What do you need?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Sedition, May 16, 2005.

  1. Sedition

    Sedition Well-Known Member

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    As part of some graduate research, I am developing and writing four business proposals. Three of these proposals are well defined businesses based on my work experience: a risk management software package for small banks, a consulting and franchise firm focused on providing customized systems to niche markets, and a equity investing, analysis and wealth management website. I should point out that these are academic, not real businesses.

    For the last one, I want to write a proposal for a business that supports, supplies and encourages a homesteading lifestyle. This is also the area where I have the least experience, as although I homestead, few of my day to day contacts in the business world are do.

    So, I thought that I would ask. What do you need for you or your homestead? Not what do you want. I want a tractor and a big porch, but I don’t need these, I need to pay for propane and groceries on time without incurring debt. So some income and credit management advice would be a “need” for me.

    What services do you get today that you are not happy with? What do you have difficulty finding that you use all the time?

    Here are some ideas of my own.

    1. Training. There are some survival schools and historical societies that teach you homesteading skills out there. What should the first class in “Homesteading 101” at Homestead U. need to teach?
    2. Insurance. Hundreds of companies sell all kinds of insurance, but it is hard to get for a homestead. Would it be nice if there was one phone number to call that could find the most affordable quotes for Home, Life, Health, and Auto coverage – for people that live out in the sticks?
    3. Likewise, financial management, credit counseling and wealth management services for homesteaders. The typical “suit” doesn’t seem to understand the frugal nature of homesteaders, and their advices can be way-off. Like, “Home equity loans are good debt son! Use these to buy your car.” Instead of just paying cash for a good quality, but hail dinged vehicle.
    4. A website with goods and supplies. There are lots of these out there, but why are most of them so darn expensive! Lehmans is a candy store, but everything costs 2x or more what I can ebay it for. Homesteaders are inherently cheap, darn it!

    These are just what I can think of, because I’m a money expert. What else do you have trouble with? Land and homestead location comes to mind, meeting singles is noted here at homesteadingtoday. All of these things are handled by other companies right now, but I don’t know how well they are.

    What service can you NOT easily find, or not being handled good enough for you?
     
  2. Chas in Me

    Chas in Me Well-Known Member

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    Training in the use of chemicals, including pesticides and fungicides. Hands on or book learning would be helpful.
     

  3. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Marketing for home grown products. It would be nice to go to someone and say, "I'm growing xxxxx, how do I market it profitably?" and have the person know how to market it locally, with connections, or via the internet, etc.
     
  4. Sedition

    Sedition Well-Known Member

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    Outlets for niche product sales were one of the things I was thinking about last night. It is easy to find an outlet if you are a big operation. There are literally thousands of “grocery brokers” across America, several in each mid sized city. But I don’t know of anybody that focuses on just the small scale artisan products. If you have a lot of product, you can just call one of these brokers and they will buy it from you if the quality, quantity and demand is high enough (typically 1 pallet, approx 10 bu for veggies, 3-boxes or 120 lbs for cheese or meat).

    There are two ways I know to resell customers. One solution is to apply the reseller modeler. Another is to provide a consulting service directly to the niche marketer for developing their own sales model. The third route is “direct marketing”, truck gardening, farmer’s markets or selling “out of the field”.

    Reselling is simple, and not a great deal to the niche producer. Say you produce goat cheese for example. The reseller will ask you, “how much can you produce?” They will then start contacting restaurants, whole-food stores, and other outlets. They ask for a free sample for each potential customer, typically 40 lbs to prove you can deliver. They will then negotiate a price on both sides of the fence, with a goal to give themselves about a 100% mark-up. So if the customer agrees to buy for $4 a lb, they will ask for you to sell at $2 a lb. The reseller then manages the relationship and renegotiates supply, quality and prices.

    Another solution costs the producer more at the outset, this is the consulting route. This is working with the producer to give them the tools to find their own marketing outlets. This has positives and negatives, as it costs the producer a lot up-front ($100 an hour and probably 40 to 120 hours minimum to build a plan). Then it makes the producer do all the work that they are not good at! Cold-calling, marketing, and negotiating contracts. In the end, the producer gets to keep the margin, so they sell at $4 a lb, and keep all of it.

    What is best of the niche producer, is if they could have both worlds. Can they get a service that finds customers and manages the customer relationship, does not charge them up-front, and lets them keep most of the mark-up?

    As I thought about this, I came up with an idea from my database modeling experience. Why not use customizable tools?

    A marketing plan is really basic at it’s core. What matters is the details. One business opportunity here is to sell the niche producer a “scalable service”, that lets the producer pick exactly how involved they want to be in marketing their product. If they know 10 good customers, but don’t want to deal with the legal part – the can make the contacts, but the service will negotiate and customize the servicing contracts and prices for a smaller percentage or a flat fee.
     
  5. Sedition

    Sedition Well-Known Member

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    Chas in ME.

    Try your local Extension office or Department of Natural Resources. They provide this kind of training for free. Your local ag-service may also provide training for a fee.

    That does point out a business opportunity. What about a nice, annotated web-FAQ for these kind of questions. My homesteading library has a thousand books, from Carla’s bible – The Encyclopedia of Country Living, to almost every Storey publication. But what is the market for the Homesteading version of the Encarta CD?