Two of my students (both business majors) are interested in taking up glass blowing after they graduate. Of course, being business-minded, they are interested in potentially starting glass blowing businesses. Since I am the resident expert in micro-entrepreneurship, the mission is falling on my shoulders to determine what may be necessary for these two individuals to become self-employed glass blowers.
What questions come to mind? I am asking you and you can respond to this blog – but I can tell you that the first thing that came to my mind (not knowing a thing about glass blowing) is whether or not this would be profitable. Since artistic glass blowing is really a micro-entrepreneur occupation, the next question is how many pieces would have to be blown in a week to produce a decent salary. How many people in our area are glass blowers? Is there a market for hand-blown glass stuff? How do we reach that market? What start-up costs are involved? Is this a high-risk venture?
It is important to understand in determining the feasibility of an idea, that each start-up is unique. No two sets of answers will be alike. Breeding cats, planning weddings, organizing closets, and glass blowing are all great micro-biz ideas. The trick is to really dig into the details of the potential venture and to take an objective look at what is involved to make a living at it. This is especially difficult for a person who (for example) loves glass blowing. It is easy to do what you love, but making a living out of it takes some thought and advance planning. Let’s move through the process.
The first thing I did was to attend a glass-blowing demonstration. I was there for all of 15 minutes and saw an accomplished artist produce two extremely impressive glass pieces. A beautiful vase and a wine glass. I wanted to get a sense of the atmosphere and the equipment necessary. I took some pictures. The most impressive piece of equipment was a huge kiln that I figured must be cost-prohibitive for a start-up with no financing. Financing is expensive and smart micro-entrepreneurs prefer to “bootstrap” themselves into a business. The kiln and an appropriate location for such an operation were immediate red flags. Also of concern was the ventilation and safety – perhaps liability – of a glass-blowing operation.
Do people really make a living at blowing glass? As it turns out, yes. And there is lots of money to be made if done well. How do I know? I “Googled” glass blowing (yes Google is a verb). As it turns out, there is a glass blowing studio in the area and it looks successful. Small pieces are selling for between $20 and $30 each and the operation also offers lessons and tours. There is a retail space and the shop is on a nice street in a very artsy little town right near one of the largest tourist destinations in the mid-Atlantic region. This is good news. From New Jersey to Baltimore, there are only a handful of similar operations so it looks like a decent idea. It also looks like there is room in the market for new glass-blowers. However, a store-front with foot traffic is expensive as is liability insurance for glass-blowing classes and foot tours. So the profitability could be a concern.
Another Google produced a list of items needed to start a modest business including a kiln (which is apparently not necessary). Ventilation, zoning and insurance were also discussed in this forum. As it turns out, a kiln is only a “couple of thousand dollars” – not exactly bootstrapping pocket change for a college student – but less than I expected. The consensus among those participating in this online conversation is that a full studio would set up would cost about $5,000 – or less if the equipment was purchased used (which is a thing). Now that we know what the equipment might cost, it is time to determine the overhead necessary to generate the income required. Stay tuned as we move through the process. I will do more detective work and report back in another “glass-blowing” blog.
Even though the new workshop is designed to get a micro biz up and running in about 4 weeks, there are multiple things necessary to make this happen. One is promoting your new little company and planning a launch. At this point, you might want to purchase and read The $100 Start Up by @chrisguillebeau – especially the part about the launch. There are other good books, but I like this one because it is inspirational and that is really half the battle in starting up a micro company. At any rate, there comes a time when you have to move beyond the actual “start up” activities and move into the marketing and promotion of the project, and this happens BEFORE the actual launch date. So while you are finishing the website, setting up social media, finalizing your product details, getting your shopping cart ready (if necessary), you have to actually start doing the work of bringing customers in.
This is a juggling act. So set aside about 30 minutes each and every day to promote your business (mostly online) and see if you can get some traffic moving in.
KEEP IN MIND – If you are reading this… this start-up is due to launch on April 1 (no kidding), and I started the set up on January 1. I just finished hooking up social media outlets to the website (which was built over the last couple of weeks). You are reading this blog because the social media campaign started today. You can track progress from here forward – and new startups are coming on board, so you can get caught up on all the exciting activities required to start a micro biz from the ground up.
Cheers! – Salut! – Viva! – Slainte! – Prost!
In our experience there are two types of micro-entrepreneurs. Lots of micro-entrepreneurs already have a product or service in mind. In many cases they have been providing a service or making a product for a while. It might be a hobby – something they just love to do. Maybe they’re talented and some respect and feel like making money at it would be wonderful. If you have family and friends that are telling you that you have a “great idea” or that “you could really make some money at this”, chances are you have what it takes to be a successful micro-entrepreneur. These types of micro-entrepreneurs have been thinking about going into business for quite some time – but they have been reluctant to jump into owning a business. Others have no idea how to really get started. Global Training Foundation welcomes you. But you are not why we built this program.
We built the micro-entrepreneurship program for individuals who need an additional income or just can’t get a job outside the home (for whatever reason). We started with the flagship resume-building course, serving transitioning veterans – but we quickly realized that not every person can actually get a job that wants one. We found that many returning veterans couldn’t hold down a full time job due to a physical, mental or emotional disability. In some cases, their hometown just didn’t have jobs available and relocating wasn’t an option. For these folks – and lots of others, making a living means carving out an occupation from the strength and resources that come from within oneself. Micro-entrepreneurship doesn’t require lots of money – but it requires lots of time and effort. You don’t have to be super smart, but you have to be dedicated, enthusiastic and motivated. You don’t need a great education – but you do need to be able to communicate effectively with your market and explain your value proposition. This value comes from within the micro-entrepreneur – what he or she produces – and the value those products and services bring to the lives of others.
Two of our new Micro-Entrepreneurs are interested in taking their knowledge and providing training – online – in an on-demand format. Of course, we love this because – at Global Training Foundation and CenterPointe this is what we do. But it is interesting that both of these individuals have all the content planned out and they are already forming a marketing plan. The actual construction of a course that has value is a different subject altogether, and one that is spurring us on to build a new course “eLearning for Revenue – How to Get Started”. On online course needs to be produced like any other product. Building an online course is like writing a good book and takes just as much work! It is packed full of great information and presented in an interactive format.
Here is the rub on this subject. Anyone can pick up a book and do something. In fact, most skills these days can be learned for free over the Internet. For someone that has the time and motivation there is information available to get you started and on your way to a new hobby, business or renovation project. However, an online course, actually leads you through the project and guarantees your outcomes (if you stick with the course). Whatever the “learning objectives” are for your course, the outcome should be proven at the end. There also must be evidence of these outcomes have been achieved. So if making money while you sleep is a goal, putting together an interactive online course is a great idea, but it will require some work!
In addition to building an online, on-demand course, what are some other ideas that will potentially make you money while you sleep? Here are some answers:
- Anything that can be downloaded. WooCommerce has an automatic download feature that will release a software, book or application download immediately after payment. Slick!
- Books and other publications.
- Affiliation programs – if there is traffic to your website.
- Any other ideas?
We will see if we can get a twitter feed going #makemoneywhileyousleep
For anyone reading this – I certainly wish I could start at the beginning, but I just hooked up social media to the new website www.micro-entrepreneurship.com yesterday, after building the site in WordPress (which was new for me because my previous sites were in Joomla!). I have more new micro-companies coming on board next month, and three more in the works right now, so there will be plenty of blog material concerning what has been going on in the last few weeks – but yesterday was “shopping cart day”. (Think of shark attack music here).
Because the new sites (all of them) will be set up in WordPress, I figured it would be good to learn to set up WooCommerce. It is free and works “great” with WP. In truth, I really don’t even need a shopping cart for a handful of training programs, and a PayPal button has always been just fine for donations to Global Training Foundation. My consulting company takes checks. But NO! This adventure is all about starting a new company in 4 weeks, and we don’t want to skimp on the shopping cart just to prove we can get a company running in record time.
You certainly don’t want a minute-by minute account of this project. If you want to waste a ton of time, start Googling “product pictures”, “cart not showing up”, “cart not advancing” along with “WooCommerce” and you can waste time looking for answers like I did yesterday. I reloaded themes, set up subdomains, adventured into CSS – where I should not have to go. Frustrated and stressed out, I set up new domains and tried Magento, Prestashop, ad Zencart before trying OpenCart. The only feature us micro-entrepreneurs need is the ability to set something up ourselves and keep it running smoothly without hiring someone to do it. OpenCart fit the bill. At about 1am, I got the trial and workshop training set up – all this for two products and ONE IS FREE!
Today and until the soft launch on April 1 (no kidding), I am focusing on the product – finalizing the content for the course and setting it up in the learning center at a rate of one module per day. I plan to open the workshop for viewing and testing by anyone who will provide constructive feedback.
I am going to write another short piece about the perils of working from home – while working for yourself.
Cheers! – Salut! – Viva! – Slainte! – Prost!