July 31, 2004

RV Youth Hostel

This idea has been fomenting in my mind and all the details have finally jelled into an idea worthy of writing about.

I’ve travelled extensively all over Europe and the Middle East and the one thing that is common among almost every place I’ve been is the youth hostel.

It’s basically a big bunk house where young people tend to stop at for their overnight accomodations. They vary greatly in quality. I’ve been to a German hostel that would put some of our 3 star hotels to shame and on the other end of the scale, I’ve slept on a sand floor on an Egyptian beach surrounded by four concrete walls and a thatch roof. (Camel sleeping outside the hole where a window should have been making all kinds of racket but it only cost .50 cents, so I couldn’t really complain.)

America is sorely lacking in the hostel business. This idea is a doozy, in my humble opinion.

Why not gut a 35 foot RV? Doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Older one is fine. Gut it and build as many bunks into it along the walls as you can fit. Build 2 bathrooms in the back of the RV and then open up as a mobile (although stationary most of the time) youth hostel.

You can paint it an ugly bright color (scare away us old people) and emblazen your hostel company name all over it. You can station your moving slumber party from rest stop to rest stop or convenience store parking lots after making arrangements with the owners that you’ll be using a corner of their parking lot every now and then and bringing customers to them at the same time.

Then you can market your product through brochures in eateries and other places along the freeway you’re stationed around.

Now here’s something that would make you appeal to the demographic you’re aiming for. Take reservations via text messaging and/or your website (take PayPal.) Typically, hostels don’t really take reservations but you’d probably want to do it in this case. Also, hostels have curfews and close down during the day. You can do the same. Set a rule that the RV door locks at midnight. If they don’t make it by then, they’re out of luck. Then everyone has to be out by noon the next morning until you open back up again at 8pm or 9pm or whatever. No frills. Just a rack to sleep in, toilet to uh-hum in and a shower to clean your crusty body in. Bring your own bedding (or rented from you for X amount for the night.) Lights out at midnight… etc.

You could PROBABLY fit about 16 bunks in a good sized RV. Charge about $15 a night per bunk. Once the word got out and you placed some advertising along the highway, you’d be packed every night.

Do the math on that. Your only overhead would be the purchase and renovation of the RV (say $25K for a very used one including renovation costs) and then the regular sewage costs of dropping it at a drop spot and whatever agreement you strike up with the parking lot owner where you’re parking. If you’re single, you could essentially live in the bunk above the driver’s cab.

If you change locations every once in a while, you can have the current location posted on the website at all times.

This wouldn’t be difficult to grow to several RVs. You just start in one location and move out. Pretty soon, you have one every 100 miles, each bringing in $5000 a month of more.

As always… I expect a fat check in the mail if you make this a success. :-)

July 30, 2004

Pokia, Pokia, Pokia! Old Fashion Meets Tech

I just came across this auction. It’s a new product this guy came up with over in the UK. It’s called “pokia.” It actually works. You can leave your cell phone in your pocket and use this old fashioned handset to talk with. I’m a real geek when it comes to cool techie stuff. So, of course, I’m in love. Just not $50 worth of love.

Here’s the auction. Come back when you’re done and I’ll tell you how to make money with these things.

Figure out how he’s doing this (can’t be all that hard) and then sell them at novelty shows where people go to shop for Christmas when we get close to the holidays. (Christmas Bazaars, gift shows… whatever you want to call them.)

If you’re REALLY good with electronics, you’d figure out how to gut old, used cell phones (that you can get cheaply) and then retrofit these old handsets and place the guts of the cell phone directly into the old handset so all someone has to carry around is the handset. This is JUST unique enough that you’d sell a whole heck of a lot of them before the novelty wears off.

The telephone repairmen used to carry around this little holster thing that would hold an old handset for them to plug into the wall to test lines. You could get a hold of those holster things and sell them along with your new old phone cell phones. I think it’d be cool to carry around just an old fashioned handset hanging off my belt and see the reaction on people’s faces when they see me answer it without any wires hanging off of it.

Just too cool.

Create Value Outside Your Box

As an entrepreneur, you’re charged with creating value in exchange for money. It’s my mantra… it’s what I wake up everyday repeating and it’s what I go to bed thinking about.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.

Take a landscape company for instance. There’s not much in the way of the actual work to be done wherein you can make a major impact or impression over one of the other 50 landscape companies in the phone book. Sure, you smile more, speak english better, put a happy face on your bid form, be priced 5% less than all the other bids. But just exactly HOW can you create more VALUE for your customer than all your competitors?

In many cases, thinking outside of what you do directly (landscaping) will take you into another world of choices and one where I can guarantee none of your competitors will even think of going.

First, let me digress. We first need to understand the concept of creating value. I mean to say it can come from anywhere. It can be done in millions of different ways (literally.) When a landscape company tries to think of ways to differentiate themselves from their competition, most will keep their thoughts tied to the customer’s yard. Well, I’m here to tell you, most landscape companies can mow a lawn about as good as any other one. You got to think outside your own industry.

If I were the owner of a landscape company, I’d have the best margins in my area and I’d have a waiting list. (Fortunately for all the landscape companies around here, I hate getting dirty!)

Let me give you some examples of what I’m talking about and these are just off the top of my head. Why not take a picture of your customer’s yard after the job is done.? Then digitally enhance the image so that it looks really cool, perhaps in black and white, put an oval outline around the picture then put the text “Smith” on the top of the oval and “Gardens” on the bottom of the oval (Smith being the name of the owner who’s yard you just did.) It makes a kind of logo effect.

Then go to cafepress.com and upload the image and order a t-shirt with this imprinted on it. To get the process up and running, it’d take you maybe $100 in design work from a designer and then you can just use the same technique he teaches you to do the subsequent ones using a simple graphics program. So each image after the first you can do yourself in about 15 minutes and upload to cafepress.com. The t-shirt only costs $20 with shipping. Then when you get the t-shirt, put it in a nice gift box with a handwritten note, thanking them for their business. You can even include instructions on how they can get more t-shirts (for family… etc) at cafepress.com and earn affiliate income on their subsequent orders.

I can GUARANTEE that if you did that for each of your clients as a landscape company, you’d have a TON of word of mouth business and you’d never have to advertise again.

Here’s another one… note if your customer has a dog, cat or some other interest you can play up to. Let’s say they have a Cocker Spaniel named “Boogers.” Using the hydrastone that I mentioned in a previous post, you can make generic round stepping stones. It would be easy once you’ve made the mold, to pour a stepping stone or two with “Boogers” embedded in it using plastic or wooden lettering. (The hydrastone would be poured over it in reverse and then it would come out the right way when the hydrastone set.)

Go by the house and place the stepping stone where you think it would be good to place it and then leave a note on the door, thanking them for the business and tell them where to look in the yard for their new stepping stone. I can tell you that if you did this for ANY dog or cat owner, they would be so shocked, many would actually cry. Because of the thoughtfulness of it and the fact that they love their animal and you paid enough attention to even know what their animal’s name was.

I can go on (and unfortunately, I tend to do that, looking at the length of some of my posts… haha!)

Bottom line…. don’t restrict yourself to creating value for your customer directly related to your service or product. The world is full of value creating opportunities that your customer can fully appreciate. The nice thing is, almost no one is doing this type of thing. You can seriously dominate your industry without so much as a dollar spent on advertising.

Again, value can come from ANYWHERE not just what you specialize in.

July 28, 2004

Kerry Iraq Documentary

WARNING! Off-topic political statement. Not for the faint of Democrat heart.

http://www.demsextrememakeover.com/
Specifically, the “Kerry Iraq Documentary” link.

Unlike Michael Moore’s Fictionmentary, this one just takes clips of Kerry himself and reveals EXACTLY the type of person he is. There’s hardly any dialogue but his own. When you speak and comment based on what you think your political base wants to hear one day and what you think America wants to hear on another… well, it just makes for an embarrassing documentary. Please take a look at this before you waste your vote on someone like this.

I say “waste” because it’s almost a forgone conclusion that Senator Kerry will lose in November. The only question is, by what margin?

Entrepreneurial Figurine Painters Needed

As you might know, my main business is a collectible business. We manufacture, wholesale and retail resin figurines. Mainly holiday related ones like Santas and such. We sell these through stores across the nation as well as direct to collectors. (Our most recent new product line has its own website, here.)

I’m going to be doing a very slow roll out of a new way to have our figurines painted. I thought I would post it here first. Just in case I have any budding artists that read my blog. But you won’t only be painting, you can also put your entrepreneurial hat on as well. Read on…

First, I need you to paint one figurine to our specifications as a “try out” piece. I need to make sure your work is of good enough quality to paint for us.

After you pass that, you’ll become an official Great American painter. As it stands now, all our painters are in the local area here around Portland, Oregon. But under this new system I want to test, location will not be an issue. You’ll simply receive X number of figurines in the mail with specific color application instructions. You’ll be responsible for getting the paints, brushes, stain and sealer. Don’t worry, it’s not that big of an investment. We use the same 30 or so colors for almost all our collectibles and we use acrylic Delta paints for the most part.

As a typical scenario, we’ll receive an order from either a collector or a store for 10 figurines. We’ll try to choose a painter that’s physically located in the same part of the country as that collector or retailer to save on shipping. We’ll package up those 10 figurines and put them in their gift box… etc. We’ll send them to you in blank form. Then you’ll be responsible for painting them within a specific time period. When you have finished painting them, you’ll box them back in their gift box, and put them in the same box we shipped them to you in and ship them on to their end destination (either the collector or the store that ordered them.)

When we ship it to you, it’ll have a prepaid label enclosed so all you have to do is slap the label on the shipping box and take it to the nearest FedEx authorized shipping center. (They are most commonly in those little shipping stores like Postnet and other places like that.)

So, all you do is provide and apply the paint, stain (to make it look older) and sealer and of course, you have to supply your own set of brushes to do all this with.

We pay you, on average, $7.25 to paint and package them back up for shipping to the end consumer and/or store. The exact amount will depend on the size of the piece but you’ll know all the pay amounts for each piece in advance. Paint and all the materials you use to prepare the piece will run about .50 cents per piece. So, you’ll be getting about $6.75 per piece for the actual labor.

You will be paid once a month, on the 15th, for all pieces you’ve shipped out during the previous calendar month. (This gives time for pieces you may have shipped on the 30th of the previous month to have arrived their final destination so we can confirm that batch was paint and shipped before paying for it.)

This isn’t a lot of pay, I have to tell you. It’s going to take the AVERAGE painter about 1.5 hours to paint each piece. But where else can you get paid to do something you love to do while sitting in front of the TV at your dining room table? Unfortunately, it’s all we can afford because we can’t charge a whole lot for resin figurines since we are up against an industry mainly made in china.

So, you just have to like painting and being a part of a “hobby” industry like this and have a few extra hours a night free for this paid hobby.

Now, here’s where you can put your entrepreneurial skills to work at the same time. Take our pieces around to some places in your local area that you think might be interested in carrying our collectibles. If they start carrying anything of ours, you get a 5% commission on everything they buy from us from that point which adds up to an extra $1.13 for our main line of Santas. Even if you don’t end up painting their specific pieces, you’ll still get your 5% for the life of that account.

As the painter in that local area, you’ll have automatic credibility and a great opening line when you approach them because you are the one most likely to paint the pieces they will be selling. So, they can use that in their signage… “painted by local painter” or something like that. The local angle really helps when marketing resin collectibles made in the USA. So, this feeds (grows) your painting pipeline while at the same time, allows you to make a little more per piece because you brought them on as customers.

If you get enough local (area or region wide) business, you can even find people in your local area to paint FOR YOU and pay them a bit less than we pay you (or the full amount since you are getting the extra 5% from sales to the stores.) That way, you can expand your local operation without having to do all that painting yourself. A creative person can really do a lot with this concept. And of course, all my blog readers are creative… right? :-)

So… if you are interested in trying out to be a painter, please email me your name, address, phone number and a brief synopsis of your artistic skills. You can reach me at santa(@)gr8american.com. Thanks!

Non-Supportive Spouses

I’m really lucky that my wife is as supportive as she is in my entrepreneurial endeavors. However, it wasn’t always like that.

When I met her over 8 years ago, she was like so many other Americans. She was taught from childhood that the only acceptable path to success was getting an education, finding a job and spending the rest of your life bringing home a paycheck.

Now, don’t get me wrong, that is a VERY worthy endeavor and one that is suited to the vast majority of people on this earth.

However, I’m not one of those people and so I had to make sure she understood that from the get go. Oh, she paid lip service to it in the beginning. “Whatever honey, that’s fine.”

I’m sure many of you reading this right now can identify with what I’m about to say. Entrepreneurs are a unique breed of animal. We’re opinionated and self assured, in most cases. We’re adventerous and outgoing in many respects. We like to have fun, sometimes to the extreme. These are all qualities that are easy to “have fun” with in a new partner and even create a euphoric sense of awe in the person. Especially if that’s NOT what you are as a person. So, in the beginning, those qualities are what attracted her to me.

But then we got married. What was at one time “fun-and-spontaneous” Dan was now “Dan who-isn’t-finding-what-he-wants-to-do” and not “settling” into something for the long haul. That didn’t sit with her too well. I had just gotten out of the military after 12 years when we got married. Being the entrepreneur that I am, I had to see what was out there. Each job I took was a brick I was using to build my storehouse of knowledge to be unleashed on society at some point. Even when I was in the Air Force, I always had part time jobs. Not for the money, necessarily. I just wanted to experience how companies, in whatever industry I was working in at the time, created value in exchange for money.

But it was okay… because I had a little talk with her before we got married. I’m sure she remembers it and I sure do. It was a very serious topic and I made sure it had an impact on her because I needed her to understand it, 100%. First I gave her some background. I told her about my childhood. I was poor and every family member of mine had the mindset that many poor people have of why isn’t the government helping me and oh, woe is me… I can’t find a job… etc. Totally disregarding the fact that their lack of success was based on their own poor choices in life. My mom didn’t graduate high school and married my Dad at 15. She had me when she was 17. (No, we didn’t live in Arkansas… this was in California.) They both worked in low paying jobs. Neither had any skills to speak of and couldn’t imagine making more than near poverty wages. They divorced (twice) when I was very young. My mom’s been married 5 times and my Dad 7 times. I went to 23 schools in my 12 years of school from 1st through 12th grade. We lived in tents, trailers (single and doublewides) and even a run down shack (where I slept in a little “outhouse” room in the back yard.) Basically, I had a life that no one making good choices should have to live in America.

After telling her all this, I said the following… “I love you with all my heart and soul but you should know one thing. I WILL NOT SETTLE. I will ALWAYS be going after the golden ring. I will not get a 9 to 5 job and come home, drink beer and watch TV. I will be up until 2am researching and working towards success. I will go to sleep thinking about creating wealth and I will wake up thinking about it. I will waste a lot of money on what the world calls “pipe dreams and wild goose chases.” Sometimes you’ll be talking to me and I might be zoned out thinking of some way to create value in exchange for money. I will love you and the family that we’ll have but I will not, under any circumstance waste my energies on making someone else rich while I hang on by a thread, living for next week’s paycheck. Not because it isn’t worthy. We need people to do such things and there are plenty of people willing to do it and be quite happy at it. But that ISN’T me, period.

She agreed and although it hasn’t been smooth sailing financially, she has definitely stuck by me through thick and thin. The key is she knew what she was getting in to. And I think she’ll agree, it’s been quite a ride and it’s only been 7 years. We’ve been to the point of bringing our prescriptions to the Target pharmacy so we can get a $5 off coupon to be used in the store to making well over $20K a month.

I’ll close this post with a song you need to play for your spouse. The video is even better (it’s on the Country Top 20 on CMT right now if you get that channel.) It’s by Joe Nichols and the song is called, “If Nobody Believed In You.” It talks about a mean father yelling at his son when he didn’t play baseball as good as the father wanted. The money line in the song goes something like this, “Tell me how would you feel, you’d probably give up too, if nobody believed in you.”

The last stanza is the tear jerker (gotta have that in a country song.) It talks about our country and how we’re taking God out of our schools and public discourse, money… etc. Then he applies the same lyric to God… “What if God quit trying, he just turned away, tell me how would you feel, you’d probably give up too, if nobody believed in you.”

My publishing company is called “OneTeam Publishing.” It means my wife and I are a team. Have a conversation with your spouse about how you’re both on the same team. Then play this song. (It’s a snippet. You can buy the CD on Amazon.)

If you’re an entrepreneur, the world needs your talents to create opportunity and make the world a better place by the value you create. Under no circumstances, as an entrepreneur, should you “settle.”

God bless this great nation and your part in its greatness. (I mean that!)

July 26, 2004

Grave Marker Maker

I’m in the business of making stuff out of resin. So businesses like this come to me all the time.

Visit your local funeral homes and strike up a deal with them to make grave markers for their customers. What you’ll be doing is providing/making grave markers for the lower income families the funeral home may be talking to. Markers can cost well over $500. You can make one for about $10-$15 in materials out of a plaster type substance called Hydrastone. It’s like plaster but very, very hard after setting. The end product won’t be fancy with the brass inlaid text… etc. But it’ll be quite nice and most importantly, cheap.

All you need is some space like a backyard to do your molding. Build your mold out of some counter top formica from Home Depot. Make sure the edges are nice and neat. The mold has to be able to come apart after you pour the Hydrastone into it. (I’m not going to get into forms and molds in this post. You have to do SOME research on your own… come on, man! Ha)

You can see what Hydrastone can look like here. It’s a page of clocks that are made from Hydrastone.

You’ll need to contact an engraver (trophy shop should do fine) or invest in an engraving machine. You can then pour a lot of blank markers and when you sell one, just have it engraved with the message the family of the deceased wants. You sell it to the funeral home and they mark it up and sell it to the family.

If you can’t get any funeral homes to bite, place ads in the obit section of your paper and sell them directly to the public. You might want to “mention” to all the funeral homes you are contacting that you don’t want to sell directly to the public through the paper. This will scare them a bit since they don’t want you to be selling a much cheaper option to their $800 markers.

You could probably sell these things for $100 to the funeral homes (try for more, but settle on $100 at the very least.) If you have 4 or 5 funeral homes in your area that you’re working with, I will venture to guess you can make well over $60K a year from making graves markers.

You can make other stuff too, but that’ll come to you after you start making stuff with Hydrastone.

As usual… I’ll expect a nice check in the mail if you start doing this. :-)

Segway Business

Here’s a task to get your entrepreneurial juices flowing.

Visit this link and take a look at the picture. Now send me your ideas on how to make money with the Segway as the basis of your business. Doesn’t have to be with golf… ANY idea is acceptable. I’ll post the best ideas on the site here with a link to your site if you have one.

Voting Democrat?

I know this blog is my avenue through which I share with you my ideas on business ideas and such. But there comes a time when I just have to let loose on political/social topics. Here’s one I couldn’t let pass without commenting.

Are you voting Democrat this November?

Please take a look at this webpage:

http://store.yahoo.com/ppfastore/ihadabt.html

Remember, this is a major plank in the Democrat platform (abortion.) Even if you are pro-choice, this should turn your stomach to the nth degree. Planned Parenthood (re: legalized killing factories) is a major supporter (and vice versa) of the Democrat party.

I’m so disgusted, I could just vomit. Words escape me right now. I want to just go crawl up in a corner somewhere and disassociate myself from the world to get my bearings again.

Incredible. Just incredible.

Provide Website Mirror Services

Web hosting is so cheap now. Why not provide mirror services for small businesses?

Allow me to explain. There are literally millions of small business websites out there. Most of the time they are on limited budgets so are more times than not hosting their sites with inexpensive web hosting companies. You can get hosting now for as little as $3 a month.

Even though the quoted “up time” (meaning the percentage of time they promise your site will be accessible to the public) is 99%, in most cases this is just plain poppycock.

Believe me, I own over 100 domains and have gone through soooooo many hosting companies, it’s actually scary. I solved the problem myself through the method I’m about to share with you. But you could make a business out of this by doing the same thing I did, but doing it for other people (and yourself of course) who may not have the know how (or even want to learn) to do it themselves.

There’s a DNS service that will provide what they call “DNS Failover.” The name of the company is DNS Made Easy. You then use their DNS services for all your domains (instead of your hosting company’s DNS server.) With a premium account ($30 a year), you get automatic DNS Failover service. What this means is, you can tell their DNS server not only where your website is hosted but you can also tell it where to look if it can’t “see” your site for whatever reason. In layman’s terms, this means if your site goes down it’ll automatically feed all your incoming traffic to another web hosting company where you have a mirror copy of your site hosted.

Using this DNS Failover service, your site is almost ALWAYS accessible by your visitors. Unless of course, both hosting companies are down at the same time. The likelihood of that happening, though, is very, very small.

So, here’s what you do. Purchase a virtual hosting account that allows you to host as many domains as you want with one account. This company sells a virtual server account for $15 a month and you can host as many domains as you want. (Incidently, they are rated extremely high in uptime and customer satisfaction, as well.)

You’ll also need to get an account from the DNS hosting company I mentioned earlier.

BTW: Anyone who owns a website should do this for themselves, if nothing else. The only difference being, if you only have one website, just get the cheaper hosting account and then use that as your mirror along with the DNS Failover services.

Then all you do is advertise your services for $12 a year. What you give your customer is uptime insurance. You setup their domain on your virtual server and give them their own FTP login…etc. Then they upload their website to your server. You should tell them that they need to keep the version on your servers up to date. So, whenever they make changes on their own site, they should upload the changes to your server as well.

Then you provide the DNS lookup service for them by setting up the domain in your DNS lookup account with the failover company. (They would just have to change the DNS address with their domain registrar. That’s all they would have to do from a DNS standpoint.)

Once you have setup the domain with your DNS Made Easy service (setting the primary and the secondary hosting locations), your customer is good to go. They will have a bullet proof site from that point on for only $12 a year.

You just have to make sure they aren’t using YOUR hosting services for their primary hosting company. You can monitor this through your traffic logs, of course.

Also, make sure they aren’t using your hosting company as their primary hosting company. This will defeat the purpose if their primary goes down. They should be hosting with a totally different hosting company than you.

At the very least, if you own a website and depend on it for a revenue stream, you should be using the failover method I just described above. It COULD save you thousands of dollars in lost revenue over time.

July 23, 2004

Free Issue of Revenue Magazine

In a previous post, I mentioned a magazine that anyone interested in affiliate programs should read. If you’re interested in getting a free issue of that magazine, Revenue Today, send me your name and mailing address and I’ll get one sent to you for free. I have to receive your request before July 31st, 2004 however. Also, put “Revenue Today” in the subject field to bypass my spam filters.

Here’s the pertinent part of my previous post I’m referring to, regarding the Revenue Today magazine:

If you are an online entrepreneur of ANY kind, you simply MUST subscribe or at least read a new publication out which is all about affiliate marketing and programs. It’s called Revenue Today. I got the first issue the other day and I was floored with how awesome the info in it is. It’s only $25 a year. Get it. Just about every major affiliate program in existence is an advertiser in it. This is where you can get a good list of affiliate programs for your town’s wireless association.

July 21, 2004

Local Service Broker - Keyword Specialist

Google and Overture’s localized keyword programs have created a TON of opportunity for those of us who are even somewhat knowledgeable about the web.

This can be done for a myriad of different industries, but I’ll use auto mechanic as an example.

Call around to all your local mechanic outfits and introduce yourself as a new service that will bring them business. Ask what they specialize in, what their rates are, can you get your customers discounts if you bring them a certain amount of business per month… etc. Just get to know all the options in your local area so when you start your business, you know what’s going on locally with mechanic shops.

Then set up a site that introduces your services as a mechanic broker for your local area. Concentrate on the local PPC (pay per click) keyword matches for auto mechanic and other related terms in Google’s Adwords and Overture’s PPC program.

Your site will be a friendly introduction of your services. You want to sell YOU and YOUR services. Once they trust you, then you can help them find a mechanic that’s just right for their needs (their make of car, their budget… whatever.) Set up a form on your site that asks them pertinent questions regarding their needs. Then YOU will find them the best option for their location and make and model of car.

You get paid per customer you bring to the mechanics. You’ll have discussed how much you get paid for bringing customers to them in advance, of course.

Once you get some traffic, you could sell ancillary products on your site like “how to” stuff for people’s cars, how to buy a car, how to lease a car, loan calculators, car financing stuff. The list is endless.

Heck, you could even offer a valet service where you will arrange to pick up their car at their work and then drop it off again when it’s done. For a fee, of course.

List rental outfits in case they’ll need that. You should have already struck deals with local car rental outfits for bringing them customers as well.

Car wash deals, windshield repair partnerships, auto parts… it’s a wide open idea. All you have to do is get people coming to your site. I can guarantee there’s not much in the way of competition right now. There aren’t many local businesses advertising via the local keywords in the search engines yet. Oh, they may have a glorified, cheaply done, one page site that says their number. But nothing like what you’ll have and you can provide them a conduit to every local mechanic in your area.

You could plop this idea on to a lot of industries. It’s just that the car mechanic world is one where people CRAVE having someone else take care of it for them since they don’t do it very often and don’t usually know of a good place on their own. That, coupled with the fact that most of your local mechanic shops are clueless when it comes to internet marketing and VIOLA! You are the glue that brings those two worlds together.

As usual, when you start making the big bucks using one of my ideas, I’ll expect a nice fat check in the mail. :-)

July 19, 2004

Picture is Worth Thousands & Thousands

I sometimes have what I call “Blog Block.” It occurs when I have so much information and ideas going through my head that I can’t commit to writing about a particular idea and so I don’t blog at all. I have so much to write about but I don’t want to spill it all out at once. Not to mention the time it takes to actually update the blog.
 
Well, anyway, I finally extracted something from the busy highway of thoughts running around in head. :-)
 
All this idea takes is a few hundred bucks to develop a website, a digital camera and some free time.
 
Start in a city with a population of around 15K to 20K. Get a map and start planning your attack. What you’re going to do is walk by each and every home in the town/city and take a picture of every single one. You’ll have to create a form that will allow you to write the street name at the top and then you’ll have a line for each house. Write down the address (just the number, since the street name will be at the top.) Take a picture of the house and write down the number picture it is in the current sequence in your camera, next to the address of the house on your log. That way you know what picture goes with which address on the log.
 
The log will have columns allowing you to mark for each house whether it has a bad yard (that needs maintenance), if it has a satellite dish, if it has bad windows (broken or other visible problems), bad siding perhaps, concrete in the driveway needs replacing, needs a paint job, does it need to be pressure washed, is it being sold “by owner” (real estate agencies can track this and if they are still being “sold by owner” the next round of pictures, they could come to the rescue and offer to list the house), the list of things you can note go on and on. You can even catalog the type of car they are driving or that’s parked at the house. Windshield cracks is a great piece of info. Windshield replacement outfits will pay a pretty penny for that info. Heck, you could make a living JUST off of car windshield information.
 
What you’re doing is creating a picture database of your town to sell to companies interested in marketing to these houses, based on certain criteria. Once you have a picture catalog of your town, you can create a website allowing authorized (paying) individuals to log in and bring up any address and see the house at that address. Or, your customer can sort by the categories that you have visibly checked during your picture taking rounds.
 
This info would be vital to many different businesses. You could sell annual memberships to the site to real estate agencies, yard maintenance outfits, siding companies, satellite dish companies, the cable company, window companies, concrete outfits (to replace the driveway if it’s all chewed up)… the list goes on. I’m sure you can probably think of other industries that could benefit from having visual access to an entire town via one web site.
 
This is a direct example of my belief and mantra that, “He who knows, profits from those that don’t but want to know.”
 
You can even sell different levels of membership. For instance, certain info might be worth more than other info. So, for instance if they want to sort by houses with visibly bad siding (needing replacement) than that will cost them more than if they just want to sort by houses with bad yards. You get the idea.
 
You can picture and catalog about 100 - 150 homes an hour as you get better and better at it. A town of 20K people will have about 10K homes, give or take. You could catalog the entire town in about 10 - 15 days with no problems. Then you can update the entire town once every 180 days (or whatever you think would be necessary based on the feedback of your paying customers.) Once you have the first town, go to a neighboring town and do that one as well. The more towns you have in the local area, the more valuable your database becomes.
 
If you maintained a database of 500,000 homes, updated every 6 months, you could easily take in over $200,000 a year, I’m sure.
 
Think on an even grander scale… become the first outfit to catalog and photograph every house in America and you’ll be one wealthy son of a gun.
 
Coming up in a future post… I’ll tell you a way that you can profit directly from the use of your own database of house pictures. Hint… it has to do with Santa. :-)

July 15, 2004

Get Paid for Soliciting GOP Donations

WARNING! My conservative tendencies will be revealed in spades during this post. If you are a liberal (God love ya) you may want to go find a religious image to ban or a tree to hug, or something else that makes you FEEL good. :-)

Okay… you’re still here. Great. Let’s go.

I just came across an interesting affiliate program. It’s being offered by the RNC (Republican National Committee.) For every donation you get through your website, they’ll pay you 30% of the total. It’s managed by Commission Junction. So you have to sign up as an affiliate with CJ first, then do a seach for the “RNC” program and sign up for it through your affiliate screen in CJ.

I got to thinking about this. Why not go door-to-door in your town? Carry a clipboard and take a poll of everyone you talk to regarding pertinent campaign issues. Then have sticky notes made up that has your own domain on it (forwarded to your affiliate URL) and give these to the people who have given an indication they are Republican. You should of course inform them that their donations will help Bush survive the onslaught by the liberal media, socialist multi-billionaires and Hollywood elites who are trying their darndest to hoodwink our nation’s citizenry into thinking President Bush is the worse thing since Hitler… etc.

You’d be making some cash and at the same time helping President Bush win another term.

You should also get poll data during your door-to-door survey and then offer to sell that information to your local news networks and even to the local chapters of the political parties. The finer your information is on details (by neighborhood, race, income level, own, rent… etc) the more money you’ll be able to command for the information. Just be careful NOT to collect personal data from anyone in your survey.

I think in this hotly contested Presidential race, this could be a part time job that would actually make a good amount of cash for you.

NOTE: Please do not email me regarding my political revelations in this post. I am a staunch conservative Republican and proud of it. I can tolerate your viewpoints (if you’re a liberal) so please tolerate mine (since liberals claim to be so tolerant, that shouldn’t be a problem, right?) I have a passion for this country and what it stands for. It just so happens that the Republican platform (on most issues) furthers and supports the tenants that make our nation great and will perpetuate its greatness on into the future. I will not, under any ciurcumstances, waiver from this position. Asking me to think any different would be like asking me to conclude that water is a solid and up is actually down. It wouldn’t make any sense in this lifetime or in any other. However, I will gladly teach you how your liberal position on most issues are not based on reality and how destructive to our society they can be in many instances. :-)
 
I’m going to start featuring a “tshirt-of-the-post” (TOTP) in my blog posts. Kind of like a “tshirt-of-the-day” but tied to each post instead of day. Duh, right? :-)
 
BTW: Clicking the shirt graphic and purchasing it will assist in my participation of the American dream. So, if you feel so inclined, buy it!  :-)

Today’s TOTP is:

In association with Zazzle.com

Short Run Color Printing Service

Three years ago, right after I launched Great American Collectibles, I signed up for Xerox’s free color printer program. They send you a free color laser printer and all you have to do is print a certain amount of pages each month and buy the ink replacement from them. If you go below your “minimum” usage per month they assess a $100 fee. So, under the worse case scenario, when you’re not using your printer all that much, you pay $100 a month.

I couldn’t have run this operation without that printer. Color printing is essential for this business. The nice part is, after three years, you OWN the printer (which I just passed last month.)

Why not get one of these printers and start a short run printing and mailing operation? So many printing outfits want you to print thousands of whatever you are printing in order to accept your job. If it’s less, it’s REALLY expensive.

Your business could specialize in printing Microsoft Publisher files since Publisher is a very popular design tool for many small businesses. There are a lot of businesses that only want 100 of something printed and perhaps mailed. You could do that for them for much cheaper than they’re going to find at the big printer places. Just tack on a bit extra for mailing it on their behalf.

Then you’d have the added side benefit of having a color laser printer on hand for your own needs, being paid for by your color printing jobs.

You could do up a flyer (on your color laser printer, of course) and bring it around to local businesses, advertising your reasonable short run color printing service. If you’re good at design, you could provide that service as well.

Lots of ways to use this printer to earn money. Or, heck, just get one yourself. Here’s the link again.

July 12, 2004

Affiliate Your Town Folk

Many of my ideas surround the wireless broadband industry since I spend so much of my time thinking about wireless technology.

I recently hit upon a really cool idea.

If you took out an advertisement in your local paper that said something like:

Free Broadband Internet to all [Insert Your Town Here] Residents
Visit www.blahblahblah.com for more info.

Do you think you’d get some traffic to your site?

Taking my town as an example… we have about 14,000 people (that’s what the sign says anyway.) So, I’m guessing that’s about 8000 homes or thereabouts.

If you signed up as an affilite for all the major retail stores out there (I’ll tell you how to do that pretty much all from one place in a bit) you could set up a website that basically explained to your visitors that the goal of your website is to have the major retail outlets pay for your town’s broadband fees.

What?

First, it would be AWESOME if you can get the name of your town in .com or .net or even .org if possible. I own my zip code, actually, which I had planned on doing something else with. (You can see what that previous plan was by visiting at 97070.com.)

Essentially, you spell out your plan on the site. You list all the retailers that you have signed up “the town” (so to speak) as the affiliate for. Each purchase the town members make through the site affiliate links, the revenue goes towards building a wireless network that will feed the entire town wireless broadband for free.

You explain to everyone that all the dollars they are currently spending online can be funneled through the 97070.com (the town’s affiliate account with all the retailers which you maintain) which can be substantial enough to pay for the broadband connection for the entire town. They pay no more than they would normally pay at each of the retailers, it’s just they would funnel the purchase through 97070.com (your site in your case, of course.)

Now, in my town… let’s say I get half the town spending $200 a month (it can EASILY be done since there are a LOT of affiliate programs out there with retailers that people already spend that type of money on each month) through the affiliate site. At an average of 10% affiliate commission, that’s $80,000 a month in commissions. If you have a tight enough community and you get the word out well enough, this is doable.

You set it up so that you have a “goal thermometer” on the site that tracks how close you are to actually launching as you would need to build the funds necessary to launch and make sure it’s sustainable.

Once you get to the point that you can bring in your first T3 or whatever bandwidth you’ll need and reserves to pay for a few months for the slower months, you launch with big fanfair and you could be the first community that has truly free broadband access (not taxpayer funded.) You’d need to build a tower for the antenna and each resident will just have to purchase their own modem and that’s it. Everyone gets free access. Actually WiMax (I wrote about this in a previous post) will make it even easier if your launch happens next year sometime.

Sure, there’s a LOT of planning that would surround such an undertaking, but the concept of a town wide affiliate program funding it isn’t all that difficult. And of course, you’d be the President of the wireless association and you’ll have a salary commensurate and in exchange for your amazing idea and your immense cajones for even venturing forth with an idea like this.

I was even taking it a step further. I thought of building a tourist attraction (tall artificial tree since we’re “Tree City USA”) and incorporating the tower into this structure and then making money for the association from the tourist attraction as well.

So many ideas, so little time. :-)

Oh, I promised to turn you on to a one stop location for the major affiliate programs. If you are an online entrepreneur of ANY kind, you simply MUST subscribe or at least read a new publication out which is all about affiliate marketing and programs. It’s called Revenue Today. I got the first issue the other day and I was floored with how awesome the info in it is. It’s only $25 a year. Get it. Just about every major affiliate program in existence is an advertiser in it. This is where you can get a good list of affiliate programs for your town’s wireless association.

Now, go forth and get wireless.

Update: If you’re interested in getting a free issue of Revenue Today magazine, send me your name and mailing address and I’ll get one for you. It’s got to be before July 31st, 2004 however. Also, put “Revenue Today” in the subject field to bypass my spam filters.

Sync Computers for a Living

I use a small, external hard drive to backup my work computer files to and once a week (in theory) I bring it home to hook it up to my home computer and I download the newly backed up info to my home computer. This way, regardless of which computer goes down, I have the same info in three different locations.

Okay, that being said, I usually ACTUALLY do it once a month.

Backing up computers is the single most important task anyone who relies on their computer can do on a regular basis. But hardly anyone does it.

Well, there’s a service now that will provide the “go between” infrastructure between your home and work computer for a low monthly fee. (Currently $4.95 for a home/work configuration.) The nice thing, it’s all instantaneous and works in the background. You change something on your work computer and it’s automatically changed on your home computer and vice versa. You never have to worry about backing up again.

The service is called FolderShare and it works like a charm.

They don’t currently have an affiliate program but they do have a partnership program where you can sort of private label the service.

So, you could concentrate on the local level. You can bet about 1 in 5 houses (or better) have someone that needs a good backup solution. You can incorporate my post-it note idea and just go door to door advertising your services. For a setup fee of $50 and $6.95 a month, you’ll come to their house and set them up on a back up service never having to worry about backing up their stuff again.

If you have a fat pipe into your house or office, you can even provide the other side of the back up and charge them a little more each month to pay for the hard drive space (it’s really cheap now.)

Let your mind wander over this idea. It has flaws, but so does Paris Hilton and she’s still purdy to look at. :-)

July 10, 2004

Rent-a-Bedroom

As much as it pains me to realize this, I’m not the only biz opp genius in the world. (Ha!)

Here’s one that is sure to get some of you to thinking. But I think the money in this idea is building an online application that can bring all these customers together here in the US. The one linked above is operating in the UK. If you could expand this to a 7 day a week thing and open it to just about anyone who needs a room to sleep in because they’re travelling or whatever. Great concept.

Safety is the only thing that would kill this. If you could navigate around that problem, this is a great idea.

July 7, 2004

Cinema Business Update

I thought you might be interested in a new trend in Europe. It’s automated and cheap, no frills, cinema going. For about $3, you can go to see a movie but you have to book your ticket online and there are no refreshments… etc. It’s all automated.

If these pop up here in the USA, my upscale cinema business is even a better bet to succeed. It makes it even more attractive to those who place a premium on the experience.

Amazon’s Secret Project

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have received some mind-blowing info regarding a major online player. That player is Amazon. I should say this… please don’t go out and blow your life savings on Amazon.com stock based solely on this information as it is NOT confirmed and I have absolutely no direct evidence that it’s true. All I have is third party rumors but from someone I consider pretty reliable.

It seems Amazon (Jeff Bezos) isn’t really in the retail business. They are more into the distribution business… or at least that’s what I gather based on this info I’ve come across.

I think it’s no surprise that Mr. Bezos is putting his wealth to use through investing. Apparently, he’s heavily supporting advances in nanotechnology. You’ll never guess why, though.

Tunnels.

Here’s Bezos’ master plan, as far as I can cobble together. First it’s important to understand the key stumbling block to Amazon’s growth. It’s shipping. If he could have his current low overhead, coupled with the brick and mortar presense of Walmart, he’d be in the position to rule the retail space in the USA.

I guess he is of the opinion that nanotechnology will solve this problem.

Nanotechnology is the ability to make microscopic machines do work for you on a microscopic level. Bezos has people working on microscopic machines with the ability to tunnel in the earth. Not in the traditional sense of tunneling, however. Using nanotechnology, you can feasibly let loose billions of little microscopic machines that have the ability to change the molecular structure of dirt to another substance, one with presumably less mass like a gas of some sort or another. So, in effect, these little machines can carve out a tunnel much cheaper and much faster than using a traditional tunneling machine. I’m not sure about the actual technology and how far his people have advanced it, but I would imagine they could get to the point that they could dig a 6 foot round tunnel perhaps a few miles a day. Whereas with today’s manual tunneling technology, you could probably expect to go 1 mile every couple of months or more.

Once the tunnel is void of dirt by turning the dirt into a benign gaseous state, the gas is just pumped out and a concrete machine can come along behind and seal walls of the tunnel using concrete. Depending on how far along the technology gets by the time the tunneling starts, you could even have nanobots creating cement also.

So, why build tunnels?

Imagine 30 years from now when Amazon has a maze of tunnels criss-crossing America where they can get products the size of couches to any location in the USA from any location within hours at a fraction of the cost of traditional shipping methods.

Is the magnitude of that sinking in yet?

The overall goal would be to completely bypass today’s shipping companies (and the enormous cost that each incur on the bottom line) and have an almost direct conduit to every major location in the USA. They could be the Walmart of the future except with a fraction of Walmart’s overhead. (Maintaining 4500 warehouses and millions of employees all over the US is a monumental hit on the bottom line.)

Their long term goal is to have centrally located automated “hubs” where you can pickup your merchandise at your own convenience. Let’s say you order a 40″ flat screen TV from their website at 9am. By the time you get off work, your TV will be waiting for you to pick up at the Amazon hub in your town. Let’s say for this example that all of their TVs are located at their Kansas master facility and you live in Portland, OR. When your order came in, their system would have immediately sent a pick ticket to the Kansas facility where it would automatically be placed on a conveyor belt where it would be taken to the Kansas facility’s tunnel staging area and placed in a pod along with all the other items that are going to Portland, OR for that hour (each location would have specific departure frequencies based on how many items were going there in one day.) The pod would then be loaded (completely automated) and sent down the tunnel to Portland, OR. Moving along at about 300 to 500 mph under the earth from Kansas to Portland, it would arrive in plenty of time for you to pick it up after work and for pretty much NO shipping costs to you.

The Portland tunnel would take all inbound pods to the Portland customer hub, directly. This hub would be completely automated. You go into the facility and type in your customer number and the delivery code that was given to you when you ordered your products and within a minute your TV would come rolling up to you via their automation system. There would be someone there to monitor everything, but for the most part, it’s all automated.

Having only 5 or 10 master facilities spread across the USA would allow Amazon to deliver products to the end consumer cheaper than any other retailer on earth. Because they don’t have to ship the same product to 5000 stores, only to then be inventoried there in hopes that someone buys it all, they can more easily carry just about ANY product.

Stop and think about that. They could essentially carry ANY and all company’s products. Because they could scale up or down depending on the demand. They could extend their “advantage” program (program for small publishers to list their titles on Amazon.com) to ANY item. Say you’re a small business and you want them to carry your custom blankets. You sign up for their all product advantage program and VIOLA, your blankets are listed on their website in a matter of hours. You then promote the hell out of them.

So, let’s say they get an order for 3 blankets, their system sends an automated message to you ordering 3 blankets. You then send the blankets to their master facility that handles blankets. As soon as they hit the facility, they are sent to the appropriate pod staging area depending on the location each is going to and within hours of the blankets being received in their warehouse, the blankets are at their final destination.

They could even configure their local hubs to take IN products from suppliers, bypassing the traditional shippers to AND from their master facilities. So, using the above example. If you, the blanket supplier got an order for 3 blankets from Amazon, you’d go to the local Amazon hub and send the 3 blankets by scanning the label they sent you via email when they ordered the 3 blankets from you, and put them on the conveyor belt separately (each packaged separately.) They would immediately be placed on the next pod going to the master facility that handles blankets. As soon as they hit that facility, they would immediately be redirected to the appropriate pod and sent to the final destination. So, from the time YOU sent it to Amazon to the time it hits the customer, it could be the same day and for a fraction of the cost it would have been using today’s shipping methods.

Bottom line… they would not only OWN the entire supply and distribution chain they would be able to operate it at a fraction the cost of anyone else on earth.

Customer gets their product almost instantly (same day) for a lower price tag (no shipping cost worries) and only one company has your credit card data. It could get to the point that you won’t even buy any of your regular everyday things from anyone else but Amazon because of the security and convenience.

If this system sees the light of the day, Walmart is toast as it stands today. Why would a supplier give Walmart their exclusive business when they could reach even MORE customers and get a better margin AND still have their product priced lower than the price Walmart could charge the end consumer?

Wow!

July 6, 2004

Eulogy Moments

So much of our lives are lived within the relative safety of risk-free decision making. By and large, we hold a 9 to 5 job which assures us a paycheck every two weeks and some sort of health insurance. We have a barbecue now and again. Essentially, we live a safe yet boring life.

Let’s say you were to die tomorrow. Take a few minutes to think what someone close to you might say at your eulogy.

Are there any good “stories” you’ve given any one who might want to share with people that give an indicator of just what type of person you were?

I’m not saying we should do things in our lives just so someone can have a good story for our eulogy… but it just so happens the events in our lives that make good eulogy stories are what makes our lives interesting while we’re living.

We went to the beach over the 4th and on the way home, without even asking the wife, I just stopped along side the road and said, “let’s go down to that river.” So, my wife, my 2.5 year old and I went down to the river. We’ve never done such a thing during any of our previous trips to or from the beach. (There’s a small mountain range between us and the beach which has big trees and great rivers… such is life in beautiful Oregon.) We had a great time… didn’t take us very long to go down and wade into the river and my daughter had a blast since I let her walk around in the water with her favorite sandals on.

It’s the little unexpected things in life that makes the memories. If you live only by what’s planned, you are missing out on something. Plans are good and necessary at times, but plan to do the unplanned sometimes and you’re life becomes a little bit more memorable and eulogy ready.

That night, when I was putting Haley to bed after reading her some stories, she started to recount her day to me in the cute way she does at this stage in her language development. There was a short mention of the beach and some of the things we did there but when the side trip to the river came up, she mentioned going into the river with her sandals on and got this BIIIIIGGGG grin on her face and just lit up at the memory of it. We spent a good 8 hours at the beach and only 15 minutes at the river.

Are you creating eulogy moments in your life and more to the point of this blog… in your business life? When people remember you at the funeral, they don’t tend to remember what you did that other people do (9 to 5 job, come home, watch tv, eat, sleep…etc.) They remember those things that you did that hardly anyone has done. In other words… the remarkable things you’ve done.

It was small, but the river trip was remarkable in my daughter’ eyes. It’s actually my life’s ambition to seek the remarkable event or outcome in every aspect of my life.

As an entrepreneur, it should be at least your professional goal as well.

Coming soon… I’ve got a VERY exciting post coming up. I know someone on the inside at a very popular online company and he’s sharing with me some news that’s going to knock the socks off the general public when it becomes common knowledge. Of course, the company is probably going to have a coniption when they see that it’s been leaked. But you only live once. Of course, they’ll deny it as well. It’s a long term project so won’t be released officially for a long time. But you’ll have read it here first. Stay tuned…