Here are six ways you can be your own boss this summer:
1. Go where it's hot, and help people keep cool
There are plenty of public places that don't have snack bars, and even the convenience store's just not convenient enough. Bottled water, sports drinks, visors, cheap sunglasses, and battery-powered fans will sell anywhere there's sun. Try parks, the beach, baseball practice field, or even a busy street corner near popular summer destinations.
What you'll need: Transportation, a decent cooler (28 quart or larger), four bags of ice, two cases of bottled water, two cases of sports drinks, a half-dozen sunglasses, a half-dozen visors, and a half-dozen battery-powered fans.
Estimated startup cost: Under $100. Buy the sunglasses, visors, and fans at your local dollar store for starters.
How much you can make: Even buying at retail prices, you should be able to charge double or triple your cost, or even more for the bottled water. At a good location, you should be able sell out every few hours, which comes out to $15-$30 per hour.
How to grow: Once you've figured out which products are moving best, you can order them wholesale at a fraction of the cost.
Things to watch out for: Check into your local sales tax requirements. Also, permits may be required at beaches, parks, and other public areas.
Best web resource: Wholesale411.com Largest directory of wholesale general merchandise vendors on the Web.
2. Lawn and yard care
People who care for their own yard the rest of the year may not want to keep up with it in the summer, when it needs to be mowed every 1-2 weeks (at least where I live). And full-time professional yard maintenance services want to set up regular contracts. Offer a low price and don't try to push the ongoing contracts. Be opportunistic. Drive through neighborhoods looking for yards that need mowing and leave a flyer. It's hard work, but decent money if you control your costs.
What you'll need: A heavy-duty self-propelled mower, an edger/trimmer, blower, hedge clippers, a gas can, and something to transport them all in.
Estimated startup cost: $1,000 new, $500 used, or you can rent the equipment you need for about $100 a day to get you started.
How much you can make: About $25-$40 per yard, on average. It will take a couple of dollars of gas per yard, and figure another dollar or so for trimmer line, mower blades, etc. If you don't have too much travel time, you should be able to do each yard in less than an hour.
How to grow: Own the equipment. Hire a friend to help. Offer additional services, such as weeding, planting, landscaping, etc.
Things to watch out for: Equipment maintenance can eat up all your profits very quickly. Keep it well-oiled, clean, and sharp. Also, don't chintz on the equipment. The right equipment will allow you to work twice as fast. The wrong equipment will make some yards impossible.
Best web resource: LawnServicing.com Lots of books and other things for sale, but a great collection of free resources, too.
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