You don’t have to look very far to find fascinating ways to make a living. Opportunities are literally everywhere… if you’re looking, that is. It seems I can’t turn on the television or radio or open a magazine or newspaper without seeing at least one good business idea.
Maybe that’s why, as we were winding down a consulting session the other day, one of my clients said to me, “Boy, you sure have a lot of information in your head.” I appreciated the compliment, but Julie was only half right. When you’ve been in the business of helping people change course for as long as I have, it’s only natural I’d know a lot about creative income streams. But most of them aren’t in my head – they’re in my Opportunity File.
What’s an Opportunity File? Basically anytime I happen upon an interesting story about someone who is making money doing what they love, I add it to a big file called Opportunities. If you don’t yet have an Opportunity File, I encourage you to set one up. It’s positively addicting!
I thought it might be fun to just pull a couple of examples from the top of my Opportunity file and share them with you. Since they’re on top, that means I’ve come across them in just the last week or so.
Collecting is all the rage these days. As I looked more closely at my top of the pile examples, I realized that in one way or another, they all have something to do with collecting. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.
First there’s antique Christmas decorations collector, Gerald Nixon (aka Mr. Pink… I’ll explain in a moment). Gerald had so many antique Christmas decorations in his personal collection that he finally had to open a shop just so he could move about his apartment. Today he has over 10,000 ornaments as well as light
reflectors, aluminum trees, rotating color wheels, rotating musical tree stands, vintage holiday cards, and wrapping paper.
Okay, why is he called Mr. Pink? Well, it seems the guy owns a very fuzzy pink Santa suit that he happily dons every weekend in December. You can imagine how many tourists ask to have their picture taken with him! You can visit Gerald at his shop in Manhattan at 223 16th Street or online at MrPinkInc.com. If you hurry, you may even catch him in his furry pink suit!
And speaking of winter… after his grandfather died and left him his old wooden skis, Mark Miller began collecting vintage skis. Soon neighbors in his small hometown in New Hampshire started dropping off their old skis. Then Mark began buying skis at auctions. Before long, he had over 100 pairs!
In 1994, he decided to turn his hobby into a business and moved himself and his collection to Park City, Utah, where he became a ski instructor. Today Mark has the largest collection of antique winter sports equipment in the world. Two warehouses hold his collection of 3,000 pairs of skis, 2,000 pairs of snowshoes, 500 vintage sleds, and 400 pairs of wooden skates.
Increasingly, Mark’s collection comes from Europe where he managed to track down 500 pairs of American snow shoes used by the Army’s 10th Mountain Division in World War II. The shoes were just sitting in an old barn in Turkey. Mark does all the refinishing work himself before selling his vintage finds through his web site at
AntiqueSkis.com and through home décor shops in four western states.
The next opportunity I found in an article in FSB magazine about hot franchises. I’m not usually very interested in franchises. I’ve got nothing against them mind you… it’s just hard for me to picture
someone who wakes up in the morning excited about opening their own Subway or Jiffy Lube shop. On the other hand, franchises can be the ideal solution for someone who basically wants to run his or her own business but doesn’t want to build something from scratch.
Anyway, it was my keen interest in recycling that peaked my curiosity about Canadian Brian Scudamore’s franchise entirely geared around turning trash into cash. Brian got into the business of clearing out unwanted things from people’s basements, garages, attics and the like when he was 19 and still in college.
He bought an old truck for $700, and in an attempt to make his business sound bigger than it was, he named it Rubbish Boys. (Even though Brian was the only rubbish boy he thought big). His business was so successful, he ended up dropping out of school to haul junk full time.
The junk hauling business itself is nothing new. But over time Brian got the bright idea of modernizing the business with uniformed drivers driving fancy trucks who show up when they say they will. So he decide to start a company called Got-Junk (think UPS but with junk pick up). Today this 33-year-old’s Vancouver-based company is one of the fastest growing franchises in North America with 74 territories – most in the U.S.
Is there really that much money in junk? This year Got-Junk expects to post revenues system-wide of $12.6 million. To learn more, go to 1800GotJunk.com.
A lot of people skip over articles or entire publications if they don’t see an immediate application to their life. Not me. The more unrelated to my life, the more intrigued I am. Case in point was a supplement in my local paper that was dedicated to equestrians. I like horses and all, but am not even remotely connected to the
While I scanned the articles, what I was really drawn to were the advertisements. Why? Ads reveal all kinds of interesting ways people with a particular interest have found a way to earn a living. Among the ads for such obvious businesses as tack shops and veterinarians was an ad for “quality equine laundry.” Who knew?
I quickly discovered that the company will “clean, refurbish, and return each blanket spotless, repaired, and wrapped with tissue in a zippered plastic case.” They also promise to make Velcro stick again and to air-dry the blankets on a special rack to avoid shrinkage. This enterprising company will arrange for pick up anywhere in New England.
This last one is not so much about collecting things as it is about collecting and using experience. A headline in my local paper featured a guy who recently bought a local trophy and engraving shop. I don’t have a big need for trophies, but I know when it comes to entrepreneurs, there’s always more to a story than the headline.
I was right. It seems the new shop keeper, 51-year-old Russell Wilkinson, has had a pretty varied background. According to the article, Russell has worked in construction, been an electrician, owned his own shoe repair shop, been a security chief at a local park, delivered packages for UPS, owned a local restaurant, and trained to be a scuba diving instructor in Key West.
People often ask Russell why he doesn’t just get a regular job. His reply? “If I’d done that, it would have been the biggest waste of the most expensive education a person can have.” Russell’s story serves as a good reminder that despite all the pressure to find that one thing you’re good at and then stick to it for the rest of your life, having a varied occupational life can make life a whole lot more interesting.
It also reminds us that no experience is wasted. So many people went to school for things that have nothing to do with the work they do today… myself included. I never view past training, jobs, or even relationships as wasted time. All of our past experience adds up to who we are today.
Do you want to work at something you truly love? Opportunities are all around you. Get a note pad and a file folder and start your own Opportunities File. Let it be a source of inspiration and ideas. And one of these days, the right opportunity will click for you.
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About the Author
“Profiting From Your Passions®” expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger’s, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman’s Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.
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