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 Qwantz.com in the learn-by-doing part of
Entrepreneurialist Culture, one of the courses I teach. Qwantz.com 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.
What changes is the dialogue between the
characters—T-Rex is a large, stumbling, know-nothing and chauvinistic loud
mouth. The other two characters are: Dromiceiomimis (the tan coloured dino in
the middle panel) and Utahraptor (the orange one), who is loving, warm, smart
and wise. From this somewhat inauspicious start, Ryan has become an internationally
known writer who creates and self-publishes the only daily comic strip with
images that never move or change. It is the subtlety of the dialogue that
creates interest and a strangely compelling read that becomes more interesting
the more you read it.
It doesn’t hurt that Ryan is brilliant and
quirky. Here is T-Rex’s take on entrepreneurship:
Ryan’s daily routine is to get up and answer his
fan mail for about an hour. Mixed in are requests for merchandise. That is one
of Ryan’s revenue streams. He sells a ton of t-shirts and, wisely, he handles
the money while outsourcing fulfillment.
After an hour or so, he turns his mind to the
comic of the day. By noon, he’s done and ready for the rest of his day. He
travels widely, does appearances at comic conventions where he signs copies of
his books (such as Your Whole Family is
Made of Meat) and had time to fool around developing an advertising engine
(Project Wonderful) that was profitable within ten days of its launch. He makes
a ton of money and has a wonderful life.
Ryan North and
Friend in a Tree
Ryan started Qwantz.com with less than $100. His
marketing budget was around $20. He bought the domain name poo.ca and put up
cardboard cutouts of T-Rex around the University with this domain name on it
and nothing else. Students started checking out the mysterious site and got
hooked on his comic.
(If you type in poo.ca
it still resolves to the Qwantz.com URL. The comic has been continually
published since Feb 1, 2003. Revenue streams include: merchandise, appearance
fees, book sales, Project Wonderful ads.)
Now a PB4L is not just a fallback position. It
can be a contributor to pulling people out of poverty in LDCs around the world.
It was not government Five Year Plans that brought India
out of poverty—it was the unleashing of the entrepreneur class in those
countries that did it.
Bruce M Firestone, PhD, Ottawa Senators founder, Century 21 Explorer Realty Inc broker, Real Estate Investment coach 6137628884 firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: read the longer version here, http://profbruce.tumblr.com/post/156930487534/should-everyone-on-the-planet-have-a-personal
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