker

I’m not sure how marketable these things are, but I love them anyway. No two ever look alike. Each one is a unique reflection of the inner lives of its creator. (Hmmm... a bit too flowery there, but you get the idea.) Peel the apple under cold water to keep it from browning. Use spoons and knives to carve out the facial features. Soak in salt water for two days. Remove and hang dry for three weeks. Now decorate the face adding beads for eyes and a little acrylic paint for blush on the cheeks. Add a sawdust-filled body and clothes and coat the apple face with floor wax to preserve its appearance. In the end you’ll have neat, little wizened creatures that you can sell as folk art. Get books out of your local library for inspiration. (Try little wizards in home-made hats and gowns to cash in on the Harry Potter craze.) Send me links to pictures of your creations.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Business Idea - Specialty Aprons

Specialty aprons are a great and practical, kitschy gift. Make ‘em for all occasions, Xmas themes, retirement, tourist souvenirs, Halloween, Thanksgiving. Make fancy pinafore ones or over-the-top luxury ones with fake fur or leopard trim for the divas in your customers’ lives. You can sell by mail order or a mall kiosk during holiday seasons. Sell apron patterns and fabrics and you have yourself one well-rounded business.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Business Idea - House Cleaning

Most normal people hate housework and many will pay handsomely to avoid it all together. If you have a strong stomach, this can be a very decent business with very little overhead going in.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Business Idea - Construction Site Cleanup

After the job is complete, construction sites are a mess. Profit by it by subcontracting to do the cleanup. You’ll need a few basic hand tools and a pickup truck will probably come in handy. Sometimes you can even negotiate salvage materials left over as part of your quote.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Business Idea - Washrooms Only Cleaning Service

If you’re got a strong stomach, this could be the business for you. Clean public washrooms are the holy grail of any extended shopping trip. Businesses should know that we all judge their operations by the cleanliness of their bathrooms. Bad bathroom, bad kitchen is the judgment I make of restaurants that don’t care about clean washrooms. A small purchase of cleaning supplies and presto, jingo, you’ve got yourself a Restroom Only cleaning service. Gas stations and restaurants should be easy to convince of the merits of hiring you. Do timed checks throughout the day. Offer a free demonstration. As you expand, hire other people to fulfill your contracts.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How Can I Make More Money Today?

I was reading Gene Simmon’s book, Sex, Money, Kiss a while back and was struck by the KISS rock n’ roller’s business acumen. The man knows his market. From magazines to artwork, snowboards to baby clothes, Simmon’s has been relentless in thinking up new ways to extend his product line. In his book he credits part of his success to waking up each day and taking a moment to think up answers to the question, “How can I make more money today?”

Try it yourself for a few weeks.

Here are some of my answers just to get you started:

1. Advertise more. Take out web ads. Try writing for off-line magazines and mention my blog in my byline. Classified ads for my blog?

2. Brainstorm ten products I can sell that would be a natural extension of my primary one - my blog.

3. What other of my interests would make for another product line? My obsession with home pizza-making? What about a pizza blog? An acrylic painting blog? A gardening blog for absolute beginners?

You get the idea. Now ask yourself, “How can you make more money today?”

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Finding a Niche

A woman in Ontario made an obscene amount of money during the early days of the Pokemon craze importing merchandise from Japan and selling it online. Another stumbled onto a niche market as a graphic designer producing t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, tea towels, et cetera with stylized drawings of a particular dog breed - I think it was a bulldog of some sort.

The point? If you can find your own niche market online, you can make big bucks. In their article, “Niche Marketing Secrets” Rufina James and Bart Baggett state that to find this kind of group you need three criteria:

1. They have a crazy, passionate level of interest in a problem, topic or hobby. Hopefully, they will be willing to spend any amount of money on their desire or obsession. For my mother it’s cookbooks. She has a few thousand already, but always finds room and money for that next one that promises something new.

2. They have money to purchase your product. I’d love to buy a house, but until I get that precious down payment together, a real estate agent would only be wasting her time trying to sell to me.

3. They must be large in number and easy to reach. Few leads and hard to reach ones at that means you’ll just be spinning your wheels before your business goes under.

Find a group like this, offer them what they want and making sales should be relatively easy.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Setting Up a Mall Kiosk

I just found a great article at on how to set up your own mall kiosk. I was surprised that this form of vending is now a $10 billion a year business.

If you have an inventory of jewellry or craft items, you might want to look into this. For an initial investment of $2,000 to $10,000 you can set up at a local mall and enjoy the benefits of the high traffic they usually draw. (Here in Vancouver, one local mall was offering a kiosk for as little $1,000 a month - kiosk provided.) The only catch is that you can't compete with mall stores, but this can often be negotiated from my understanding.

This form of selling is also great for seasonal businesses - like those that sell Christmas or Valentine's Day merchandise - or if you have an item you want to test-market first.

For more information find yourself a copy of From Dogs... To Riches: A Step-by-Step Guide to Operate Your Own Mobile Cart Vending Business by Denise Clark.

Also, check out the article at

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mining Daytime TV for Ideas

I probably watch way too much daytime t.v. Occasionally, I can justify it by telling myself that it's for "educational purposes". In any event, home entrepreneurship seems to be one of the hot topics of the moment. Oprah has done a few shows on kitchen table moguls, as has Montel.

If you can catch a repeat of Montel's February 8, 2007 show, I recommend it. I particularly enjoyed Michele Hoskins' story.

Her maternal line had handed down a secret recipe for a honey, cream syrup for three or four generations. Ms. Hoskins decided that rather than just hand the recipe down to her daughter, she preferred to hand down a business: so she brewed up a batch in her basement, labelled the bottles and convinced her local supermarket to do a trial sales run by handing out free samples and a free case to the market itself. She then had friends and relatives buy like crazy and purchased the remaining bottles herself as a customer. This created buzz for her product and the manager decided to actually purchase a few cases and then to permanently stock her pancake syrup. From this humble beginning, a million dollar business was born.

I love stories like this.

Check out the show highlights at under "past shows" type Feb. 8, 2007.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


This blog is intended as a think tank for small home-based entrepreneurs.

I've found myself getting more and more interested lately in the success stories of kitchen table entrepreneurs - people who come up with a new pancake syrup or beautiful jewelry design or home staging concept and make it work from virtually nothing.

Partly, I think my newfound interest derives from a change in our culture, a feeling that the workaday world can be one tough place to navigate and that the business world offers its own forum for creativity. The main reason, though, is that I've been seriously ill for the past 8 years and now that I'm returning to health need to find a way to pay my bills. Returning to my old work isn't an option, so I'm looking for something new. Hence this blog.

I've heard that people make money from blogging. It's a sort of magazine business model, if I understand correctly. So I thought I'd gather up my home business research and see what we could accomplish. Stay tuned in the months ahead for information on what kinds of businesses people are thinking up, how they're marketing them and what problems they're encountering. I'll have ideas for you on businesses you can start at your kitchen table and what to do when you've outgrown your homebase. I'm aiming for a weekly post, hopefully more.


Arleigh Cee