How to earn extra money in the country.
Products or services must fit the personalities and lifestyles of individuals as well as the marketplace. Often people who go into a business just to make money fail, while ventures which grow out of a talent, special interest or hobby do well, sometimes growing into large businesses. Sometimes simple luck is involved, along with recognizing the opportunity. What might be profitable at a given moment may nor be later due to an increase in input costs or changing market. Much of the success of an enterprise may depend on natural personal salesmanship or personality.
Some of these potential opportunities in this series may appeal to you instantly, while others may have little initial appeal. Some may be used as a springboard to other ideas. Some can be worked entirely from home, while others may require renting space elsewhere, going door-to-door or visiting prospective clients or customers. Some may require commuting to a city or one of its suburbs.
Some may only be viable if you live off of a well-traveled thoroughfare on the outskirts of a metropolitan area. Some require significant capital to get started, while others require virtually none. Some may be a significant source of income, while others may just bring in pocket morley. Some require training before they can be provided. Some which are seasonal in nature might be combined to provide year-round extra income opportunities. Almost all can be worked on a part-time basis, but they might become a full-time income source for a spouse or other member of the fatuity.
What might be successful in your area?
Small business experts generally say it is essential to first find an unsatisfied need or market and then fill it as your skills and resources permit, rather than creating a product or service and then trying to find a market for it. (Bear in mind some 80 percent of new products fail within the first year, and an additional 10 percent don't last for five years.)
Larger bookstores carry or can order books on starting and running a small business or providing a service. Some large book stores either have Books in Print on CD on a personal computer or have access to it through one of the Internet carriers. Using its query capability on key words will allow you to locate books on just about any subject. You should also find the Encyclopedia of Associations, available in the reference section of most large libraries, to be of great assistance in finding sources of additional information. Also don't overlook the assistance your local librarian can provide. It is amazing what information these dedicated professionals can find for you. You can also do a Google search for the current address of relevant associations and there are the Internet book sellers such Amazon.com and half.com.
The prices, books, associations and addresses cited in this series were those in effect at the time they were recorded. A bit of Internet searching may turn up current ones.
If you intend to retail directly to the public, and don't have prior experience, it is strongly recommended you take courses in marketing, economics, public speaking and salesmanship.
Add extra value to products or services:
"... don't just sell strawberries, sell strawberry jam. Don't just sell honey, sell honey lip balm. Don't just sell buckwheat, sell buckwheat flour. Add value to your raw products by thinking, 'Now what would my customer do with this?' Then you do it, and charge your customer a premium for the added value." (From Dynamic Farmers" Marketing by J. Ishee.)
Sometimes adding extra value to your products can increase net profits or goodwill significantly.
Some places which offer takeout meals open early for parents to pick up prepaid sack lunches for school children. The added value of this service is the lunch can be far more varied than home-prepared ones and might include something like a sandwich cut into the shape of an animal, carrots cut into wavy sticks using a garnishing knife, a cored apple with the center stuffed with a mix of peanut butter and raisins or nuts or a small zip-lock bag of trail mix. To expand business, such a service might include dropping the lunches off at schools just before the lunch period.
One Southwestern Ohio poultry raiser who direct markets them adds extra value to his free-range birds by not removing the feet and then giving out recipes for soups and sauces which can be made from them.
If you trap for pelts, instead of selling them to a wholesaler, consider having them made into retail products for either direct sales (e.g., crafts shows, classified advertising in buckskinning magazines or on eBay), wholesaling to shops or placing them in consignment shops. One company which processes pelts into end products is Gorlic's Trading Company, PO Box 50, Warwick, NY 10990-0050, ph. 914-986-8484. If you can find a market, having them processed into an end product may be significantly more profitable than simply selling the pelts to a wholesaler.
Locally, shell corn at the feed mill sells for seven cents per pound, yet the local Wal-Mart sells 6.5 pound plastic bags of shell corn, for squirrel feed, for about 50 cents per pound. If you have the capability to provide or produce dried ear corn, is there an outlet for it in your area as squirrel feed? That 50 cents per pound works out to over $20 per bushel. This seems a nice opportunity for someone who already sells at retail--perhaps just selling the ears by the pound from a barrel. Then there is also the potential for selling dried ears, say at $1 per dozen, to horse owners as horse or rabbit treats.
Volume 21, Number 3 of Farm Show (800-834-9665) included an article on a Cimmaron, Kansas, wheat farm which adds additional value to some of the grain they produce by incorporating it into a number of tasty snack foods and sweet treats. Sales are mostly through mail order. Their most popular product is a trail mix containing mostly wheat-based items. (Although eBay may also now be a viable sales outlet.)
The December 1996 issue of The Stockman Grass Farmer (800-748-9808) included an article on one Umbarger, Texas, family who sells almost all of the poultry, pork and beef they produce through an on-the-farm small retail store. To add value to their products, they give the customers what they want. Customers wanted boned chicken breasts so they give that option, but at a higher price. The rest of the chicken is cut up into pieces and sold separately, again at a higher price than a whole bird. They also offer halved chickens and packages of thighs, drumsticks or wings; produce a cooked chicken product which tastes like barbecued beef brisket, and have their hogs processed into sausages and hams. The article noted birds which go into a cooked product net, not gross but net, close to $6 per bird. The article further noted that adding additional value does not necessarily increase cost, but can result in a significant return on the time invested. (While not mentioned in the article, I'm sure a home-grown approach also makes customers willing to pay a premium over supermarket prices.)
A satisfied customer builds what is generally called "goodwill." What is the value of that goodwill? Automobile manufacturers can count on bringing in $140,000 over a satisfied buyer's lifetime, appliance makers can expect $2,800 over 20 years and supermarkets get $22,000 from a family of four over a five-year period. For many businesses 80 percent of profits come from 20 percent of repeat customers.
(An old saying is to the effect--a satisfied customer will tell one other person of their experience while a dissatisfied one will tell 10.)
According to an article in the December 30, 1996 issue of The Tennessean, in less than 10 years one bike shop in New Haven, Connecticut went from being just another hole-in-the-wall store to being one of the largest independent bike dealers in the state, primarily by providing a free lifetime guarantee on everything they sell. They also provide free lifetime service, such as gear and spoke adjustments.
Long-term guarantees are a way to add additional value to a product. For further information see Extraordinary Guarantees by Christopher Hart, AMACOM, PO Box 12169, Sarawac Lake, NY 12983-0169.
What if your product is fairly routine? Say you have a customer who buys a dozen farm-fresh eggs on a regular basis. During the gardening season also periodically give them a small bag of garden-fresh vegetables just because you appreciate their repeat business. If they request a dozen extra eggs because company is coming, perhaps just charge them half price, if at all. Not only are you adding value to your service, you are building that all-important customer loyalty or goodwill.
A reference is Adding Value for Sustainability, available from the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (814-349-9856).
BY KEN SCHARABOK