Nov 12

For many years I’ve believed that everyone on our planet should have a personal business for life–something uniquely theirs that they can fall back on when everything else fails. Like when they lose their jobs or have a falling out with a business partner.

Businessweek recently carried a story “Bear Market” (Nov 2, 2014) about two brothers (fraternal twins) who sell Griz Coats. I won’t describe how silly the product is. Instead here’s a picture of one of the brothers (Karl Reichstetter, 33) wearing the costume.


What caught my attention, other than the facts that they raised $29,000 from 180 backers on Kickstarter in three weeks and that they sold $300,000 worth of the $199 coats in the 4th quarter, was that Buffoonery Factory (their firm) outsourced everything except design, content creation, social media, customer service and control of the flow of funds to more than 100 vendors, some of them supplying physical goods to make the product, and others providing backend services like automated accounting and payment processing. Total employee count? One brother part time and one, full time. 

This qualifies as a PB4L.

It also occurred to me that the guys could perhaps usefully develop another business from this–build a platform for others to create PB4Ls on. I realize there are many store platforms available (including Ottawa’s own but the integration of fulfillment operations goes a step further. Other creatives could learn from and profit from this type of platform.

Here’s an excerpt from what I wrote in 2009 on this subject:

Should Every Person on the Planet

Have a PB4L (Personal Business for Life)?

For the last few years, I have become increasingly certain that people in the 21st Century may need what I can only call a Personal Business. There are so many changes going on in the local, national and global economy and so many things can and do go wrong, that it might not be a bad idea after all to have a fallback position.

Maybe we should each have one micro business that we hang onto for life; that never gets shared with anyone, where we take no partners and never pledge it to a Bank for a loan and, thus, have something that is uniquely ours that we can fall back on in troubled times. As my late father, Professor O. J. Firestone would have said: “You need an iron reserve.”

A PB4L does not include things like the guy who tells you: “I can show you how to make a million dollars! Just send me ONE dollar, and I will tell you how.” And, of course, the answer is: “Get a million fools to each send you a dollar to tell them how to…”

They have to be real businesses. One way to find inspiration I think would be to go get a copy (from your library) of the Encyclopedia Britannica and look for ideas from the 1930s. Say, for example, making high end paper for socialites and demanding persons who want acid-free paper to preserve their writings. Who knows what you might find there.

Let me share with you an example. A few years ago, Ryan North, a former student of mine and an IT professional, started in the learn-by-doing part of Entrepreneurialist Culture, one of the courses I teach. is an online dinosaur comic strip.

The only problem Ryan had was that he couldn’t draw. Like most entrepreneurs, he turned a weakness into a strength. His comic strip has six panels with three dino characters—all images are taken from free, publicly available clip art. The key is that the panels and characters NEVER change. They are the same, day-to-day.

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.