BIZ: The best business education: start your own business for under $100

From: Chris Rasch (
Date: Wed Feb 07 2001 - 17:34:27 MST

I agree with Barbara that it's important to recognize the valid points
and concerns that environmentalists have. I also think that its
important to recognize that there is a wide range of people within the
environmentalist movement. While Jeremy Rifkin's ideology may be so at
odds with our own that discussion with him would be fruitless, I think
that there are others with whom we can find common cause.

For example, I recently came across the web site. From the

"Since its founding in 1979 by Robert and Diane Gilman,
CONTEXT INSTITUTE has explored how human society can
 become sustainable (i.e. able to meet the needs of the present
 without diminishing the prospects for the future), and has served
as a catalyst for voluntary change toward a more humane and
sustainable culture. We are one of a handful of organizations that
have focused on sustainability as a central theme for more than a
decade, and we are now internationally recognized as an authority
in this area."

The site has all the back issues of IN CONTEXT magazine online, many of
which contain useful articles. (See a sample article below.)

It may be more productive to coopt the more reasonable
environmentalists, than to directly attack those like Rifkin. (See
Gilman's article Finding Leverage for Change at for reasons why you might
want to avoid direct confrontation.)

The best business education: start your own business for under $100

by William J. Larsen

One of the articles in Living Business (IC#11) Autumn 1985, Page 12
Copyright (c)1985, 1997 by Context Institute

Most of us are remarkably blind to the business opportunities that
surround us. Here are some eye opening suggestions from an
experienced small business educator and writer. Should you want
to dig any deeper into this well of ideas, he can be reached via
Life Success Systems, Box 1052, Bellingham, WA 98227.

It takes no great insight to see that we are living in a time of rapid
change. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the world of work.
Five years ago, when I began giving seminars on self-reliance,
textbooks on the subject said that the average worker would face
three major career changes in a lifetime. I predicted five. Last Fall,
a Seattle newspaper article mentioned that the average worker
now holds a job an average of only 1 1/2 years.

Our notions about livelihood are shifting, too, as are its patterns.
Roughly 85% of the people who work for money work for someone
else. They are employees. Psychologists estimate that perhaps as
many as four out of five (80%) employees are actively dissatisfied
with their jobs. Many people who come to me look to starting a
business as an alternative. They regard their own business as a way
to achieve happiness, to "take charge of their lives," to
"demonstrate their effectiveness in the world," to find
"fulfillment," and an assortment of other laudable and lofty ideals.
The problem is: They have no background - and for good reason:
Their "education" has been devoted almost exclusively to
preparation for employment - to take orders and follow them, not
to take initiative. (Every public high school graduate has been
subjected to over 15,000 hours of conditioning for dependency.)

The result is a general feeling that one's own criteria can't be
counted on (if indeed one knows what they are), that worthwhile
work is invariably dull, that deviation from standard behavior
involves "risk," that failure nearly always involves penalties, that
organization is dictated by some Great Lesson Plan In The Sky,
that the "average person" is powerless, that it's useless to try to
change the System, and that it's "cheating" to look in The Back Of
The Book for help of any kind.

The people I talk with are nearly all nice folks: Grownup
professional men and women between the ages of thirty and sixty.
They feel frustration about self-reliance (''What's going on?"
"What can I do?"). They admit to ignorance (''How does anyone
get ideas?" "What works?" "How do I get started?" "What do I do
then?" "Where do I find experts to help me?" "Aren't they
awfully expensive?"). They express fear: The oppressive and
pessimistic fear of failure ("I know what to do, but I can't get
started." "What if things don't work out?"). The equally
immobilizing but optimistic fear of success ("What if it works? I
want time for me, too!").

On facing unemployment, personal stagnation, or simple
craziness, these folks may eventually risk asserting themselves,
find and read books and articles or watch programs on
entrepreneurism. In doing so, most become merely stimulus rich.
They remain experience poor.

What is needed, I think, is a way to gather experience relatively
painlessly, free from the stresses we associate with Making A
Living or Going Into Business For Myself. One way is to play a
game. The game I suggest is: Start A Business on a Shoestring, for
under $100.

Financial risk is minimal: the price of a couple of pairs of designer
jeans and a few dinners out. You know when you're winning: a
look at the profit/loss column tells all. As an identified game, it
can be played for fun.

For starters, it helps to know the essential qualities of a successful
business idea.

    1) It should be something that interests and excites
    you. Whether it's running a beer can collector's
    newsletter or setting up a fancy restaurant, you need
    heartfelt enthusiasm to keep you motivated long
    enough to get established.

    2) A demand must exist or you must be able to
    create one. Few people will buy what you have to sell
    simply to make you successful. They will buy what you
    have to sell if it will help make them more successful in
    some way.

    3) It must be something you do well. If it isn't, you'll
    have a hard time staying in business and if your idea is a
    truly bright one, someone who does do it well will soon
    put you out of business anyway.

Those are musts for any new business. Starting a business for
under $100 adds some extra challenges and requires ingenuity.
Here are twenty suggestions to help stretch your sense of the

1) Put your idea in its least tangible form. Talk about it: sell,
lecture, consult, or give seminars and workshops. Run an
"on-paper" business: sell from a catalog made of illustrations
provided by wholesalers, solicit orders at in-home sales "parties,"
and have products drop-shipped directly to your customers.
Instead of building and selling houses, sell plans. Instead of
operating a cider mill, write articles about how to run one. Take a
tip from airplane manufacturers: build a prototype of your idea and
sell from it. Become a premium broker by finding well-made
crafts and selling large orders to be given away by banks, savings
and loan associations, and other companies.

2) Make "something" out of "nothing." Look for free raw
materials: surpluses, messes, problems, information, wasted talent,
unused space, garage sale leftovers, events which may act as a stage
for your idea. A northern California couple does well
manufacturing compost from fish by-products and sawdust, both
of which are problems that need handling in their area.

3) Look for free help. Hard times can be the best time for starting
a business on a shoestring. The prospect of something is nearly
always better than the dead certainty of nothing. People with
leisure time are often willing to speculate and work with you if
there is the possibility of a payoff later. Check with your family,
friends, co-workers, churches, schools, social service
organizations, senior citizen and youth groups, organizations that
aid the handicapped or rehabilitated, and your potential customers
or clientele.

4) Emphasize your personal value. Extra time, energy,
personality, and attention add value and make your product or
service distinctly yours. Use and capitalize on whatever makes you
unique and different. It's your "signature." It costs nothing and
helps to create a special relationship between you and your
clientele. A lot of fairly famous business people have capitalized
on what others might regard as "weaknesses": Col. Sanders' age
and snow white hair. Barbara Streisand's nose. Woody Allen's
wimpy appearance. Richard Kiel's size. Your most valuable
resources may be your appearance, style, imagination - even your
sleep patterns (Edison reputedly rested only a couple of hours a

5) Concentrate on skills you already have. Employers nearly
always look for people to fill specialized spots. The chances are
good that your most valuable skills are not those which would get
you a job because they are too comprehensive. Tact, personality,
endurance, sense of humor, ability to get along with kids -
whatever. They may be of great benefit in a business of your own.
Many of us downplay ourselves by believing that if we can do
something everyone else must be able to do it, too. Clues to your
real abilities lie in your answers to such questions as:

        What do I really do best?
        What have I wanted to do since I was a kid?
        What do I enjoy most?
        What do I do most easily?
        What is most interesting to me?

By concentrating on skills you already have you may discover you
don't need to do anything "special" to start a business for well
under $100.

6) See your possessions as tools out of context. Possessions can
be facilities for doing more, not just rewards for what you have
already done. Your yard can become a display for your edible
landscaping service. Your kitchen equipment can act as a learning
center for young bakers. Your van can become a delivery/display
vehicle. An old barn can act as an indoor yard-sale. Catalog your
possessions. Many of them are miniaturizations of commercial
equipment. See them in that context.

7) Value access. You don't have to own in order to use. A
workplace copy machine can print a short run of your manuscript.
School shop equipment can turn out a prototype of your invention.
Commuters can make deliveries for you. Your secretary may type
your personal business letters.

8) Make up a need survey. Before you spend a dime, ask yourself:
What do I really need to start and operate this business? What else
will do? Where is it? Can I trade, borrow, or rent it? Purchase only
as a last resort. Be sure you don't confuse need with image or tools
with toys. Focusing on needs and tools will help you simplify and
clarify, making your organizational job easier.

9) Work out of your home, head, or vehicle. By doing that, you:

    Cut costs, commuting, and lunch time.
    Eliminate duplicate rent, phone, electricity.
    Can keep your present job.
    Control overhead by doing things yourself.
    Gain a built-in family labor force.
    Minimize risk.
    Can test before making a large commitment.
    Gain mobility.
    Can work hours convenient to you.
    Minimize the need for and cost of special "uniforms."
    Gain space, utilities, and travel tax advantages.
    Eliminate long-term lease obligations.
    May integrate your work with your life and lifestyle.

10) Avoid becoming an employer. Employers live in a world of
regulations, obligation, and often needless expense. Because of
Federal and state regulations, employees cost about 1 1/2 times
their contracted hourly wage. That cost goes on, whether or not
they are actually needed all the time. There are plenty of
alternatives: contract for piecework; organize limited
partnerships; trade; use part-time help agencies; pay commissions
instead of salaries; get your friends, church, or youth groups into
your act. Do everything yourself for awhile. You'll become familiar
with processes and their problems and get a firm grasp of what a
given job is actually worth.

for the rest of the article see:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:56:37 MDT