Posts related to business, but not marketing.

Pornography – The Wildfire Outside Your Door

Burning trash was legal, and there was a burn pit in the yard, beside the house. So I carted the burnables out, and lit a fire. It burned for about an hour, while I watched it, going back and forth to the house to make sure nothing got out of the rock enclosure. I had been taught as a child to not leave a fire unattended unless I was sure of the safety of the enclosure.

A month later, I headed out to use the burn pit again. The ground was drier and it was a warmer day. I had a bit more trash this time, but not that much more. I tossed it in, and lit it. The performance seemed to be repeating itself, so I ran inside to do something quick indoors.

When I came back out, not more than a moment or two later, a small patch of grass was burning outside the pit. I ran over and started stomping, just in time to see another patch light up beside it. The slightly drier ground and the slightly hotter fire had heated the rocks, and the grass that was in the nooks and crannies around the rocks caught fire. I stomped out the first and ran frantically to the second one just as the first popped to life again, and a third began on the opposite side of the pit.

I still thought I could stop it myself, and ran for the kitchen to fill a bucket. When I came back, the fire was twice the size in each patch, and another little patch was sparking to life. The bucket of water squashed two patches! I was going to get this under control, and no one would know, and I’d be able to just go on and never have to confess my embarrassment.

I ran for another bucket. When I got back, the two bits I had squashed were burning merrily again, and the other two sections had grown again, and were spreading toward the houses – mine, and a neighbor. I realized at that point that it was not going to concede to my wishes of not involving anyone else.

I ran for the neighbors, who stuck their heads out and said, “Well, what do you want US to do?”. I ran for the bucket again, hollering, “Call the fire department! And grab a bucket!”. They grumbled, and wandered around outside, mumbling something about where to find a bucket. I tossed one at them and ran back inside. Two more neighbors came to help, while I called the fire department myself. We got a hose going, and managed to keep the fire away from the houses, but by the time the fire department arrived, it had consumed most of the yard, and was about 5 feet from our house on one side, had reached the road on another side, and was a few feet from the property line on the other. The firemen pulled out a hose, sprayed fire retardant on the flames, and they died a sizzling death as though on command.

They did in 5 minutes what I had been gasping with for far longer, and which I could not vanquish even with the help of several neighbors – of course, they had good protective gear, and the right equipment to fight it. The firemen stayed for a while to watch the ground to ensure that no sparks relit in areas that may not have been sufficiently quenched. I heard sizzling sounds in the lawn for many hours afterward, and kept looking out to see whisps of smoke trailing up from under this or that charred bush.

It occurs to me that Pornography is much like that fire. Only bigger. One little bit, nothing serious. But it spreads. And it pops up where you do not expect it to. The addiction can consume a home before someone is aware that it is the culprit, it may spread from one home to another. And neighbors may just be content to let your home burn – even the help of well-meaning friends may not be enough. Neighbors may even be content to let the fire go until it consumes their own home, oblivious to the danger even as it engulfs them! Once the right actions are taken, you need to be watchful to make sure it does not spark to life again.

This was a small yard fire. The flames of Pornography are more like a wildfire, out of control, creating a wind and a roar, and sweeping everything in its path. Inviting it into your home is the equivalent of building a bonfire in your livingroom just because you got bored, and hoping that the fire you started with not do more than warm your toes or let you roast some marshmallows.

Pornography, like the fire in my yard, or like a forest fire, will grow if left unchecked, until it has consumed every life in its path. It will not get tired and just wear itself out in an individual. It will grow and grow until all the good in a person is destroyed. This is what it does. There are no exceptions. It always gets worse if it is not first stopped, and then held at bay.

The progression is inevitable – it is important that this is understood. It may progress slowly, or quickly, but it WILL progress, and it always ends with the same horrors. In earlier eras when it was harder to access and there was less social acceptance of it, the progression took far longer, but in this day when it is on every street corner, accessible in every private cubby, and considered by so many to be nothing shameful, it gallops through a person’s life at an astonishing speed. Generally the further the progression, the less likely a person is to recover, and the more damage they will do to other people around them. Pornography never stays confined to a single person, it spills over and pulls in young people who see the example of the addict, and poisons marriages, families, and friendships as the addict gives to the addiction what they should be giving to real people.

Porn may be assessed on a scale of 1-5 for severity. A person may progress from one phase to another in as little as six months (far less in certain environments), or they may take years – but in our day, it is uncommon for it to take more than two years to progress from one stage to the next.

Stage 1Bikini/Underwear shots progressing to nudity. At this stage, confession (to spouse, parents, and anyone harmed by the addict), and help from family (and clergy where available) may be sufficient to help an individual gain control, and revise the standards and behaviors in their life. The individual viewing porn will begin to detach from close relationships, and will generally become more irritable and prone to fault-finding, or temper tantrums.

Stage 2Porn involving Straight and Gay Sex (with or without a progression from one to the other), with progression from couples to groups. This stage may begin with straight sex only, but always ends with both categories, and the progression may follow one of several patterns. This stage may include either visual or auditory media, and text only books. If drug abuse is not already a factor, it generally begins well into this stage also (the link between drug addictions and pornography addictions is inseparable – but generally the drug abuse at this stage does not actually involve the porn, rather it is used as a coping mechanism for a life that is going up in flames). At this stage outside help is more likely to be needed, and confession to someone outside the home is essential (clergy or a counselor who is supportive of recovery are most appropriate).  A 12 Step Addiction Recovery Program is recommended for recovery for this stage and all subsequent stages.

Recovery is dependent upon the support and aid of those close to them, especially the spouse [or parents for youth], AND upon the efforts of the addict [until they start to try, nothing is effective]. If the spouse is NOT supportive, recovery likelihood is LESS than 20% by the middle of Stage 2.

If the spouse (or parents) IS supportive and helpful, with a commitment and expression of love toward the addict, AND the addict makes a sincere effort, the likelihood of recovery is approximately 85% through the middle of stage 2.

Stage 3 Sex combined with Violence. This is one of the critical barriers – when a person crosses it, things begin to pick up speed. When sex alone ceases to provide a thrill, this is the next step. Porn encourages an individual to view sex as a purely selfish thing, and when that tendency is magnified, it grows into the intentional desire to harm, and not just the desire to selfishly exploit. The fire is OUT OF CONTROL – it CANNOT be handled quietly inside the privacy of a marriage, or by parents alone attempting to help a child. There will be legal concerns developing through this stage.

Somewhere in this stage, the chance that a person will ever rehabilitate drops to less than 4%, regardless of spousal support of the effort, abuse toward the spouse escalates dramatically, and physical abuse of children may begin if it was not previously present (sexual abuse of the children by the addict is still out of bounds for them – that barrier has not yet been eroded sufficiently).

Stage 4Sexual aberrations (Bestiality, Pedophilia, Extreme Drug Enhancement of sexual experience, extreme violence, torture, and other indescribable horrors). The addict has sated themselves, and is now desperate for any variation that will provide the fix.

At this point, other people are NOT safe with the person in the house – abuse further escalates, and typically children in the home WILL become sexual abuse victims.

Stage 5Sex combined with Murder (First they view, then they do.) This stage begins with Snuff films, and ends with acting them out. When asked how he came to be a mass murderer, Ted Bundy is reported to have said that he found a porn magazine in his stepfather’s closet as a child. Left unchecked, porn leads to murder, in a trail of progression that is known to every prison psychiatrist.

Stage 6 – No Limits. Absolutely no limits.


This is not an exaggeration, nor an attempt to scare people away from porn. It is just exactly this dangerous. I am calm, confident, and absolutely dead serious as I list these phases and the progression of porn. The harm simply cannot be overstated.


To survive in this modern environment where it Porn is EVERYWHERE, one must wear good protective gear, and build good firebreaks, just as one would in fighting a wildfire.


Protective Gear

Protective gear for Pornography is one way to keep it from consuming an individual. Eye protection is especially important, but ear protection can also really help!

So what kinds of protective gear can you don that will help you to keep the harm of Pornography out of yourself, as an individual?

  • The company of like-minded people. Hang out with people who have the same goal of avoiding it. Befriend those with good ideals, who understand WHY you want to avoid it. Choose dates who get it, and respect the goals. Life sometimes requires you to be around people who will bring this into your world. You may not be able to escape them – but if you choose good companions when you DO have the choice, it is easier to be strong when you DON’T have the choice. Online, associate with good people, block those who would introduce this harm into your life.
  • Create a set of personal standards, and stick to it. This would include things like avoiding entertainment with nudity and sexual content, avoiding music and audio tracks that refer to the same, making sure you maintain good moral standards for yourself, being at home by a reasonable hour in the evening, and avoiding situations where you might be overly tempted to lower your standards. It also includes ACTING on intentions to make a hasty retreat, when things are occurring which are not in line with your standards. It is easy to say you will leave if the movie gets raunchy, but much harder to stand up in the middle of a group of people, and draw attention to yourself as you walk out. But every time you do it, it gets easier.
  • Engage in wholesome and uplifting activities. Every GOOD thing you do, from helping a neighbor to attending a clean alcohol-free party, increases your personal strength and helps you build good patterns for living. Every time you laugh at a clean joke, get chills from an absolutely amazing song, or view entertainment that leaves you feeling lifted up and wanting to be better, you build strength. Every time you do something unselfish, choose to do what is right even when it is hard, or bite your tongue and refrain from being cruel, you strengthen that part of yourself that has the power to resist Pornography – because porn is all about selfishness.
  • Increase the spiritual activities in your life. These are things that affect you positively, both by helping you WANT to be better, and by exposing you to the influence of Good, and it has far more power than the average person realizes. This is especially helpful for teens – it is perhaps the EASIEST way to become a kinder and morally stronger person. Just be there – where things are all about good, and let it work its magic on you.
  • Keep an emergency song on hand. Good and evil cannot exist in the same space at the same time. A song with good lyrics will drive bad thoughts or images out of your head. This strategy can be used to avoid temptation, to get disturbing images out of your head (after accidental exposure), and to keep your thoughts from drifting into areas where they would better not go.
  • Don’t go there. Not even once. Never let curiosity overcome your better judgment in this regard. Just once DOES HURT. Every addict started with “Just Once”.



One of the time honored methods for stopping a wildfire is to create a firebreak. It is a barrier, such as a path of bare earth where there is no fuel for the fire, or a moat filled with water, or some other surface that the fire cannot cross. A firebreak must be sufficiently wide to stop the fire under the current circumstances – this means that when there is no wind, with a small fire, a small firebreak will do. When the fire is large and raging, and driven by a wind, the firebreak must be far wider.

In our day, the fire is monstrous, and raging with immense intensity. It is driven by hard winds and whipped up by ignorant people who stand on the sidelines encouraging you to feel the heat and look at the pretty flames.

To survive this, we must create firebreaks in our lives. They may need to be constructed at home, and at work or at school. They are one of the ways in which parents can help children avoid Pornography and teach them skills to choose to avoid it for themselves.

These firebreaks may involve changing our environment, or they may involve rules or standards for safety. Typically they involve groups of people or environments, and extend outside of the individual. They can include strategies such as:

  • A home where computers are only used in public rooms in the home, when other people are home.
  • Requiring children and teens to “check out” a computer or cell phone when needed, and check it back in either at night, or when the need has passed. For example, a phone might be checked out for an outing, and checked back in afterward. In either case, keeping computers and cell phones checked in at night helps ensure that kids are not online or texting inappropriately after parents are in bed (this is the number one time at home, when kids will access porn in a home where it is forbidden).
  • Eating dinner with the family each night, at the table. This is an immense tool for strengthening a family, and helps develop stronger parent-child relationships.
  • Engage in religious observances together with others in your home (family or otherwise). This helps all work together to create a harmonious environment. People who worship together are more likely to support one another in choosing good.
  • Strengthen your family in any way you can. This article on the site, called The Family: A Proclamation to the World, gives great descriptions to help a family become stronger. It sets a VERY high standard. Don’t worry if you don’t meet the standard. Just pick a thing to work on and build strength in your family. And don’t worry if you are (for example) a single parent, or if other circumstances do not meet the ideal. Just work on what YOU can control. These are also the things a parent can do to help teens have the desire to make good choices – because teens with a strong family support network make better choices.

You may feel safe and think that this all has nothing to do with you. I promise you, you are wrong. It has everything to do with you, and it will sneak in and work its devastation upon some facet of your life at least once – whether it be the divorce of someone close to you, the abuse of someone you love, or the anger and storms of your own teenager, or within your own marriage.

No one is immune. The only ones who are to any degree safe from it are those who make it a thoughtful daily practice to be safe, and to stay safe.

Common Disappointing Finds for Mushroom Hunters

When you head out for Chanterelles and find only Blewits, many mushroom hunters are disappointed. When you go out hoping to find anything edible at all, and there are only broad patches of Sropharia Ambigua, other mushroom hunters are disgusted (even though they have never actually tried them). And of course, when you go out and find nothing, that is the biggest disappointment of all.

Around the common disappointing finds though, there are a host of proliferating species which no one ever actually names. They are frequently encountered by mushroom hunters, as well as hikers and campers, and may even be seen in suburbia, or in downtown urban areas.

So I am taking the time to create this easy reference for many of those finds which deceive the eye until you are right on top of them. It is my hope that this reference will allow you to accurately identify these common, but lesser known species.

  1. Aquafinis plasticus. A broad transparent stipe, topped with a very small blue cap (or sometimes white cap). This species has only become noticed in the last two decades, and is now considered an invasive species in many areas. It is a very loosely rooted species unless it is well aged, in which case it may be several inches deep in soil, and may have toppled to one side. We recommend removal of the fruiting bodies, which may be discarded in the nearest trash can. It will not stop the random proliferation of the species, but it does help keep other hunters from experiencing the same misdirection.
  2. Aluminatus canicus. Found less often that it was before the proliferation of Aquafinis plasticus, this species thrives and springs up around warm campfires and is often found along trails in the woods. It is a cylindrical form, which generally has touches of metallic silver. It makes a robust crunching sound when you step on it, which helps you clinch the ID. Removal and disposal is also recommended for this species, for the same reasons as for Aquafinis plasticus.
  3. Avianacea Fecealus. This species is usually found on other items – often on leaves, fence posts, tree branches, and downed limbs, but may also be found on the ground, and occasionally appears suddenly without notice upon the clothing of unsuspecting mushroom hunters and hikers. It is predominantly white, with touches of gray or gray-brown, and may be either flat and elongated, or it may appear in raised lumps. We do not recommend removal, unless this species has fruited on your personal belongings.
  4. Arboreatus Autumnal Dropiloides. Known as “The Great Deceiver”. Probably the most prevalent of all disappointing finds, AAD is a species that is extremely rare in the spring, but begins to show toward the end of summer, and increases in frequency through the beginning of winter. Occurring in various shades of orange, red, yellow, pale green, brown, or gray brown, or even a blackish brown, and having a wide variety of sizes and shapes (most of them flat and ovoid), some possessing neatly organized patterns of ribbing, this species is probably responsible for more false raised hopes than any other disappointing species. It may mimic virtually ANY mushroom species. This species is too numerous to control, and with practice, one learns to better distinguish it from legitimate finds, though some fruiting bodies of this species will always look deceptively like Blewits, Chanterelles, Porcini, and even Horse Mushrooms from a distance, and there is just no way to avoid that step closer before you realize you’ve been deceived.
  5. Golferina Ballinus. First discovered in Scotland, this small white puffball-like species has a consistent size of about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, is evenly spherical, and has evenly spaced depressions covering the surface. It is a very loosely rooted species, and will roll easily if kicked, or hit with a stick. More solid than the average fungus, they can travel long distances when firmly whacked with a solid object. They appear more frequently on lawns, and rarely in the woods, and cluster at the bottom of ponds in some areas. Hitting this species and attempting to knock it into a hole in the ground is apparently such fun that many sporting goods stores sell a specially made long handled mallet just for this purpose.
  6. Granitus rockii. Prevalent in many regions in fields and forests, this species may appear in a wide range of colors, and may even be more than one color. Often masquerades as small mushrooms, but can also appear from a distance to be a Giant Puffball. Responsible for more stubbed toes than any other species.
  7. Paperatus kleenexica. Commonly found on roadsides, and near campgrounds, and increasingly found on mountain trails. We have even encountered this one in cow pastures. We consider this to be a particularly disgusting find. Appears in lumps, crumples, or even strung out over several feet, usually white, disintegrates easily in rain but re-solidifies as it dries.

These species account for untold dashed hopes, and no doubt for a fair amount of cursing from dedicated or even casual mushroom hunters. They may also be disappointing for other wildcrafters and harvesters.

So I challenge you to identify these species the next time you are on the trail, or off the trail, or even randomly in surburbia or downtown urban areas.

I Know What Truffles Smell Like

A truffle crossed my path yesterday. A ripe White Oregon Truffle. Perhaps an overripe one… Maybe an underripe one (though the color was developed as it is supposed to be). I do not know at this point. I am not a lover of fungus and had never seen, much less smelled a truffle, before yesterday. But as the question of describing the smell of truffles is one that is asked over and over, I thought I’d have a go at describing the odor, for anyone who wonders what a truffle smells like.

I cannot speak for ALL truffles, of course. But this is an approximation of the smell of this one.

Take 1 pair of old gym socks which have been worn by a teenager who has been wearing his shoes without socks for at least three weeks and then decided to put on a pair of socks and sweat in them for four days.


Dip the toe in vodka.


Wrap it around a piece of meat that has been left out to age until it is overripe and then halfway roasted.


Put it in your fridge and close the door for at least 4 hours.


Open the fridge door again, and breathe deeply.

This is what this truffle smelled like.

Sharply revolting.

Fortunately, after smelling this one, I had the opportunity to smell a fresh ripe truffle. Two, actually – one black, one white (lest one esteem us to be racist, we are fair in our sampling!).

It smells somewhat of chocolate – the same kind of sweet, mellow and rich odor, only not entirely so.


I put them in the fridge to ripen, just as instructed. I knew when they were ripe. The whole kitchen smelled of truffle. Opening the fridge released it into the entire house.

I now have truffle butter, and the butter never even came out of the wrapper, and did not contact the truffle at all. Seriously.

I don’t think I’m a real fan of truffles, but they do smell nice when they are not overripe and fermenting, as the first one was.

The overpowering smell of them does enlighten me as to why truffles are used sparingly.  They simply overwhelm everything they get near.

Of course, I am NOT a lover of mushrooms. So my opinion on the matter may be completely irrelevant. I have discovered a few mushrooms that I can tolerate, and one or two that I actually LIKE as far as flavor is concerned. The texture still grosses me out. But the smell of a fermenting truffle was a new level of revolting for me. Underneath all those nasty smells, lurks an odor that holds the promise of having associated with something NOT revolting, at least briefly (and the fresh ripe truffles did prove this).

Historically, female pigs were used to find truffles. The truffle, it is said, has an odor that is reminiscent of male pig pheromones, which makes the female pig hone in on it, dig it up, and consume it with delight. Not so sure what that says about how a sow treats a boar… But anyway, I think it says a lot about the odor of a truffle, and if the boar smells like he rolled in chocolate I’m not sure I can blame her for her delight about it, but I suspect he does not! A boar in rut just isn’t likely to be the most pleasant smelling thing in the world, and I suspect he smells more like the first truffle than the successors. After smelling that truffle, I am thinking the boar in rut is something akin to the smell of that coyote that rolled under the car after I hit it on Highway 30 in Wyoming… RANKLY OFFENSIVE. If you stuff a rotting truffle up inside the venting of someone’s car, that would prove a good practical joke – they’d be at the mechanic demanding that he find whatever died in there!

Learning about so many mushrooms (we now have more than 100 species of mushroom spawn for sale) has been interesting. And truffles have been one of the most unpleasant, and one of the more pleasant (though overpowering) of mushroom scents in all that we have collected.

A Mormon Making Fermenting Products

Mormons don’t drink alcohol. At least, they all know they aren’t SUPPOSED to (doing so is considered to be fairly serious). The word “ferment” for a Mormon typically has only ONE meaning – that of making alcoholic drinks (intentionally, or unintentionally). And yet, I sell fermenting products, and fully believe that the products we sell were inspired of the Lord.

In the trendy world of the foodies, the word “ferment” is often preceded by the prefix “lacto-“. But when foodies get lazy, they drop the prefix and go with “fermenting”, and assume that everyone they are talking to knows what they are discussing. “Lacto-fermenting” refers to any process of fermentation which produces lactobacillus – a healthy form of bacteria. And there are several forms of fermenting which produce this kind of bacteria – alcoholic beverage production is only one form.

Most avid lacto-fermenters are not terribly concerned about the alcohol content. Oh, every once in a while someone will question it, with specific fermented items, but everyone else is quick to shut them up with reassurances that while no one has actually MEASURED it accurately, they are all CERTAIN that it is safe, and to go ahead and consume it as a health drink, give it to your kids, etc. This is in spite of a vast body of anecdotal evidence that clearly shows that SOME lacto-fermented foods ARE in fact alcoholic – with enough alcohol content to intoxicate (as in, raise the blood alcohol level as measured by blood tests). As a rule, pretty much ANY food with sugar (including tomatoes) will go ALCOHOLIC when fermented. This includes water kefir, soda pops, sweet teas, and many others. If it has sugar, has been fermented, and tastes bubbly, the alcohol content is questionable at best.

I don’t make those foods. Ok, so I once made a batch of salsa, which after fermentation was so boozy I had to heat it in the skillet to evaporate the alcohol before using it! We gave up on water kefir, because it smelled boozy.

I refuse to take chances. I KNOW what alcohol smells like, and if that smell is there, it is not something I am willing to take a chance with, for myself or my family. I just won’t go there. Because I am a Mormon… and I not only LIVE it, I BELIEVE it. I have seen enough evidence in my personal life for the efficacy and wisdom of the Word Of Wisdom (the guideline for what we eat and drink that forbids “strong drink”, meaning alcoholic beverages), that I do not need to be further persuaded. I simply will not argue the guideline into a lesser observance. I know too much to even try. I will walk on the safe side. I have no desire to do otherwise.

So why do I sell products for “fermenting”? Because of all the OTHER stuff that you can do with them!

They are good for pickles, salsa without tomatoes, condiments, sourdough, kraut, and other good wholesome foods. These foods do not have significant sugar, and do not develop the alcohol that sugary foods develop. They do develop a lot of tasty probiotic microbes though. Good living food that helps the body compensate for the chemical exposure of modern life. And these products are created through a process of fermentation, without the resulting alcohol that many people associate with the word.

Do some people use my products to make things that I would disapprove of? Undoubtedly! But my God is a God of Agency – granting the choice for good or evil to each person. I sell products and provide information for making healthy foods. If people use my products for unhealthy things, that is their choice, and I am not responsible for that. No more than if I sold televisions or computers and they chose to use them to view harmful media.

The process of developing this business persuades me that it was indeed inspired. I am not creative enough on my own to have conceived of our airlock jar caps, nor the even more complex process of creating the prototype, developing a mold for it, and then a process for making more molds. I haven’t that kind of brilliance in me, and some of the aspects to it all are truly brilliant.

But it does put me in an awkward position sometimes… I no longer introduce my business by the name (FermentaCap) to other Mormons. Instead, I just say that I make a lid for making Old Fashioned Brined Pickles. Most nod, with that look on their face which clearly says, “I have NO idea what you are talking about!”. A few hear “pickles” and wonder what in the world would make you need a special lid for THAT. Still fewer nod enthusiastically and ask for my website URL – but they are the ones who understand that “fermenting” does not just mean alcohol.

Nothing tastes as fresh and flavorful as old fashioned brined foods. Kraut that has not been canned has a complex flavor and crunchy texture – it is not limp and sulfurous (my husband, a confirmed kraut hater, will even eat it mixed in tuna salad). Dill pickles are firm, dilly, and garlicky, with a pleasant bite of vinegary flavor (even though they have no vinegar in them). Salsa is pickly and spicy. Good food, that is still alive and bursting with nutrition.

And THAT is why I, a diehard Mormon, manufacture and sell fermenting products.

Cottage Industry and Manufacturing Consulting

Is there a limit to what a sole proprietor can earn through cottage industry? Can a cottage product or service business realize the potential of unlimited earnings?

Firelight Heritage Farm is launching a new service which answers these questions, and which offers a full range of services to guide businesses, large or small, through the process of starting or converting to a home based business.

This can be done with many types of businesses – a good number of them are businesses which people do not think CAN be converted to home based. They can be operated in the home, on the farm, or in a shop at home. It offers so many financial benefits, in reducing operational costs, keeping profits with the manufacturer instead of being spread across a supply and distribution chain, and of reducing regulatory and tax burdens to the least possible requirements. It makes possible Point of Production Distribution, which increases profits dramatically. And business does not get greener than this! Equipment is small and energy efficient, factories are eliminated, transport pollution is dramatically reduced, and each producer is free to act on their own convictions for stewardship of our environment instead of being bound by the rules of an employer.

In case you don’t realize, Firelight Heritage Farm is owned by the Frumpy Haus Frau herself, Laura, and her husband, Kevin. We developed a business model for cottage industry, including cottage manufacturing, which allows almost unlimited growth and income potentials, with NO employees. The model includes methods and policies for expanding through a network of subcontractors, and includes logical process controls and a range of choices for controls over proprietary information or designs.

Our business experience has been varied, and broad, and has developed over the course of almost thirty years. This line of services brings together all of that experience to provide a service for anyone from a work at home mom or dad, to a corporation needing to find affordable and sustainable ways to grow in a challenging economy.

We will also be offering a full range of product potential assessment, product development, manufacturing process development, instructional literature writing, and marketing and small business consulting services. Cottage industries can be reproduced in a way that looks similar to, but is distinctly different than the Direct Sales or Multi-Level Marketing model, and we will be able to guide business owners through the creation of a sustainable multi-business expansion.

If cottage industry is in your future, chances are, you don’t know what you don’t know!

Cottage industry is as old as the earth, but must be adapted to our contemporary world. We will be launching a new website in a few days which will feature the services available for starting a cottage industry, growing a cottage industry, creating and selling cottage industry packages, and for converting a corporation to a subcontractor based cottage industry.

Move past the limits!

Cottage industry is the answer for the future.

Check out our new Cottage Industry Consulting and Development services at

The Difference Between guru and Guru

Waxing nostalgic today, remembering the early days of learning to use a computer, and eventually developing expertise at it.

When our Math teacher in high school had us working with TRS-80 computers for about 2 weeks, I failed miserably. Made no sense, and I just could not understand what he was telling us to do, or why it had to be so difficult just to get text to scroll across a screen. Or why I’d want to spend 10 minutes writing an instruction to make it do that. Confusing. Pointless.

Then about 10 years later, my father-in-law gave us his used Mac Classic. I read Macs for Dummies. Then More Macs for Dummies. Then Mac Secrets. Within two years I could quote the statistics for every Mac ever made up to that point. I could do that for about five years. Until the iMac, when models and specs were no longer synonymous.

Somewhere early on, I started rebuilding Macs and Mac Laptops. I did a lot of online support for them, helping people troubleshoot issues. Even though I was in the middle of nowhere, the internet opened up the ability for me to develop that expertise anywhere.

One day, a guy contacted me. Said that he had pretty good Mac skills, but considered himself to be more of a “Mac guru-small g” type expert, and he was looking for a “Mac Guru-big-g” level expert to go to when he could not figure things out, and that is why he had called me.

Considering that up until that point I had considered myself to not even BE a “Mac guru” yet, I was really flattered. I’d just been having fun learning this stuff and figuring things out!

I kind of thought it was normal for Mac enthusiasts to be able to quote specs off the top of their head at the mention of a model number (I still know that the Quadra held the most RAM of any pre-PowerMac, and what the initials RISC stand for – and if you know what that means, you are really geeky). Geeky doesn’t begin to cover that… I know. But I didn’t realize that when I was answering emails off the top of my head, the other guys were looking it up before they answered. I had also failed to notice the number of times I jumped into a forum thread and gave some simple answer that everyone else had overlooked, and I happened to get it right on the first try.

It dawned on me… He thought I could be his…. DAVID POGUE!!! Only a girl.

I soon realized that he was not the only one who thought that. I found references to my skills increasingly by other people when they could not solve the problem themselves in public forums. In fact, even four years after I owned my last Mac, people on one forum were still referring to me as the Mac expert.

It really changed how I felt about my skills at that time. Gave me the courage to go on and do some other things I might not have otherwise.

But it was a different day then. Becoming an expert was easier when there were fewer of them (and fewer people pretending to be them). The internet was different. Less crowded. Easier to find a quiet corner and get to know people.

I went on to develop outstanding expertise in other fields – Joomla, SEO, Small Business Website Automation, and some other oddball areas. And I’m off again in a new field again (sometimes literally), in the area of small ag, mushroom foraging and cultivation, and small scale manufacturing. But I never again really felt like I achieved an uncontested status of Guru.

It is harder now. You can still rise to the ranks of “Guru-big-g”, but it tends to be within a certain online or offline circle. It is far harder to do on a global, or even national basis.

It still feels perfectly normal to quote specs off the top of my head, but today it is animal breeds, fish species, plant growing parameters, the latin names of edible mushrooms, and digestive system biology. Maybe, someday, someone will need me to be their “Guru-big-g” for something I’m learning now. But if not, I’ll keep learning, because no matter what anyone else thinks, the learning is still a lot of fun!


**For those of you who do not know, David Pogue was the “Mac Guru to the Stars”, with a list of Hollywood clients that read like People Magazine’s top 100 list.**

The Myth of the Capitalist Pie

Those who criticize Capitalism perpetuate the myth that economics are like a pie. That if someone else has a big piece, that it only leaves a crumb (or nothing) for you!

The truth is, everyone has their own pie. Their pie can be large, or small. It can get that way by their own work, by someone giving it to them (through an inheritance), or from the kindness of others when things are hard. (It doesn’t EVER get to be big because the government gave it to you.)

Another way of saying it, is that Economics are NOT a Zero Sum Game.

Imagine that you are playing basketball. When the teams come onto the court, the Referee announces that there are only 50 points that can be earned between the two teams. Not 50 points each, not playing until one team hits 50 points, but 50 points total between the two. If the other team scores, then that is one less point you can score.

THAT is a zero sum game. Not much fun for basketball.

Economics are like points really are in basketball. Any team can accumulate any amount of points. If the other team gets more points, they may WIN, but they don’t take away your points, nor does their earning of a point lessen the number of points you can earn.

The whole lie about a single economic pie is perpetuated by people who want to keep you poor. That’s right… by people who want you to blame the wealthy for the lack of jobs, rather than blaming the people who made it so difficult for people WITH money to provide jobs for people WITHOUT money.

When some people are wealthy, and others are not, those WITH money are NOT taking anything from those without. In fact, people who are considered to be wealthy pay 70% of the taxes in our nation, and they donate immense sums of money, goods, and resources to charities. WITH wealthy people, we have FEWER poor people.

Wealthy people also spend money. The money they spend creates jobs.

Wealthy people usually invest money, or own businesses, both of which create jobs. If there were no businesses making good money, there would be no jobs, because businesses that don’t make money don’t hire workers!

If you think it is unfair that a person has a maid, just ask the maid who has steady employment if SHE feels like it is unfair.

Wealthy people do not control the destiny of poor people. Poor people control their own destiny. While circumstances in life CAN cause a person to not be able to control their financial circumstances part of the time, we generally have the ability to shape our finances and earn our own pie, be it a large one, or a small one.

When a nation is rich, ALL her people are better off. When a nation is poor, ALL her people suffer. This does not EVER mean that there are not some who have more than others. That is just a fact of life.

Another fact of life is that when government TAKES from the rich, to GIVE to the poor, there are FEWER RICH, and MORE POOR people. It does NOT lessen the number of poor people. It INCREASES them. Want proof? Look at EVERY nation that has adopted socialism. The majority of their people live(d) in poverty, while free capitalist nations thrived with comparatively few poor people. The ones who did not live in poverty in socialistic societies were those with privileged places in the government – who skimmed off the top and allotted themselves a greater portion than they allowed for anyone else. Is that more fair than having those who EARN the money KEEP the money? Absolutely not! It makes everybody suffer more.

When a nation encourages people to BE wealthy, more people ARE wealthy, and they share that wealth with the needy more freely. Heavy taxes on the wealthiest people does NOT encourage wealth, it discourages it. It also discourages hiring, spending, and donating by those with money – all of which are activities which help OTHER people to be more financially secure.

So if you think it is unfair that someone else has something you don’t, then get out there and start baking. Their pie isn’t stopping you one bit! Go make your own!

Freedom Plus Responsibility Equals Independence #liberty

I believe that one of the reasons so few people prize Liberty anymore is because they do not know what it is. They equate Liberty with “getting what they want without working for it” instead of “the freedom to choose to prosper without the help or permission of anyone else”.

There is a huge difference between the two concepts. We saw a BBC production on the Titanic recently. In it a maid said, “So in America everyone eats from porcelain and drinks from crystal?” The immigrant she was speaking to replied, “No, but in America there is at least the hope that they might.”. (This may be slightly misquoted, but the essence is there – I was unable to find an exact quote.)

Early immigrants understood that if you wanted to “eat from porcelain”, you had to work to do so. What they wanted was the OPPORTUNITY.

They did not want someone to hand them a finished product. They knew that if someone did that, it would be someone ELSE’S idea of what they needed, not THEIR idea. When you are restricted to accepting what someone else thinks you need, you are not free, you are a slave.

The more the government does for us, the fewer choices we have. If the government provides housing for us, then we have to accept their idea of what we need. Take a look at Low Income Housing, and see if it is all you want for the rest of your life.

If the government provides food for us, then we must accept what they deem is appropriate for our food, and we must accept the amount of food that they deem appropriate. Food stamp recipients receive the amount the government dictates, and can only spend it on things the government specifies for it.

If the government provides healthcare, then we must accept them dictating what conditions can be treated, how they can be treated, and even who is eligible for treatment. We have surrendered our right to choose what we prefer, by giving someone else the responsibility of providing it.

You cannot have true Freedom without Responsibility. You must be willing to take responsibility for your own:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Healthcare
  • State of Wellbeing (not being “offended” by what others say)
  • Relation with your Neighbors (not asking for laws to forbid them doing things you do not like)
  • Employment
  • Children’s Education
  • Phone Bill
  • Product safety – we use common sense rather than expecting the government to make sure it is all safe.
  • Community and charitable giving.
  • And yes, even things such as Disability, Retirement, Insurance and other “safety nets” that we think we cannot do without.

If you want true freedom, you have to step up and do the work. When someone else provides for you, whether it is the government or someone else, THEY decide, you do not. If you go to a Soup Kitchen for a meal, they will hand you a meal. You don’t get to decide what you’ll have for dinner that night, they decide that. Any help you receive from anyone is based on their determination of your needs, not your own.

The early immigrants had had enough of that. Someone else had made the decisions for them long enough. How sad for their posterity, that they are so willing to give it all away, for the hope of the ease of having someone else do the work so they don’t have to.

The real irony of it all is, that as soon as you are enslaved, you realize that not only is the government making the choices for you, YOU are still having to do the work. Eventually, the money runs out. When it does, the eligibility standards tighten and tighten, and pretty soon everyone is impoverished, and everyone is slaving for the government, to feed the fat hog that takes its portion from the top before anything is disbursed to the starving masses.

Equality never meant that everyone had the same things. All it meant is that anyone who chose to work had the same potential of having more, and of deciding for themselves what they did with what they earned.

It did not then, nor does it now mean Equal THINGS.

It just means Equal CHOICE, and Equal RESPONSIBILITY.

When we have the Freedom to choose, and the Responsibility for our own life, then we are truly a free people. If we do not understand that, we will never comprehend the value of Liberty.

Honestly Losing the Sale

What would you rather have: A person to whom you never sold anything, speaking well of you, or a person to whom you DID sell something speaking badly of you?

Today a prospective customer emailed wanting kefir grains. He said he thought the best option would be some fresh grains and some dried grains. He then said he was in Germany, serving in the military, and would need them shipped Priority through an APO.

I could do that. We always ship fresh grains Priority. But I ship them Priority to speed the delivery. Kefir grains are a live thing. They require food to live. We put them in milk each night, and they thrive through the night to the next day, when we drain off the spent milk (it is now very low on food for them, but high in probiotics for us), and replace it with new. As the grains grow, we give them more milk until we divide the grains and lower the amount again. Over and over we do this, to keep them fed and happy and growing and healthy.

When we ship them, they are a lot like baby ducklings. They can survive a day or two in the mail, but they cannot survive many days. Kefir degrades in quality day by day, and after 5-6 days, there really isn’t anything but a stinking pile of goo left, which may or may not be revivable using the most aggressive resuscitation methods.

When you ship through an APO, it goes Priority to the receiving station in the US, where the military then transports it to the duty station. A process of six days or more.

I explained this to the customer. I also pointed him to our shopping cart for the grains (he had seen the ad for them on another site which did not point to the cart).

He emailed back shortly with a few more questions, and thanks for explaining that to him. He decided to order the dried grains, and said he’d also like some other products which he found on the site with the cart.

I lost a sale of milk kefir grains. Had I not explained, he may have still chose to purchase other products from us as well, or not. I had no way of knowing what he’d do when I told him about the shipping issue. He did decide to order the other grains from me.

There have been many times when a customer has asked to make purchases and I’ve told them that what I was selling might not be the best option for them. It comes down to one simple principle:

  • I would rather have someone out there who did not buy from me who has a good opinion of me, than someone to whom I sold something dishonestly that has a bad opinion of me.

There are enough things in business that you CAN’T fully control which will leave you with dissatisfied customers, there is no need to make it worse by a poor choice.

Honesty up front about the limitations of what you sell will more often increase trust than give a bad opinion of you to the customer.

Today was a cool experience. It doesn’t always come back and reward you immediately. It is sure nice though, when it does!

Sell Your Strengths

In close to 15 years of small business startup consulting, I have noticed many patterns that are repeated over and over. You get a feel for success – who will do it and who will not, and what kinds of things work, and which are not likely to do so. Much of what I teach, I repeat over and over, in different ways, just trying to help people center themselves on principles that are honest and solid. The get-rich-quick mentality is hard to subdue in most people (even myself), and the lure of the exotic often pulls people from what they KNOW, to what they do not, with the hope that maybe what they do not know will prove better than what they do know.

So… here I go again. You’ve probably heard much of this before from me if you’ve ever heard me talk about starting a business. I keep repeating it for those who do not know – because they outnumber the people who do!

So… first off… the get rich quick thing. The rules are the same today as they always were, from time immemorial.  The internet has not changed the rules, it has only increased the type of scams available.

  1. Trust your gut. If something sounds too good to be true, it is. Don’t let greed overpower common sense, don’t ever tell yourself “It is only $29.95, if it ends up being a fraud I haven’t lost much.” If you lose $29.95 that is money you could have used for something real.
  2. If you don’t walk away feeling like they answered ALL of your questions, don’t buy. If you can’t get hold of a real person, who will admit that there are people who should NOT do it, don’t buy.
  3. If it is presented on a long page with miles of text and “testimonials”, don’t buy. This is the traditional method used by scammers, half-scammers, and other people who know it does not work, but want your money enough that they’ll do it anyway.
  4. If it is a “system” don’t buy. It won’t work. Ever.

Now that we’ve cleared that out of the way, please don’t email me and tell me you’ve found a great new system you want me to check out “just in case”. It isn’t real either.

So what do you do? The people who do best do NOT go outside themselves to find a business that works. They go INSIDE themselves. They don’t work someone else’s system, they build their own product or service based on their own skills, strengths, and desires. DON’T let someone else place THEIR idea inside your head. Find your own. It is probably already inside you, and you are probably already moving in that direction.

  • The best businesses are built on skills already possessed. It does not mean you don’t learn new things. It just means that you start with your existing strengths and build on those.
  • The lowest cost businesses are those built on materials and resources already in hand. If you work with what you’ve already got, it is far less expensive than if you try to buy into something.
  • Don’t let the “glamor” of someone else’s presentation of their life make you think that making or selling what you’ve always dabbled in has less success potential than their exaggerated representations. Most lives presented online are illusions (even mine), because nobody EVER shows the whole picture. They only show part of it. Even if they did show all of it, you would filter it through your own comprehension and still come out with something different than what their life really is. Don’t get caught up in peer envy. It can keep you from seeing the potential in yourself.

Brainstorm with a friend, or run it by a pro who knows the shoestring startup arena. Brainstorming has great power – nobody will tell you just the thing you need to do, they’ll all be busy telling you what THEY’D do. But their ideas generate a kind of energy in your brain and help you think outside yourself, which helps you hit on the right idea for yourself.

More and more of us are going to need to resort to generating income for ourselves, instead of relying on others to provide jobs for us. There are endless ways to do it, and endless choices. If you want to do it, go find the thing that is right for you.

Finding the Answer in Cottage Industry

Cottage Industry, as defined for purposes of this post, includes any kind of home manufacturing – where materials of one kind are turned into a product of another kind. This includes making parts, assembling parts into another product, making crafts, doing needlework, etc. It can be as complex as machining, and as simple as crocheted dishcloths.

This article is long, but it does explain something very cool. Something that our Nation is really ready for.

I believe in the power of the individual to create something better than a monster corporation can create it. I have long believed that the solution in hard economic times, for people who need employment that is rewarding and lucrative, is in the home, not in the factory or city.  For the impatient, the fastest way to get predictable income, is to become an employee of someone else. But then you are also somewhat enslaved – you are subject to the rules, whims, and employment vagaries of someone else.

I love independence a bit too much to love employment. I’ve worked jobs, and done so well. But I don’t like it. I’d rather have ownership. I’d rather produce a homemade product that has character than work in a factory producing carefully calculated and electronically machined items that are stamped out at hundreds per second.

There is absolutely a place for the assembly line. But there is also a place and time to break free from it. I haven’t drawn any firm conclusions yet about the shape this will take with us. I’m still revolving the options around in my mind, but I have determined on a few things that I think are worth sharing.

I had always thought that if I invented something that I could make at home, eventually we’d reach the point where we had to contract with a manufacturing company for parts to be custom molded and milled, in order to keep costs affordable and in order to produce enough, fast enough. I’ve changed my mind on that. I think there may be a better way, and a better market to tap.

Most of our manufacturing has gone to China. This is a result of the mentality of having to reduce and reduce and reduce the costs of production to accommodate an ever increasing supply chain, and the costs attendant with it, coupled with increases in operational costs due to Unions and Taxes. The US is handicapped in the manufacturing sector, and is now dependent upon overseas suppliers, and the unpredictability that goes with it. That isn’t a good thing.

“Buy America” is NOT the answer.

“Build America” IS the answer.

So here is a potential business model – one we are working as I write this:

  1. Design something unique. Find a way to make it yourself.
  2. At first, you are going to spend quite a bit of time making each item, possibly using make-do equipment or tools. They can get better as you go, but be careful! Once you move to “commercial” production materials, costs increase exponentially. If you set a goal of NOT going into debt, you’ll be able to avoid that trap.
  3. Perfect the process for making it.  Write down the steps. Get it worked out so that you can teach someone else how to do it.
  4. Assemble a materials kit – everything you need to make the item you are making. Create a training kit as well. If it is simple, and based on common skills, you can skip the next step. If the processes or tools require special knowledge or skills, you’ll need the next step.
  5. Hold a training camp. DON’T charge for it. DO pre-screen attendees for suitability. Train them in how to make the item you need, and train them in meeting your quality standards.
  6. From the attendees, select one or two to do a pilot program. Rent equipment to them for a low fee (do NOT look at this as a moneymaking opportunity – sales of your product is where your money comes from!). Sign a contract with them that they ONLY manufacture the item for YOUR company. Have a deposit on any rented equipment so you get it back if they quit. Agree on a set output per week or month. Pay them well enough for them to make a nice income if they do it fast and accurately. THEY pay for materials – you may supply them, but they pay for them (this is also NOT a money-making opportunity for you, you sell them to them at cost, or tell them where to get approved materials). They are sub-contractors, NOT employees. They own their own business, and manufacture something for you.
  7. Add more trained subcontractors as needed. Hold periodic training camps to train new prospects.

Now, there are people who will be terrified at this idea. They will feel that in doing this, they’ll be giving up their proprietary rights to someone else.

Don’t be so paranoid! Is there a risk that one of these hotshots will take the training and then go copycat? Of course! But they are going to do that anyway! Most people who are dishonest copycats don’t have the motivation to see it through – they think that having a hot product is enough. It is not! They are usually bad at marketing and actually competing with an established business. Most people whom you train will rather sell to you for a predictable income than to want to take on the marketing, additional costs, and additional time and hassle of direct selling the product, even if they can make more from each sale. That extra money is hard won!

If you watch, you’ll get a feel for those who are content with a predictable income stream, and those who have a more entrepreneurial spirit in them. They are usually easy to differentiate.

The potential here is that long term, you can be the means of not only keeping YOUR business in the country, but of helping dozens of small businesses get a firm foothold, while it benefits the growth of your own business. Your business stays comfortably small, but gains the income benefits of a much larger business.

So how can you do this affordably? There are a couple of keys to it:

  1. Setting your pricing for YOUR production at the start – in other words, base your sale price on what it costs you to manufacture when you start out – don’t decrease and decrease it if your costs go down, you may go broke without realizing it, and you eliminate the room for paying someone else, and get into a trap. As you go along, your production costs will drop as you learn to work faster and as you refine your processes – this is good, it means that you will be able to “split the difference”, and pay someone else less than it cost you to start, but a bit more than it cost you doing it yourself at your fastest. Don’t get sucked in by greed either – having to have it all. Share your bounty, enough is enough.
  2. Setting a fair price per hour for YOUR labor. Count that into your production costs, so you don’t run off feeling like you can’t subcontract because now your parts are going to cost twice as much (when all you are counting is the cost of materials).
  3. Pay a fair price to your subcontractors. This is tricky. You pay them BY THE PART, not by the hour. The faster they work, the more they make. So work out how many you were making per hour when you were in about the middle of the speed range, and base what you pay them on that. If they can make $15 per hour working at a moderate pace, they can probably make twice that once they learn to work really fast. If they choose not to work fast, that is their choice, you are not responsible for that choice. Just make sure that you provide a reasonable opportunity for good earnings. If you do, you’ll never lack for subcontractors.

There is plenty of room for this kind of business model. This is how things were done traditionally, and it worked for thousands of years. Our society has NOT outgrown it with the advent of assembly line production. You can take advantage of that in your business, by batch processing at specific stages and contracting single stage production tasks out to different individuals.

Think of what you can accomplish this way:

You can have a home business without having to “move up” to a factory. You can retain all those wonderful advantages of a home business.

You can provide those advantages to other people, and enrich our society by doing so – keeping parents in the home with their young children, giving opportunities to people who have been dropped from the job market but who are still good workers, and by encouraging independence and true performance based compensation.

You can get the government out of your business more than you can if you have employees. It is far more economical to run a business without employees than with. EVERYBODY benefits more in this kind of scenario.

You eliminate the supply chain from the cost equation. Most items double the price at multiple points along the distribution chain – raw material, shipped, refined material, shipped, manufactured part, shipped, distribution center, shipped, wholesaler, shipped, retailer, shipped, you. When you manufacture your own parts, you eliminate a LOT of steps and shipping, and markups. Maybe you have to pay twice as much to your subcontractors for the part as you would from a manufacturer, but at the same time, you are direct selling to your customers, so you can afford to do that and still make good money, whereas if you sold to the distribution center, you’d be making far less from it. Of course you also have marketing and other tasks, but overall, it is a win-win situation. You and your subcontractors take the place of multiple steps along the way, so you and your subcontractors can share the profit that those steps would normally siphon off. This assumes that you are purchasing refined goods to manufacture yourself.

This concept was originally discussed with a friend of mine who makes hair bows. An alternative to Direct Sales Companies, for other people to own a business and really profit well. I believe that this is what many people really want. They really just want a job to do at home that they can get paid for.

From the customer perspective, I also see that there is a growing market of people who would rather purchase a hand manufactured item with imperfections and irregularities than a more perfect looking one that has been imported from China.

Bigger isn’t better. Smaller is the trend that will save our nation economically.

Our company is now offering Cottage Industry Consulting.

Businesses You Can Start for Less than $50


Not once will you ever see me recommend buying one of those online systems that promises that you’ll make thousands each month. That is because packaged business “systems” simply do not work. What DOES work, is good old fashioned products or services. New twists on old ideas work fine, but the heart of it all is WORK. The less money you put in, the more WORK you have to put in.

Now that we got that out of the way, yes, there are things you can do for less than $50. But you are going to have to rely more on things you have on hand, recycled and repurposed items, and items scrounged at yard sales and swap meets, smart balancing of resources, and gaining the creative edge.

The following business options may not be terribly original. What is original is the way that you get started on a frugal budget. Not by investing hundreds or thousands in equipment and inventory, but by buying only what you need to get started, using workarounds and imperfect methods to get going. Once you get some cash coming in you can make things better.

Before I outline some of the options, I need to say that there are some concepts that make it work, or not work, which have to accompany the product.

  1. Smart spending. Don’t spend on anything that won’t increase your profits. A piece of equipment that makes things faster or more convenient for you than an old tin can and wooden spoon isn’t going to increase your profits. It will just cost you before you can afford it.
  2. Do the Math. If you have to buy small amounts to start, you are going to pay more for supplies, ingredients, and resale items. Make sure you can charge enough to actually make a profit at the prices you’ll have to pay to start. If you can’t, then you’ll have to save up a bit longer to get to the point of buying larger bulk. Taking a lower profit to start is fine. Getting in the hole is not!
  3. Turning Disadvantage to Advantage. Find the positive side to the imperfections. For example, if you use PayPal because you can’t afford another merchant account, then present that to your customers as a security advantage: “We use PayPal for your security. We never see your sensitive financial information, and you are protected by Buyer Protection.” This is perfectly true – you are just helping the customer focus on the advantage instead of the disadvantage.  If something looks handmade, make handmade the selling point. If you can’t provide automation of everything in the order process, be personally accessible instead.
  4. Don’t enter a saturated market with the same old thing unless you have a really advantageous twist on it.
  5. Expect to work hard, and get your ducks in a row before you make a dime, and expect to be discouraged and feel like giving up at least a few times. That’s just business.
  6. You’ll need a printer to print your own business cards, and you’ll need some kind of web presence. You’ll have to get yourself known, and learn how to do that without annoying the socks off of everybody by shoving it in their face. These are things you can do, and learn.
  7. Don’t expect to do it all on your computer. Especially if you have a physical product. Expect to get out and shake hands, show up at farmer’s markets or business showcases. Expect to have to BE THERE a lot.
  8. Keep the recession in mind. People will still spend on small indulgences, practical necessities, sustainability and preparedness supplies, items to start or increase business income, frugality items (things to help them save money), and eco-conscious items (especially frugal ones).  It probably isn’t the time to launch a new line of luxury teddy bears.
  9. The cheapest way to start a new product line or business is to piggy back it onto something else you are already doing. Hobbies, or existing product lines. You’ve already got supplies and materials.
  10. Avoid baby items, food preparation, herbal or cosmetic items, and other items with a high regulatory burden. They are prohibitively costly for budget startups.
  11. Don’t invest in a lot of inventory of supplies or resale items until you are certain they will sell. Keep your initial investment low, make a sample of several items and take pictures, then order or make on demand. Work out a way to get them out quickly after the customer orders. Make sure and tell them that the item is supplied on demand, and that there is an extra week of waiting for that. Accumulate inventory little by little according to highest demand.

Ok, so what kind of product or service can you do for less than $50? A surprising number of things, especially if you already have a bit of software on hand, such as Photo Editing software.

  1. Candles… but wait! What did I just say about entering a saturated market? True, it is. But it is a popular enough one that candles often sell because of WHERE they are, as much as who is selling them. There is also still room for creative ideas – shaped tea lights, creative molded scented candles, painted candles, and other awesome and wondrous creations. You can get 5 lbs of wax for about $25. The shipping is gonna cost you more than half of the price, so don’t compare prices without comparing shipping! You can also go to yard sales and get used candles for a quarter apiece, and recycle the wax. Be careful about scents if you do that! You won’t be able to know what kind of wax they are made from either, which may or may not be important. Scent and dye cost about $5 to get in the door for each. Wicking will cost you another couple of bucks. You can use a clean tin can and pot of water for a double boiler, and an old wooden spoon. There are all kinds of creative molding ideas online, or you can use recycled glass jars, obtained from yard sales, second hand shops, or scrounged up around your house.
  2. Other things with wax. Pinecone firestarters, furniture polish, emergency heat, dyed arts and crafts that use wax to prevent certain areas from being dyed. Google any of these things and you can find ways to make them.
  3. Fabric, yarn, and thread crafts. These can be sold on a custom order basis, or made and put onto a mall like Etsy. eBay probably is not the best venue for hand-made items, they tend to sell for pennies on the dollar, and you usually barely make the cost of materials. You can often find usable fabrics through second hand stores and at yard sales. Don’t overlook sheets and curtains as potential fabrics that can be obtained cheap. Patterns can be found free online, and equipment is often cheap through yard sales, estate sales, and second hand shops, or eBay.
  4. Pinecone Bird feeders and ornaments, or other types of hanging objects. Again, Google them, you’ll find ideas. Natural items seem to sell really well right now.
  5. Fold Up Solar Ovens. Can be made from recycled cardboard, you only pay for glue and foil. Do a quality job, and you can sell them for about $8-10. Make some nice instruction sheets to go with them. They sell great at gun shows. This is an eco-conscious product, a preparedness product, and an outdoors camping and hiking product.
  6. Self-Publish. If you can do the writing, editing, and typography (making the layout look nice) yourself, and if you can create a reasonable cover design, you can self-publish through a Print On Demand company with no financial investment other than the cost of a book proof. If you are e-publishing, it won’t even cost you that. You’ll have to get out and hawk the book – it won’t sell itself. But you’d have to do that with anything else too! How-to books, novels, specialty cookbooks, all kinds of options here.
  7. Rabbits. Assuming you can build a cage from materials on hand or salvaged items (our first cages were built from recycled chicken wire, refrigerator shelves for the bottoms, and some OSB and 2X4s that we had on hand, much of it salvaged). You can purchase meat rabbits for about $10 each. A buck and a doe will do to start – be aware though, that you do need a cage for each of them. Rabbit feed is about $15, for 50 lbs. Rabbits can also eat a lot of leftover and scrap fresh veggies, grass, clover, and many kinds of weeds. They are eaters of greens, just introduce new foods slowly, and you can feed them from mostly fresh foods in the spring, summer, and fall. Grass is important – if you give them grass you won’t need much hay (make hay available to them at all times during the winter, and as nesting material). You’ll have to keep them for a few months before they are old enough to breed, so feeding is a major issue (meat rabbits are sold at about 9-12 weeks, and they are not ready to breed until around 5-8 months). A single bag of feed can last anywhere between a month and a half, and four months, depending on how much else you are feeding them. Options for selling them depends on the breed, and what you are selling them for. If you are raising meat rabbits to sell, reducing the cost of feeding them is important, and ample home crops can really make that affordable. Other breeds may be more lucrative, but you’ll need breeding stock – which is more expensive for other breeds, and you’ll have to breed them more carefully. New Zealand and Californians are two of the most affordable startup stock. We recommend Californians. They seem more hardy, and have a distinctive hefty muscling structure and lighter bones that is dominant in most crosses (meaning that you’ll get those advantages even if you breed a Californian to a mutt).
  8. Wood Pallet Furniture. Again, plenty of designs online, and pallets are often available on Craigslist to come and pick up. The wood is usable most of the time. It can be used weathered, or sanded down (lightly to show grain or heavily to pretty it up). If you already have tools on hand, you’ll just need nails or screws. Be creative about your design, to come up with simple ways to make things that sell well. Simple things often sell better than difficult ones, because the price is more affordable. There’s a place for complex items selling for hundreds or thousands of dollars, but to start, keep it simple, and make quick things that sell fast so you can get cash flow going. Campy looking things and rustic items really go over well with Pallet items, but there are also some amazing things made with pallet lumber cleaned up, sanded, finished and polished and looking spanking new. Pallets can be made into trendy urban farm items also – chicken coops, beehives, hutches, planter boxes, raised beds, fencing, feeders, and more.
  9. Creative Plantings. Either as a service, or as ready to go planters. Again, you use recycled items and cheap items found at yard sales and second hand shops. Pallet Planters, gutter planters (made from leftover gutters), creative pots and containers – old shoes, anything that can be hung with plants stuck in them. Vertical gardens especially are very popular right now, and if you can supply cute and original items with a hanger on the back and a plant already in them and thriving, people will buy them locally. You’ll have to get out to Farmer’s markets, and talk to local stores that might carry them. If you start the seeds yourself, you are only in for the cost of the seeds and potting mix ($15 should do it if you are frugal). If you have a flair for it, you can probably find things around your house to get started, but failing that, go out yard saling with a $5 bill in your pocket, with a goal of coming home with some amazing stuff. Old boots still make charming planters…
  10. Green crops from the farm. Ok, so what if you have nothing more than a house or apartment in town? There is a creative market for a few items that you can grow in that environment. Wheatgrass, microgreens, sprouts, potted herbs, and other crops may be grown in very small spaces. The key to this one is two things: Selling at Farmer’s Markets is one option. A Route is another – build up a clientele to whom you make regular deliveries. This will work best if it is a natural outgrowth of sales at a Farmer’s Market. Ask each purchaser “Would you like to have this delivered to you on a regular basis?” Or make a brochure and hand it around, make it available when you sell your homegrown items. Any of these items can be started with little more than trays (or a homemade sprouter), potting soil for microgreens or wheatgrass, and some zip baggies to package microgreens or sprouts. Wheatgrass sells in the tray. A 6X6″ tray sells for around $4 in the grocery stores. There’s room for competition there!

Ideas are a dime a dozen, there are SO many things you can do that can be started cheaply. You may wonder why I’m pushing real products, instead of internet stuff. Experience. My most successful clients in more than a dozen years of working with small online businesses, were the ones with a real product or service. They didn’t have AdSense websites (though I had a few winners there back in the day when they paid more than a penny a click), they didn’t sell “reports”, they didn’t sell Internet Marketing garbage, and while a few (myself included) made a few dollars on the side through affiliate marketing, not one ever made a fortune at it, or even a living at it.

These hard working people were consultants, graphic designers, coaches, gift retailers, personal care manufacturers, musicians and artists. People with real skills, real products and services. Unique things that lasted.

Statistically, this is the most successful type of business to start. Direct Sales and MLM have a success rate that hovers right around 1%, and that is for the “good” ones! Standard product sales or service businesses have a success rate of 50% or better (as measured by how many are still in business after 5 years, which is not always an accurate measurement of success). By smart planning, and consistent follow through, you can increase those odds significantly.

Research it out, do the math, and write up a specific task list to get going. None of it is easy. But some things really do work!

Our company is now offering Cottage Industry Consulting, and can help you develop a business plan on a budget.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.