Business Startups–What to DO?

One of the biggest questions that has always plagued me when trying to come up with ideas for a business start up is What Do I Want to Do?  In this book that I have by Chris Guillebeau called The $100 Startup, Chris points out that to get a business off and running, I need a product or project that I’m passionate about, but one that is ALSO something that other people care about.  Just because I really like a certain something, doesn’t mean that other people will or that they will want to buy what I have to offer.  What I have must have some sort of usefulness or utility to the people I’m trying to sell it to.

These last few weeks I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out just what it is that I like or know how to do that other people actually need and/or would be useful to them in some capacity and they would like to have for themselves.  Last Monday, buying tamales from a roving Mexican woman selling tamales out of her cooler got me thinking that during my walks I should bring along a bunch of earrings that I make.  It seemed like a good idea until I realized that meant I would need to walk along all the busy streets and all of my walk time would be spent attempting to hawk stuff (I could just picture myself doing what the Tamale Lady was doing: “Earrings!  Get your earrings here!  25% of every purchase donated to charity!”)  and my off time would necessitate making new earrings, which means less time to work out or spend time with family or write this blog or anything else, for that matter.   This is not how I want to spend my day.   Ugh.  Granted, I could make earrings and try selling them on the ‘net instead.  But that would also be labor-intensive.

I’m considering writing and selling a couple of informational e-books or self publishing them in hard format, as an alternative.   I used to be a long-haul truck driver, and I mentored other drivers while I was on the road (that means I trained them how to drive and live in the trucking business).  I also taught them that trucking does not mean you have to eat in restaurants all the time or else eat beans out of a can.  I showed them how to eat really really well on the truck.  I could write up a book about that for other drivers.  There isn’t much out there available on the topic, from what I have found googling it.  So that’s one possibility.

Another book I’m thinking about is a book showing people on tight budgets how they can feed a family of four for $350 a month or less, without being one of those extreme couponers that those TV shows have introduced us to.  Our economy sucks right now, the job market is tight, and everybody could stand to save a little money.  I’m particularly good at this, since I grew up learning how to do this sort of thing.  My folks were pretty thrifty.

The nice things about e-books and self-published books is that once they are written, I don’t have to keep laboring on them to produce them.  Thus, saving time and freeing me up to do other things.

I also came up with another idea yesterday as I was out and about with my family for Mother’s Day.  I’ve been wanting to do something that could involve the National Kidney Foundation and other charities that help get renal patients to the kidneys they need.   I figured that if I donated a quarter of all net profits to  charity, that would be a good start.  But I thought it would be neat if somehow whatever business/product I came up with had something to DO with kidneys or brought attention to Chronic Kidney Disease.

Now yesterday, I saw a guy selling decks of cards that he had illustrated himself and had the cards custom made.  I thought, why couldn’t I do something like that for kidney charity?  As in, make my own kidney-related game?  Being a rather geeky person, I know TONS of gamers.  It could be a fun way to raise some money and awareness at the same time.  Since this is such a new idea, though, I’m going to have to talk to some folks and get feedback.

Anyhow, quick poll:  Assume each of the below items I was trying to sell was $20 or less.  Which would you be most likely to buy?

A.  Handmade earrings.

B.  How to eat well on a semi-truck book.

C.  How to save a butt-ton on groceries book.

D.  A custom made game that supports the renal patient community.

E.  Some other idea.  Please fill in the blank________________.  (I’m open to suggestions!)

Thanks for reading!


5 thoughts on “Business Startups–What to DO?

  1. You were gone for a while, but you’ve been making up for it this past week or so–blogging away!
    Here’s what I think: A, B, and C are things you should do if you have a blog to support them. The truck driving book is a really good idea, but do you have an audience for it? If you had a blog centered around that idea, then, you would likely have an audience. However, you might be able to tweak this idea. I bet you have an audience that is at least interested in the idea of walking across America. Do you think some of your same learnings from truck driving could be applied to walking across America? Truck driving and walking across America have some similarities, right? You see the country side, you are essentially alone, you need to eat right. Of course, you don’t have the experience of walking across America, but you have toyed with the idea of walking around the city. Why not start there?
    Now, on the other hand, I bet the how to save a butt ton on groceries would be a good one. Who doesn’t need to save money (unless your audience is all the well-to-do people who don’t need this advice, but I doubt that). You could do that.
    Again, the custom made game might also be a good idea. Can you make a game that goes along with walking across America? That would be a cool game. We could walk across America virtually–it would work for those who want to do it for real, and those who are fine being desk-walkers. 🙂
    There. How’s that for ideas?

    • As for the trucking book, a blog supporting it would probably be helpful–already building up an audience before it is ever put out there. But, I also do know the market and who needs it/would probably buy it and where to publicize it. So that helps. Of the two book ideas, it’s definitely more of a niche. The saving money on groceries type book would be for the more middle class families who find themselves in more of a money pickle, (the story of far too many families these days) have not been in that situation before and could use pointers on how to live on smaller budgets. A friend of mine said I should title it “Food Stamp Gourmet”, and I had to laugh. It’s catchy, but probably sends the wrong message and people might take offense. 🙂

      I would love to invent a game about walking across America. That might be fun. There are lots of games out there involving American spaces, like TransAmerica (a railbuilding game, for example). I don’t know of any of them that involve walking. I’ll have to check into that. Thanks for the ideas!

  2. I’ll second the “Walk Across America” game! That would be really, really cool! And I would DEFINITELY buy it! Homeschoolers would be another good target audience for that one, as well as people who dream about doing it themselves.

    Of the options you had listed, I’d probably honestly be most interested in the “eating well while trucking” book. I have dreams of going on the road full-time (or at least part-time) with my family, so something like that would be beneficial to that situation, as well.

    • Awesome! You know, yesterday during my walk around Portland, I was thinking up parameters and rules for the walking across America game. Hopefully I’ll have it figured out enough by the end of next week that I can have it play tested. Then on to production!

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