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Changing Course Newsletter!

Time to Break Out of the Job Box: Readers Share Cool Ideas for Turning Your Everyday Interests Into Money-Making Small Businesses




By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 207 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

Part 2 of a 2 Part Series

(Catch up on Part 1)

There is no limit to the ways you can make money doing something you love. All you need is an idea combined with action. If you haven’t yet come up with an idea, or need the inspiration to act on the one you already have… read on.

In part one of this article, I told you about the “Opportunity Detective” contest I held in April. It was a way for aspiring entrepreneurs to compete for a free spot in my Outside the Job Box Career Coach Training Program. Contestants were asked to submit 10 unique small business ideas as well as how they would use the training they would receive to make a difference. All told, we received well over 200 very cool ideas!

Here are just a few of the many fascinating ideas submitted as well as some lessons from me on how you too can break out of the job box to become your own boss.

The Green Theme

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an insatiable recycler. As far back as 1989, I was one of those people who was forever picking cans and newspapers out of my co-workers’ wastebaskets and dragging the stuff home to recycle. Now that the new U.S. administration is emphasizing the environmental and economic benefits of going green, more and more people and companies are getting into the green theme.

No surprise then that a significant number of Opportunity Detective contestants cited opportunities for green-minded entrepreneurs. For example, Erika Harris at came up with the idea to start a business as a Green Law Firm Consultant. “Law firms waste so much paper!” says Erika. A Green Consultant would “educate attorneys and staff about the benefits of digitized documents; encourage them to sponsor tree-planting; and inform them of incentive tax breaks for doing so.”

Another creative contestant named Olivia turned me on to the green coupon business called The Green Zebra. The company, she says, was conceived by two long-time friends who were looking to embrace a lifestyle that promoted the health of their families, community, and planet. Proof that great minds really do think alike, Raghu also submitted the same idea pointing out that anyone anywhere can “publish and sell a phone directory/Internet directory or coupon book of all the green business in your city thus encouraging people to patronize local green businesses.” If you like this idea, look around your area. If nothing like this exists, then be the first!

Creative entrepreneurs also look for ways to combine two or more passions – for example, dancing and counseling or yoga, knitting, and travel (yes there are actually businesses that combine these types of diverse passions). One of Raghu’s other ideas is to combine the green theme with travel. What if, he says, you “organize offbeat, unique and exotic tours? These could be local, regional, national or even international depending on your tastes, passions, interests and expertise in a field. For example you can organize tours of organic wineries to wine enthusiasts who like organic or tours of green businesses and green factories to small investors who want to invest in green businesses or who want to get ideas….” Clearly a guy who understands the power of multiple income streams he adds, “You can make money from other areas too like selling them books, DVDs, training etc.”

The Parent Theme

Among other enterprising ideas, Alicia suggested three businesses that center in some way on parents or teens. The first one she calls “Been There Done That” which she describes as a “by parents for parents” website specifically for parents of teenagers 13+. Alicia envisions it as a place where parents can go to share their experiences, offer suggestions, comments and advice. The key to making this idea work is to find a way to monetize it. You could for example, sell ad space to companies interested in selling to the parents.

Another idea she calls, “Mommy Dreams.” This one she said could be geared toward Moms who have put their passion on hold. She’s envisioning it as a website and Webinar series to help Moms find their dreams again. Alicia’s second idea she calls, “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.” This one involves offering “seminars, workshops, and a website to present all the different kinds of vocations, careers and jobs available to students throughout their high school years to help them follow their natural path/talent/gift after graduation.”

More on the Teen Theme

In part one of this article, you learned about some really creative business ideas. Many of them had to do with turning a problem into an opportunity – a key skill for anyone who wants to think outside of the job box! There was also a lengthy list of businesses that in one way or another had to do with teenagers. Some, like RenegadeCEOS supports and trains entrepreneurial teens. Others featured teen-run businesses like 16 year-old student entrepreneur Eric Forkosh’s hand-held Bus Alert that uses radio signals to alert him when the school bus is coming.

The teen theme obviously sparked a lot of interest, because since then I’ve heard from others who are combining their passion for teens with their passion for entrepreneurship, like fellow Changing Course reader Nicki Sanders. Nicki wrote to say she’d changed course to realize her dream as the Chief Visionary Officer at The Teen Toolbox, LLC. The organization provides youth with life skills programs and activities that enhance the strengths and experiences of teenagers and empower them to take charge of their lives and develop into their potential. In addition to learning about workshops and mentoring opportunities for teens, you can nominate a teen who is making a difference in the world for the Teen Toolbox Spotlight Teen of the Month.

I vote for Karen Washington Heck’s 13 year old niece Mariah! Mariah is President of a new enterprise that’s all about getting teens involved in activities related to entrepreneurship and volunteering. At this point, she and her girl pals have set up a leadership team with co-Vice Presidents Whitney and Alicia, Secretary Kenya, Healthy Foods Advisor Anaya, and (in a fabulous act of faith), Addie has already stepped up to be the Fan Club Leader! The site is very much in development, but once the girls are a little farther along, I’ll include a link so you can see what they’re up to.

Aunt Karen is the power behind Give Yourself Power. Karen knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity to pursue a dream. After her doctor gave her six months to live, she overcame her prognosis, and her fears. “In that six months of hanging in life-or-death limbo,” says the retired United States Air Force sergeant, “I realized I deserved to do something that would allow me to take care of myself and love what I do. Even before she completed the Outside the Job Box Career Coach Training Program, Karen and her family encouraged her niece and nephews to consider becoming entrepreneurs. Mariah and all the other girls there at the soon-to-be corporate headquarters, are shining examples of what can come from a little encouragement!

From Idea to Action

The thing about ideas is that unless you take action, it’s just all wishful thinking. One reason people get stuck is they don’t know where to begin. Let’s say you love Raghu’s idea about running tours for example. For starters, if you’re going to be an entrepreneur, then you need to be a proactive problem solver too. To me a problem is like an interesting puzzle. Instead of saying, “Oh dear, I just don’t know where to begin,” try putting on your Opportunity Detective hat and thinking, “Hmmm… interesting problem. Now if I was the answer, where would I be hiding?”

What you’ll find is that most solutions are hiding in plain sight. Like — if you want to start a business then learn from someone who has already figured it all out for you.

Travel maven Cynthia Morris has put together an outstanding guide on how to lead tours for run and profit. This comprehensive manual covers all the steps necessary to design, market, and lead tours locally or abroad. I’ve read this guide and for an incredibly small investment I can personally guarantee that you save considerable time and money you would have wasted trying to figure it all out yourself. Best of all, you could be running your first tour in a matter of months! (If, Cynthia’s name sounds familiar she’s one of the guest speakers on the Making Dreams Happen audio program with Barbara Sher, Barbara Winter, and me).

You can use the same strategy to start your own green coupon business. Since Green Zebra is already doing this in San Francisco why re-invent the wheel? If this – or any business idea – interests you then find someone who is already doing it and learn from them. Or, go one step farther. If, for example, Green Zebra hasn’t already thought about licensing their model to people in other locations then why not approach them to see if they’d be interested? Heck, if you are an organized, can-do kind of person you could even promote yourself as the person who can help them pull the whole endeavor together… for a fee that is.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.” If you need help finding ways you can turn your own interests into income then consider hiring a career coach who specializes in working with people like you who want to do their own thing. Visit and schedule an appointment with a trained Outside the Job Box Career Coach today!

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