By Valerie Young
I take what you might call a more organic approach to organizing. The good thing about being “filing flexible” is that putting together this week’s list of unique ways to make a living without a job meant looking no farther than the foot high pile of newspaper and magazine clippings on my office floor.
But here’s the fascinating part. Despite grabbing a dozen clips, I only got as far as the first one. That’s because when you are an “Opportunity Analyst” like I am, one opportunity invariably leads to another. This is especially true when you start tuning into trends because they are ripe with profitable ideas. Let me show you what I mean.
At the very top of the pile was a section of The Old Farmer’s 2007 Almanac called Tastes & Trends 2007. One such trend to watch for is what are called “ethical wills.” According to an unnamed survey, to some benefactors, gifts such as morality, faith, and religion are more important than money. “Think of it as a love letter to family and friends,” says author of Healthy Aging Andrew Weil. “This makes you take stock of your life experiences and distill from it the values and wisdom that you have gained.”
The editors at the Old Farmer’s Almanac instruct us to watch for Web sites, books, and consultants to teach us how to create ethical wills. They were right. A quick Internet search led me to EthicalWill.com. It was there that I found a listing by state of professionals and organizations using ethical wills.
A few more clicks and I discovered that in nearby Longmeadow, Massachusetts, attorney and personal historian Marian C. Broder of Memories Recorded has created multiple income streams around ethical wills. In addition to leading “workshops on writing ethical wills, transmitting values and telling family stories for community centers, synagogues, book clubs, libraries, support groups and individuals,” Marian also “works with individuals to craft statements that can be presented at life events and works with parents to draft documents of values and beliefs for children’s guardians to accompany estate documents.”
Then there is documentary film maker Carlyn Saltman of YourStoryMatters.com. Carlyn lives and works in the even more nearby village of Turner’s Falls. This fascinating woman combined her training as a holistic counselor, hospice volunteer, and award-winning documentary filmmaker to help clients create ethical wills on Video, DVD, paper, or all three. As interesting as I found the idea of videotaping an individual’s ethical will, I was even more intrigued to discover that Carlyn has also tapped another huge trend – pets.
For Carlyn, producing pet videos was a natural outgrowth of videotaping people. She explains that, “pets usually get into the act in the course of filming a memoir or portrait documentary of their humans. They are family members, too, and they usually know it. Sometimes their unconditional love enriches our lives as much as our human relationships do. So it’s no wonder that beloved pets are popular subjects in their own right.” This is yet another great example of one income stream very naturally leading to another.
Then literally on the same Old Farmer’s Almanac page as the ethical will piece was a finding about cat lovers. If you happen to be a cat lover seeking to change course though, this finding equals opportunity. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, not only do five percent of cat owners hold birthday parties for their cats, cat owners also splurge more on gifts than dog or other pet owners spending on average $30 per year. Imagine offering cat or dog birthday packages in your area complete with sirloin cake, hats, pet photo sessions, and party favors!
And talk about trends! A quick hop over to the Association’s site (APPMA.org) led me to a much longer list of pet related trends and statistics. The information aspiring entrepreneurs will perhaps find most interesting is the 2010 Pet Products Trend Report. Now I already knew that Entrepreneur magazine had designated pet owners as one of the top 10 markets. But I had no idea that big name companies like Paul Mitchell, Omaha Steaks, Origins, Harley Davidson and Old Navy are now offering lines of pet products ranging from dog shampoo, pet attire, and name-brand toys to gourmet treats and food.
Another more well-known trend is for big chain hotels to promote themselves as pet-friendly. In addition to pet pillows, plush doggie robes, check-in gift packages that include a pet toy, dog treat, ID tag, bone and turn down treat, some higher end hotels even have a licensed dog masseuse on staff.
So where’s the opportunity for the pet-loving entrepreneur? My guess is that a lot of the smaller chains, independently-owned hotel and motels, and Bed & Breakfasts would like to be pet-friendly but don’t want to go to the fuss of pulling it all together. So, why not create a pet-welcome package where you provide the hotel owners with all the necessary products? Throw in a dog walking service or doggie-care package so guests can go out on the town without worrying about a barking Fido back in the room, and you’ll really distinguish yourself from the competition!
But I’m not done yet. The Opportunity Analyst in me definitely perked up when I saw that film maker Carlyn Saltman has wisely seized another opportunity – teaching what you know. Much to the displeasure of financial planners and realtors, baby boomers are avid do-it-yourselfers. So for people who have video skills and equipment and want to complete a personal history project of their own, Carlyn will set up a schedule of telephone and/or in person consultations to guide them through what she says can be a daunting undertaking. Even if you are just starting out in your business, make the addition of teaching others what you know a part of your longer range income stream plan.
Finding interesting and profitable ways to make a living doing what you love is easier than you think. All that is required is an inquisitive mind, the willingness to be open to the ways that one opportunity may lead to another, and faith to act on a good opportunity when you see one.