Saturday, May 16, 2015


Everyone I know wants to quit their day job and start a small business.

I recently finished the Steve Jobs book, which I listened to as an audiobook, at home and in the car, over the course of several weeks.

A story that has strongly stayed with me is about the very first product that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak every built. It was an electronic box that mimicked the tones used by the phone system, so that the user could get free long-distance calls.  This was not the most noble invention, but the positive thing that struck me was that the parts for this box cost about $50, Wozniak wanted to give it away for free, because he was that kind of guy, but Jobs decided to sell it for $100, and they used the profits to reinvest and grow the business.

If you want to start a business, or anything, really, you need to figure out the first thing that you can sell at any kind of margin, and then use that to fund the next thing, and so on.

So, the first step if you have a business idea you want to realize, is to ask yourself, what can I do, from home, that someone else might value more than it costs me to make, so that I can make that first sale and get the ball rolling?

There was a story about the founders of Banana Republic that told a very similar story.  They started by purchasing remaindered shirts that a company wanted to dump, and used boxes and crates that they had, to set up a stall at markets.  The article points out that they used things other people considered trash, but sold them at a profit. Eventually (in fact in a pretty short time) they sold their business to The Gap for 48 million dollars.  Good example of how you  do it.

Here are some ideas I've brainstormed, although none of these lead to my actual business dream, so they're not really for me to pursue, but I'll throw them out there anyway:

Music School - start giving weekly lessons for free to a friend, to build up a curriculum.  Oh, and also, make sure you teach more than just music, give the student a way to discover their inner self and create an outlet for self-expression.  Word of mouth should build the student body, and with time you should have a good set of course materials to sell.

Music Instrument Shop - start buying old instruments at garage sales or via Craig's List, and flip them - take a Luthier seminar or something, so that you're able to tune up and mod an instrument so that it has more value.  However, the model for this idea - a Hawaiian native who used to mod and sell ukuleles, which I know from experience have magically better extraordinary tone that any other ukulele you can find - he did this but did not charge an extra margin.  So maybe that's not a good business plan, because there's not enough margin on the demand side.

Summer educational retreat - start running day-long or week-long classes out of your house.

Art gallery - Popping up does not cost that much (this idea actually came from someone else).

Maybe? : Consulting business - make time to write your ideas down, in a blog.

Time will tell....