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How to Make Money by Breaking the Rules

Too many people who didn’t have adjustable dumbbells want to work at what they love seem to suffer under the misguided notion that there are certain “rules” that must be followed. Let me give you a quick example. At the beginning of every career consultation, I ask clients to describe their ideal life. To prompt their thinking I pose a series of questions such as what time do you want to get up in the morning, would you like to work at home or outside the home, do you want to work with other people or do you prefer to work alone? The question that gets the biggest reaction is, “Would you like to have summers off?” Invariably someone will say, “Oh, can you do that?”

I’m always tempted to say, “I don’t know, let me consult the official Work-Life Rule Book.” The thing is I don’t know if you can have summers off or not. But what I do know is this – if the desire to have your summers free is not consciously on your mental radar screen, then the likelihood of it happening is next to nil. If, on the other hand, you were crystal clear that you’d love to take summers off, then you’d be in a better position to make a conscious effort to come up with ways to generate income that would allow for a lengthy work break.

This self-limiting belief that you somehow have to do things a certain way also hampers to a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs. For example, this week alone I’ve spoke with two people who had considered taking the American Writers and Artists Institute course on how to become a freelance copywriter. The reason they decided against it was they didn’t want to have to write promotional copy for products and services they don’t believe in. Who would? I know I certainly wouldn’t want to pitch Dr. Zildo’s amazing watermelon diet or some shady work from home program.

But where is it written that you HAVE to take on clients you don’t like? Just yesterday I worked with a client named Donna whose idea of heaven on earth is to have some kind of a portable income so she can spend months at a time with her daughter in England. Donna enjoys writing and even has a background in advertising. She’d considered the copywriting option in the past but again rejected it because she didn’t want to write about products she didn’t believe in.

Instead of letting this values clash be a show stopper, Donna needed to ask herself, “So, what do I believe in enough to promote?” For Donna it’s the whole mind, body, and soul connection. In fact, her dream job is to organize events for motivational speakers. Because it would be difficult living in a relatively rural area to make a full time living organizing events, we had to come up with a supplemental – and portable – income stream.

This meant challenging the idea that to succeed as a copywriter, or for that matter, in any business, you have to do things a certain way. What if Donna intentionally structured her copywriting business to focus entirely on motivational speakers and authors of mind, body, and soul type books? This kind of niche marketing offers a whole host of advantages.

For one, Donna would genuinely enjoy doing the research on topics she finds interesting. She’d also get a great deal of satisfaction from helping spread the word about concepts and practices she believes in.

Another highly practical advantage is that people in the same field tend to talk to one another. In football terms it’s known as going deep and wide. In my small world, I get to talk to like-minded souls like Barbara Winter and Barbara Sher. I’ve recommended good copywriters to them and they’ve steered me in the direction of great web masters and other vendors. In other words when you niche market, ultimately you’ll have to do less self-marketing because your business becomes primarily referral based.

Okay, so what misguided rules are you operating by? Do you think you have to come up with just one way to make a living? Think again. Go read my article on the power of multiple income streams. Think you can’t turn your hobby into your career, get paid to work with animals, or that changing course means having to choose between money and happiness? If so, check my articles on these and other changing course related topics at Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” How can you stretch your mind today? Once you realize that some misguided rules about work and life can, and should, be broken, it can open up a whole new world of opportunity.

Still Don’t Know What You Want To Be Those “Crazy” Business Ideas Often Turn Out to Be the Best

When Bob Page told his friends and family he wanted to quit his auditing job to start his own business, they were less than encouraging to him. Well, that’s actually an understatement. Basically what they told him was he was crazy.

Fortunately he didn’t listen. Instead he figured that if he could devote time to doing what he loved, he could make money – even if it was less than what he was earning at a CPA. Bob was right on the first count. When you love what you do, it’s hard not to make money. What Bob didn’t realize at the time was that his “crazy” idea would wind up making him more money than he’d ever dreamed of.

You see, today Bob’s company, Replacements Ltd. is the world’s largest supplier of discontinued china, glassware, flatware, and collectibles. It all started when Bob bought a part interest in a Greensboro, North Carolina antique store. A customer asked if he could find some missing pieces for her china set. He did. And then an interesting thing started to happen. According to his website, “as friends learned of his interest in china and crystal, they asked him to be on the lookout for particular dinnerware patterns they needed as well as pieces they had lost or broken. Bob quickly found himself devoting more and more time to his hobby, often staying up until the early morning hours to fill orders. Bob stored the china and crystal in his attic, while his bedroom served as his office.”

When the Small Business Administration (SBA) refused him a loan saying his idea would never work, Bob convinced the owner of a commercial building to rent him retail space. He got the word out by placing small ads in magazines. In his first year he grossed more than $150,000 in sales. And in 2002, sales exceeded $69 million… definitely more than he’d made in his auditing job. If you’re looking to either buy or sell china, flatware, etc. or just want to check out the result of one man’s crazy idea go to

So much for the wisdom of friends, family, and the even the experts at the SBA. Speaking of finding support for changing course, try to imagine what Katie Wainwright’s family and friends had to say when she told them she wanted to pick up dog poop for a living.

You read right. Last year Katie started Doggy Doody Disposal in Agawam, Massachusetts. The company provides “doody scooping” or bagged doody removal for clients in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut. In addition to residential clients, they also service commercial property owners, pet related businesses, golf courses, parks, realtors and more. The company credo is “We do doody so you won’t have to.”

These are just a couple of the countless other “crazy” ideas that have proved the nay sayers wrong and helped catapult the idea maker out of a job they hate into a life they love. The next time you get a crazy idea for a small business do two things. One, get a notebook and label it Crazy Business Ideas. In one section, collect examples of crazy idea that have worked. In another, keep a running list of your own crazy money making ideas.

Next, seek out people who will support your idea. Unless you come from a family of entrepreneurs, chances your supporters aren’t in your family or immediate circle of friends. Where will you find them? You don’t have to own a business to join an organization inhabited by entrepreneurs. Although I have zero interest in inventing a product, I joined a local inventors group because I love the energy of being around can-do, make it happen people. Similarly, you don’t have to be a business owner to join your local Chamber of Commerce. Many communities also have some sort of association of small business owners that meet on monthly basis.

As the great actor Katherine Hepburn once said, “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.” Some of the most interesting means of support begin as a crazy idea. The key is to keep coming up with them, then when you find one you love, recognize that the only sane response is to go for it.

Use Your Summer Vacation to Start Working at What You Love

Remember writing those How I Spent My Summer Vacation essays way back when?

Summertime may not be the endless carefree season it was when you were a kid but it’s still a great time to jumpstart your dream of working at what you love.

Here are three ways to use your summer vacation to grow a dream:

1. Become a Dream Detective

Imagine yourself a Dream Detective… someone who has an uncanny nose for scoping out unique business ventures. Like any good detective, you’ll want to take lots and lots of notes. Whether your vacation plans take you to the beach, the mountains, or the city, make sure to pack a small notebook along with the sunscreen and maps. But this isn’t any old notebook… it’s your Dream Notebook!

The idea is to use your Dream Notebook to capture as many cool business ideas as possible. If you’re traveling with kids you might even want to enlist their help by making a game of it. Maybe you’ll spy an interesting business in the airport terminal or along the roadside. Or perhaps you’ll find an existing business that’s come up with a unique income stream like an outdoor cafe that, for a fee, will walk patron’s dogs while they dine.

If the business itself is nothing new, but they’re using some neat marketing tactic to get customers in the door, add the marketing idea to your list as well. For example, I read about a CPA who partnered with a hotel to offer weekend guests a completed tax return by checkout. Two unlikely business partners who profited from a creative idea.

The purpose of capturing cool business and marketing ideas is to shift your thinking away from the more limiting idea of “job’ to the more option-expanding concept of “livelihood.” But that’s not all. Even if you have no interest in starting your own soft serve ice cream-kids bookstore (with a fun hand washing area dividing the two of course), a summer camp for Star Wars fans, or an antique stove repair business, just by paying attention to the wonderfully vast number of ways there are to make a living without a j-o-b can help fuel your own creative thinking.

2. Use The Longer Days To Start Working On Your Dream

Even though there’s still only 24 hours in a day, the extra hours of sunlight somehow make the day feel longer. Use the “extra” time to start actively working on your dream. For example…

If you still don’t know what you want to be “when you grow up,” read a book about tapping into your calling. A personal favorite of mine is Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft (available in most bookstores) and of course, Changing Course’s own Find Your Calling.

If you’re in the exploring stage, consider taking an adult education course through your local college. I did a random search for courses at the Boston Center for Adult Education and found such intriguing topics as How to Write and Sell Movie Treatments, Leather Bookbinding, and Opening Your Own Bed & Breakfast.

If you have a business idea in mind, you could spend the time researching your business, building your website, or working on your marketing plan. The point is to find a way to shine some of that extra sunlight time onto your dreams.

3. Invest in Your Dream

One way to invest in your dream is to start spending less and saving more. If you need to save money to put toward your new home office or to purchase inventory, consider vacationing at home and stashing away the money you would have spent on a costly vacation into your “dream fund.”

The other way to invest in your dream is to make a conscious decision to spend money in the service of your dream. Sometimes the smartest (and quickest way) to start working at what you love is to invest in the skills, training, experiences, materials, or other resources you’ll need to launch your dream.

Having consulted with hundreds of clients, I’ve found THE biggest stumbling block for most aspiring self-bossers is not knowing how to market themselves or their business idea. I’m not alone. When Mark Victor Hansen sat down with his staff to plan out their 2004 calendar of MEGA events he began by asking the question:

“What’s the biggest challenge you hear about from our clients and event attendees?”

The list varied from “I don’t have enough customers” to “I can’t compete with XYZ Company” … from “I’m sick and tired of having to justify my price all the time” to “I want to systematically grow my business – but I don’t know how.”

Understanding that all of these challenges can be overcome with effective marketing, Mark decided to put together what he’s calling his Mega Marketing Magic event. Over three information-packed days in August, industry giants and marketing icons will reveal their latest strategies for finding and keeping your perfect customers… on- and off-line.

If you believe as I do that marketing is the key to building your business and your personal time and financial freedom, I urge you to seriously consider investing in yourself and your dreams by attending Mega Marketing Magic.

Coleman Cox asks, “Now that it’s all over, what did you really do yesterday that’s worth mentioning?” Looking ahead instead of back, the question will become how did YOU spend your summer? Hopefully the answer will be, “Launching my dream of working at what I love!”

Calling All Cooks and Chocolate Lovers: What If You Could Make a Living From Your Passion?

If you love to cook or bake or are a chocolate connoisseur – and you’re intrigued by the idea of actually making a living from your passions – you’ll love these resources!

Want to be on the Television? The Food Network Wants You Share Your Recipe for Success!

Are you making a radical change in your life to pursue a career in the culinary arts? Whether you’re a recent cooking school graduate, a chef who is just starting out, or a successful food entrepreneur, the Food Network and Recipe for Success want to hear from you! Share your story, in 200 words or less, for the chance to be featured in an upcoming episode on the Food Network. Click Here to Learn More
People Are Eating Up Specialty Foods and Gift Baskets

Three times a year the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) sponsors three Fancy Food Shows®, each one attracting some 19,000 to 32,000 attendees from specialty food, wine, gift and department stores, supermarkets, restaurants, mail-order and other related businesses.

Even if you’re not quite ready to be an exhibitor yet, being exposed to over a thousand exhibitors from around the world, presenting over 50,000 specialty foods to discover and sample is sure to be an eye- opening experience.

The shows also features a series of educational programs on topics like growing a gift basket business, how ethnic- and minority-owned businesses can succeed in the specialty food industry, and how to succeed in catering.

The Fancy Food Show is held in multiple cities. Find details at

Calling All Chocolate Lovers

A client told me she has a gift for determining the quality of chocolate. She can even tell what country it comes from! Okay, I thought, how might a chocolate lover make a living? So I hopped on the Internet and found out there are actually schools for chocolatiers!

Their spring program is full, but if you want to launch a career in making chocolate, you can still sign up for’s fall Professional Chocolatier Program training. This intensive, part-time program is delivered 100% online over a 3 month period so, as the site says, “you can learn without ‘re-engineering’ your work and personal life.” Good thinking.

If you’re not quite ready to take the training plunge, but are intrigued by the idea of having a sweet career in chocolates, you may just want to start with a subscription to Chocolatier Magazine.

Making a Living While Making a Difference

Most everyone I work with tells me that they want the work they do to matter. That’s one reason I desperately wanted out of my marketing job in the insurance industry. Sure, insurance is important, but I just couldn’t seem to feel passionate about pitching estate planning for the affluent.

What could be better than to turn your values into your vocation?
I recently discovered three businesses that provide a product or service that have their origins in the convictions of their creators.
I think you’ll be inspired by how, in their own way, each of these businesses are making a difference.

1. Mary Janes Farm

I learned about Mary Janes Farm from a client. How I missed this little gem is a miracle. From her utterly glorious organic farm outside of Moscow, Idaho, Mary Jane Butters and her enthusiastic crew operate several small environmentally conscious businesses.

In addition to producing and selling her own line of instant organic food (just add hot water and stir), Mary Janes Farm sells organic fruits, vegetables, and flowers at the local farmer’s market and offers customized visits, over-night stays, private cooking classes, dinner, weddings, birthday parties and school group tours on the farm.

But that’s not all. Mary Jane writes a syndicated column and publishes her own glossy magazine called Mary Janes Farm. House & Garden described the magazine as “…homey and smart and interesting… part Martha Stewart Living, part Oprah magazine, part Organic Style, part Nation, part Ladies Home Journal…”

I was left wanting to know more about Mary Jane and how she came to start these interesting enterprises. So I did some poking around and discovered that her story is even more fascinating than her business. All that led up to Mary Jane buying her farm site unseen is too long to tell here. But the fact that she was one of the first women wilderness rangers hired by the U.S. Forestry Service back in 1974, enrolled in carpentry school a year later, and formed one of the first community anti-nuclear organizations in the Northwest in response to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant catastrophe gives you a hint of how Mary Jane arrived at where she is today.

For a real visual treat check out To read about Mary Jane herself, go to

2. Cooperative Games

I learned about Toronto-based Cooperative Games through their ad in Natural Life magazine. Just as their name sounds, this company designs and sells games designed to foster cooperation, not competition.

I was impressed both their wide range of games for children and adults and the philosophy behind them. As they explain it: “We play games because we want to do something together. How ironic then that in most games, we spend all our efforts trying to bankrupt someone, destroy their armies, or getting rid of one another! We soon learn how to pick on the other person’s weaknesses in order to win the game…unfortunately, the games people play can become self-fulfilling prophecies, contributing to the creation of a negative world rather than helping deal with it or improve it.”

3. Junkyard Sports

On the Cooperative Games site was a quote by game designer, consultant, and author Bernie DeKoven. I discovered that Bernie is also the creator of something called Junkyard Sports.

Junkyard Sports are a little tough to explain (but there are lots of fun pictures on the web site). Basically they’re sport-like games with names like Frying Pan Sock Baseball, Office Olympics, and Ice Golf.

The games are made out of found objects like balled up socks and office chairs on wheels and are based on Bernie’s philosophy that
1) fun is fundamental to happiness and 2) people can be taught how to have more fun.

Today, organizations and groups pay Bernie to spend a day showing them how to make their lives more fun. In addition to playing lots of games, participants learn how to lead games and change games, as well as the biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy based on his book “Well Played Game: A Playful Path to Wholeness.” You can learn more Junkyard Sports and Bernie’s upcoming train the trainer program in the Netherlands at

Okay, what about you… what do you feel strongly about? Is it the environment? Ending hunger? Empowering people to fulfill their potential or tap into their gifts? Respecting the wisdom of our elders? Bringing peace and beauty into the world? As these three entrepreneurs demonstrate, you don’t need to start a non-profit to make a difference. How can you transform your beliefs and values into a viable way to make a living while making a difference?

It’s a wonderful feeling to know that the work you do somehow contributes to a better world. But that’s not all. People like Mary Jane and Bernie, and the creators of Cooperative Games, remind us that Katherine Graham was right when she said, “”To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything else be more fun?”

Need Help Going After Your Dream? Then Ask for It!

You may get by with a little help from your friends, but when it comes to changing course, you can positively soar by actively seeking out the support of others. One of THE very best ways to make your dreams come true is by tapping into the collective wisdom of your fellow dreamers.

I got so jazzed by an exchange on the Changing Course Bulletin Board that I have to share it with you. With their permission, I’d like to share with you a virtual Barbara Sher style Idea Party between Marjie and Kris, two participants in the Making Dreams Happen discussion forum.

Since this is a private forum set up exclusively for people who are taking the Making Dreams Happen program, I knew most of you wouldn’t get to read it. Thanks to Marjie and Kris for allowing me to allow you to “listen in” on their conversation.

Marjie began by laying out her interests and asking other members for ideas. Here’s what she wrote:

Hi, I am writing to get some ideas about how I might make a partial living with my interests and resources in nature/outdoors/gardening and environmental causes.

I am fairly good at: * camping * snowshoeing * hiking * building campfires * outdoor cooking * gardening * identifying things in nature (e.g., trees, wildflowers, animal tracks, constellations, wild edible foods, and so on).

I don’t really want to go back to school but I wouldn’t rule it out Forest ranger-type jobs would seem like a natural choice, but often involve more law enforcement tasks than I want to deal with. We own 100 acres of forested land in the Adirondack Mountains of NY State on which I could pursue this dream.

Any ideas would be much appreciated! Thank you in advance.

As you’re about to see, Kris was all too willing to help:

Marjie, are there any living facilities that you could rent out? Or, could you build a small cottage? I’m thinking I’d love to come and have my own little artists retreat in a place like that!

Do you like working with kids? Maybe you could offer some kind of nature walk for kids and parents in the summer?

Or, how about something for women… like a modified survivor experience? Ok, maybe I’m getting a bit silly… I just know that there are a ton of people that are hooked on that show!

That’s all I can think of for now but I’ll keep thinking! Kris

The ideas Kris was able to offer Marjie were just enough to get her own creative juices flowing. Suddenly she saw possibilities previously unexplored. But I’ll let you read Marjie’s response for yourself:

Hi Kris,

Thanks for writing back with some terrific ideas!

We are planning to build a log cabin on our land next summer. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it could be a cool retreat to share with or rent to others. We were planning (for our own use) to keep our cabin really rustic – wood stove, composting toilet (more environmentally friendly than an outhouse), no electricity, hand pump for water.

There is a facility a couple of miles away that rents similar cabins (with wood stoves, outhouses, hand pumped water, etc.), but they are reserved solely for alumni of a particular university. They do get a fair share of guests. I could be offering the same sort of thing to a wider public.

I had been thinking of providing nature tours. I’m primarily a self- taught amateur naturalist – still with much to learn – but I attend every class/group/nature walk/lecture I can on those kinds of topics. So I could definitely try that.

One catch is that I get very nervous speaking in front of public, but I am working on that. And I could start with younger kids, since I am less self-conscious with them than with teenagers or adults.

I *love* the survivor for women idea (minus the part where someone gets “kicked off the island”)! I had not thought of doing that as part of an income stream, even though my one life-long dream has been to be able to live off the land for a period of time – consuming wild foods, making fire with a bow drill (i.e., rubbing two sticks together), etc. I do not know enough yet to teach many of those skills. BUT… I do know people who have those skills and I could possibly offer them our land as a place to teach classes (which I could then attend and develop my own skills until I could teach them, too.)

This also makes me think that I could teach camping to beginners, especially women who might otherwise feel intimidated by the whole outdoorsy thing.

Wow! Thank you so much! You really got me thinking along a whole new line!

Can’t you just “hear” the excitement in Marjie’s voice? Can’t you see her mind just buzzing with ideas? There is something so incredibly stimulating and motivating about getting help AND giving it. It’s a wonderful feeling to know you were able to take another person’s dream and build on it in a way that makes them say, “Wow! Thank you so much! You really got me thinking along a whole new line!”

As Barbara Sher wisely points out, “Isolation is the dream killer.” Whose dream can you support today? Who can you turn to for help, ideas, resources, or information that will help move your dream along? No one gets there alone.

If you haven’t yet checked out the Changing Course Bulletin Board, I encourage you to do so today. It’s the perfect place to ask for a little help with your own dream. It’s also a great place to offer information, ideas, resources, advice or perhaps just a word of encouragement support to your fellow dreamers. Join the discussion at

P.S. Click here to learn more about how you can join Marjie and Kris as part of the growing the Making Dreams Happen community.

How to Make Money Licensing Your Invention Idea

Inventions often come out of regular people who find simple solutions to simple problems. Take Band-Aid® Bandages. The bandage was invented by a Johnson & Johnson employee by the name of Earl Dickson. When Earl’s accident prone wife cut herself, he set out to develop a bandage that she could apply without help. So he stuck a small piece of gauze in the center of a small piece of surgical tape, and voila – what we now know today as the Band-Aid® was born! I recently joined a local inventor’s group called the Innovators’ Resource Network out of nearby Springfield, Massachusetts. I don’t think of myself as an inventor, but some of my clients are pretty creative, so I thought I’d sit in and see what I could pick up on how to bring a product idea to market. Boy, am I glad I did! Barbara Winter talks about the need for people seeking to discover their calling to identify their natural habitat. That’s the place you feel most at home and alive. Barbara’s natural habitat is the classroom. That night I found my natural habitat. It’s any place where entrepreneurs converge. There must have been 60 people there and the energy in that room was incredible! For one thing, you have to be a “Yes You Can” kind of person to bring an idea to market and that night, the room was teaming with them. For another, everyone was eager to offer advice and encouragement to help their fellow entrepreneur succeed. The group was the brainchild of product scouts Dave Cormier and Karyl Lynch. What Dave and Karyl do is help manufacturing companies find innovative products to bring to market. They do this by matching their clients with independent inventors who hope the company will license their product. What I found equally interesting is that not too long ago Karyl and Dave had very different jobs – and lives. But I’ll get to that in a moment. First, here are some resources on how to bring a product to market that can help launch you on the road to riches… and freedom. 1. “How to License Your Million Dollar Idea: Everything You Need to Know to Turn a Simple Idea Into a Million Dollar Payday” Harvey Reese, a successful new product developer, consultant, and licensing agent, outlines his system for creating commercially profitable ideas and his secrets for turning them into lucrative licensing agreements. The book covers:

  • nuts-and-bolts information on the licensing process
  • recent changes in patent law and how the Internet has impacted modern licensing
  • step-by-step process for formulating an idea that manufacturers are willing to pay for, researching its authenticity, obtaining patents, finding prospects, negotiating the deal, and beyond
  • examples of successful, well-known licensing ventures
  • appendix of sample patent forms, licensing agreements, disclosure statements, publications, contact information, and more

For your convenience you can find this book in the Changing Course Bookstore 2. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office offers useful information for first time visitors including resources for inventors and how to do a patent search. 3. The United Inventors Association Lots of resources including articles, steps for new inventors, how to find an inventors group in your area, a program to assess the feasibility of your invention, how to avoid being taken in by inventor assistance schemes, and much more. 4. Finding A Distributor To Market Your Product One place to find a distributor to market your product is by attending trade shows related to your industry. The companies at the booths are trying to sell to the same market you are and may be interested in adding your invention to their line. To find tradeshows go to  or 5. Inventors’ Conferences These conferences and expos are a good place for inventors to show off their products to companies seeking products to license. A few upcoming conferences are: INPEX attracts a lot of foreign investors and potential licensors Minnesota Inventors Congress offers lots of educational programs for inventors but according to Entrepreneur magazine, the number of potential licensors is not as strong. 6. Inventor’s Digest Magazine This magazine’s website lists other tradeshows and workshops, FAQs, success stories and much more. The magazine is great for anyone serious about earning money from their product ideas. Two Invention Experts Who “Re-Invented” Their Lives As I was saying, Karyl and Dave’s personal changing course story is as interesting to me as the products they’ve helped bring to market. Not too long ago, she was a college administrator and he developed software. Over the course of six years the two essentially re-invented themselves as product scouts. Since then they’ve served as judges for two recent national new product hunts: CBS’s “Not So Crazy Ideas” and “The Hunt for the Best New Consumer Products,” sponsored by the United Inventors Association, Inventors’ Digest magazine, and Proctor and Gamble. Smart self-bossers are always on the look out for ways to turn knowledge into income. And that’s exactly what Karyl did by parlaying her and Dave’s experience starting the Innovators’ Resource Network into a book called “How to Start an Inventors’ Group” published by the United Inventors Association. Karyn and Dave are also what Mark Henrick’s calls “Lifestyle Entrepreneurs”… meaning they decided what kind of life they wanted first and then chose a business that would allow them to have that life. It’s what I call the Life First-Work Second approach to career change. In Karyl and Dave’s case, creating the ideal life meant starting a business that would allow them the flexibility to spend winters in the sunny Southwest. The first step to bringing a product idea to market is to get informed. If your idea doesn’t get picked up right away, don’t get discouraged. Executives at Parker Brothers turned down the game of Monopoly because they said it had “52 fundamental errors,” one of which was that it took too long to play. A copy of the game somehow wound up in the home of the president of Parker Brothers and he stayed up until 1 a.m. to finish playing it. He liked the game so much that he wrote to inventor Charles Darrow the next day and offered to buy it!

Bringing Your Product Idea to Market

The great thing about traveling is opening my hotel room door in the morning to find that day’s edition of USA Today. In just about every issue of this national newspaper (a great stroke of entrepreneurial genius itself) is an article that gets my entrepreneurial juices flowing.

The February 4th issue featured a story about the growing trend among baby-boomers for more natural, at-home, eco-friendly funerals. Or as the article puts it: No embalming, no funeral directors. No sticker shock.

I did a bit more “digging” on the three entrepreneurs featured in the USA Today article – Jerri Lyons, Chip Beresford and his wife Megan, and Dr. Billy Campbell. As you read about how each of these inspiring people see what lessons you can apply to your own quest to work at what you love.

Take Jerri Lyons. In the past eight years, Jerri has helped over 200 families return to the age old tradition of conducting their loved ones funerals in their own homes. As can sometimes be the case, her business began with a very personal and powerful experience.

The 56-year-old started her Sebastopola, California non-profit Final Passages, after the unexpected death of a close friend Carolyn Whiting. Carolyn had left detailed instructions for a home funeral. Jerri was a participant in Carolyn’s home funeral and “was profoundly moved by the entire three-day experience.”

As Jerri explained, “Community participation and ceremony, at home, supported those grieving and allowed more time for closure.
The bathing and dressing of her body was performed with dignity and honor by her friends. Barriers of fear and anger were broken down, giving more room for love and celebration through this important passage.”

It was “the most personal, meaningful and respectful experience”
that awakened in her a passion to share it with others. Jerri says she pioneered Final Passages “to reawaken a choice that our ancestors once held sacred.”

For about $1,000, she will help wash, clothe and give a wake to the departed. Or, those with less means or more of a do-it-yourself spirit can purchase a handbook for $45. The trend toward home funerals is largely being driven by baby boomers. According to Lisa Carlson, author of Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love, “From home births, to writing their own wedding vows, boomers have been creating their own traditions – so why not create their own funerals.” Click here to learn more about Final Passages

One factor driving the trend is cost. While the article states that a traditional funeral can run close to $10,000, a “green” funeral with a bio-degradable cardboard casket can be had for closer to $1,000.
If a cardboard casket feels, well, cheap but a $2,000 velvet-interior model seems frankly unnecessary, you can always spurge on a pine box for as low as $395.

Former funeral director Chip Beresford and his wife Megan decided to open The Pine Box store in Houston to help families, “get back to basics.” He says when he first become a funeral director he, “felt honored to help families through some of the most difficult times they might encounter, the death of a loved one.”

Funeral service was and still is, Chip says, an honorable calling (as the daughter of a now retired funeral director, I’d have to agree). Unfortunately Chip says, that most funeral directors still have that same commitment to serve, “but their hands have been tied” by the big business take-over of most of what was once a largely family- owned enterprise.

Before you rule out that cardboard box, you may like to know that Jerri encourages families to decorate them in ways that commemorate their loved one. And, for those who are as passionate about the environment as I am, they’re more eco-friendly.

It was his passion for the environment that led Billy Campbell a doctor from Westminister, South Carolina to create Ramsey Creek Preserve, a 37-acre woodland cemetery where tree plantings and inscribed rocks replace manicured lawns and headstones. Campbell plans to replicate his idea across the U.S. To learn more about Dr. Campbell and his wife’s vision click here.

Okay, so you may not be interested in starting a green funeral related business yourself, but what did you just learn from these entrepreneurs about turning a trend into an entrepreneurial opportunity? Well, for one, you can get involved at whatever level you feel comfortable.

Jerri deals directly with the deceased and their grieving families.
She also shares her knowledge through workshops for health care practitioners as well as for others who want to create their own natural funeral organization elsewhere. The Beresford’s provide a product of value to grieving families on a budget. Dr. Campbell turned his love of the environment into an eco-friendly cemetery and a healing environment for families.

If you’ve been reading this newsletter for any length of time, you know that I’m passionate about showing others how they can become Opportunity Analysts. The other lesson here is about the life-changing, option-enhancing power of trends… and as any good Opportunity Analyst will tell you trends = opportunities!

If you don’t quite know what kind of business to start, the best way to turn your passion into your job is by tuning into opportunities that which often come disguised as trends, niches, complaints, problems, or changes. I shared three examples of people whose work grew out of a particular trend. With just a little creativity I bet you could come up with a dozen other ways to get involved in this growing trend… and many others. The key is to get started.

The Color of Money: Inspiring Minority Entrepreneurs

Published by Fortune magazine, FSB magazine is aimed at the small  business owner. The December-January cover story is titled The New  Color of Money. The magazine features some very inspiring minority  entrepreneurs, whom, the cover page boasts, are creating companies  faster than anyone and changing the American Dream.

You’ll read fascinating stories about people like Pat Winans who started  her own brokerage firm with just $5,000, Samia El-Badry who started a  consulting business to study minorities, especially other Arab-  Americans like herself, Winnebago tribe member Lance Morgan who is  making a real difference on his Nebraska reservation, and many more.

But the story I found most intriguing was that of Sheeras Hasan, an  ethnic Pakastani who was raised in England. A few years ago the guy  came to the U.S. with no money, no contacts, and no filmmaking  experience and today regularly hobnobs with the likes of Jennifer  Lopez, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielburg. Hasan is the  host of Tinseltown, a show that reaches 500 million people in 80  countries including India, Iran, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

How did he do it? Go read the article to get all the fun and fascinating  details… like how he changed the name of his parent’s London  restaurant to Tinseltown, set up an office in what once was a bathroom  at the restaurant, put down a red carpet for inspiration, got the idea for  Tinseltown TV while in his former bathroom-office, has never been to  Pakistan or India, and doesn’t speak a work of Hindi.

The real point though is the guy spotted a niche – promoting  Hollywood productions to an underserved market (after all India’s  thriving movie industry is nicknamed Bollywood) and then did  something about it. (If you missed the article in the last newsletter on  hot trends, markets, and businesses for entrepreneurs you can find it in  the  newsletter archives at

One of the best ways to actually become an entrepreneur is to start  reading about entrepreneurs. Hasan and all of the small business  owners featured in the FSB story are a wonderful place to start.  Check it out before the next issue comes out at

Hot Business Trends for 2004…And Beyond:

Maybe One Will Turn
Into a Creative Business Idea for You

I always look forward to the December issue of Entrepreneur magazine. That’s the issue that features the publisher’s annual pick of hot businesses, markets, and trends for smart entrepreneurs – or those who aspire to be.

Some of the high tech businesses cited like mobile gaming or online learning tend to require six and seven figure start up costs. This can seem daunting (although not impossible) for the person just venturing into self-employment. So I’ve decided to focus on the markets, trends, and businesses that speak to someone operating on a somewhat more limited budget. Let’s start with hot markets:

HOT MARKET: Middle-Aged Women

Since I’ve recently entered my last year in my 40s, I thought it only appropriate to start with this group (although like most boomers, I still have a hard time thinking of myself as anything close to “middle aged”). Not surprisingly, products and services for women in their 40s and 50s that center around anti-aging and menopause are hot. The magazine cites such promising areas as counseling, exercise spas, yoga, smoking cessation programs… any product or service that helps women stay healthy and feel good about themselves – both inside and out.

The reference to smoking cessation got me thinking… Residential treatment facilities for other forms of substance abuse are common- place, but I’ve personally never seen a retreat, spa, or other residential-type place specifically aimed at people who need help quitting smoking, and who would benefit from doing so outside their home environment. I’m picturing morning walks, meditation, massage, support groups, good food, and of course, lots and lots of punching bags!

HOT MARKET: Toddlers/Tweens/Teens

According to market research firm Packaged Facts, last year 5 to 14 year olds spent $10 billion on food and beverages. Other favorite product areas for kids are sports, fashion, music, and technology.

And apparently home décor and remodeling isn’t just for adults anymore (who knew?). Stores like IKEA and Pottery Barn are starting to selling home furnishing products aimed at teens.

With baby boomers having more discretionary income with which to spoil their grandchildren, babies and toddlers have also become hot markets. Online start-up ELittle Luxuries offers designer baby furniture and more than 600 other upscale baby items. (

HOT MARKET: Overweight People

After reading how much kids spend on food and beverages, it’s no surprise that 15% of children and teens are overweight. But we adults have them beat. A whopping 64% of Americans are considered obese or overweight. Businesses that offer products and services to help people slim down and develop more healthy habits are the most obvious. But entrepreneurs willing to think outside the “solve the problem” box by looking for ways to make overweight people’s lives easier verses trying to fix them, will also do well.

HOT MARKET: Metrosexuals

With the enormous appeal of stylish soccer super star David Beckham and shows like Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy where gay men help straight men with fashion, grooming, home décor, and social skills, a growing number of heterosexual men are allowing themselves to tap into their fashionable side.

One enterprising guy who jumped into the metrosexual market early has seen phenomenal growth. With $20,000 and a dream, Tom Granese launched Regiments, an online store that sells high-end grooming products for men. Less than two years later, Tom opened his first storefront in Dallas with a projected $210,000 in first year in-store sales.

HOT MARKET: Hispanics

The Hispanic market is certainly nothing new – in fact it’s made Entrepreneur’s list for many years now. The magazine cites opportunities in anything from food and entertainment, to financial services and Web services.

Now let’s look at two of Entrepreneur’s picks for hot trends in 2004…

HOT TREND: Outdoor Living Spaces

Into gardening or design? According to Joanne Kostecky of the American Nursery & Landscape Association, and president of her own garden design company, the concept of outdoor living rooms that is so popular in the south and some urban areas is beginning to reach the rest of the country. The fact that more consumers are investing in courtyards and elaborate gardens means the gardening and outdoor design businesses are bound to grow!

HOT TREND: Fast-Casual Food

Health and taste conscious consumers on the go are turning to fast- casual restaurants and chains. In my own small town of Northampton, two of the more popular joints are benefiting from the fast-casual boom. One serves upscale burritos (my favorite is the Thai burritos) and the other is a hip soup, salad, and sandwich joint that opened in a greatly remodeled former Taco Bell restaurant.

Idea: Back in my old softball days I always wished someone would cater to all those hungry players and fans by starting a high quality food wagon.

Other Hot Trends… Boating and water sports, the hunger for low- carb foods (a trend being taken seriously by restaurants, grocery stores, and food manufacturers), oils and sauces, and multiculturalism which includes the gay and lesbian markets.

Hot markets and hot trends lead to hot businesses. Here are some of Entrepreneur’s picks…

HOT BUSINESS: Children’s Enrichment Programs

With so many parents in the workforce, more kids than ever before are engaged in extracurricular and after school activities. If you like the idea of working with kids, you can opt to open a physical location like a gym, dance or art studio, or camp, take your program into the schools, or provide private lessons.

If you think opening your own place is financially out of reach, think again. While $12,000 is no small sum of money, it’s a lot less than a lot of people might expect they’d need to shell out to start their own dance studio. But that’s how much former dance student turned instructor Archer Alstaettter dug up in cash and credit cards to found Dance Emotion in Irvine, California. That was five years ago. Today Archer’s studio has 500 clients and expects 600-plus to be enrolled by spring. You go Archer!

HOT BUSINESS: Home Improvement

Remodeling, refurbishing, and redecorating are all the rage. There are some 30 cable shows on home improvement alone. And home improvement isn’t all about décor. Worth noting are businesses that help home owners maximize the space they have as well as those making homes more accessible to an aging population. (To read about a unique, highly successful, and legitimate home business opportunity that matches home owners with reputable home repair contractors go to Turning Problems into Opportunities)

HOT BUSINESS: Yoga & Pilates

According to Entrepreneur, companies are bending over backwards to cater to the growing market of people practicing yoga. Clothes, mats, DVDs, music, and classes aimed at seniors, pregnant women and children as young as three are just a few products and services aimed at this growing market.

And with a reported 47 million Americans taking Pilates, a work out that builds abdominal muscles, opportunities abound for gym owners and instructors alike. If you like the idea of teaching Pilates, studio owner Maria Leone recommends starting out by keeping overhead low. She suggests renting space for one-on-one sessions from a small gym or chiropractic office. Fees for a typical Pilates session range from $50 to $70 an hour. Meditate on that!

HOT BUSINESS: Upscale Pet Services

According to the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association, Americans spent an estimated $31 billion on pets in 2003. A few of the luxury services cited include pet hotels complete with heated floors, limousine rides, day cruises, and personal shoppers. And apparently the spa trend has extended to the pet world with exfoliating treatments, aromatherapy, liposuction (I kid you not), and chiropractic services.

HOT BUSINESS: Outsourcing

Outsourcing is one of those good new-bad news things. If your job is being eliminated because it’s cheaper for your company to outsource functions like HR, accounting, and network security, then outsourcing is a bad thing. Outsourcing is particularly hot in IT – and when it comes to outsourcing jobs overseas, it’s also controversial. The good news for freelancers is the federal government plans to open 850,000 jobs to outsourcing, with $85 billion in federal IT contracts to be awarded over the next three years

Other Hot Businesses: Spas, organic foods, online matchmaking, senior care, wireless, tech security, and voiceover IP (VoIP).

If you believe as I do that it’s better to be the boss, than to have one, why not make 2004 the year you start putting your entrepreneurial plans into action? You don’t have to quit your job or mortgage your home to get the ball rolling. You might resolve to do some research, start putting together a business plan, take a course on marketing, glass blowing, woodworking, web design, or whatever sparks your fancy, get certified to teach yoga, buy a book on how to launch a successful on-line business, start a Barbara Sher style Success Team… or just order a subscription to Entrepreneur.

If you don’t already subscribe to Entrepreneur you can do so at The site also features a ton of free resources for anyone who already is – or dreams of – working for themselves. For other free resources for people who want to start their own businesses visit

Okay, but what if you don’t see a trend, market, or business here that speaks to you? Then find the one that does! I had a client who is crazy for horses and photography. It took me all of 30 seconds on to find a group called the Equine Photographers Network.

In addition to their conference this February in Florida, the group offers a free public online discussion group with over 700 members who range from top-of-their-field working pros to amateur photographers to magazine editors and writers to horse owners, all interested in improving their equine photography skill and knowledge. Learn all about the Equine Photographers Network at

The way to find the “hottest” business idea for you is to get in touch with the passion that burns the brightest in your heart. Then make 2004 the year resolve to you take those first bold steps on behalf of your dream!

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