In these tough times, many small business owners have to work somewhere else to support their venture. In most cases, they use similar skills to generate additional income. For instance, Cori Giacomazzi, owner of Wandering Wardrobe, a tiny vintage shop in Skagway, Alaska works part-time as the costume curator for the brothel museum inside the Red Onion Saloon.
A skilled seamstress and fashion designer, Giacomazzi restores original pieces and recreates the antique corsets and gaudy dresses worn by “working girls” in the 1800s. Tour guides who show visitors around the museum wear her replica costumes. “I love what I do at the museum, but here [at the shop] I get to create what I want,” said Giacomazzi, who has a degree in textile design from the University of Alberta.
Hollywood actor Mark Cross, teaches cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) between acting and voice-over gigs.
“It works because I’m an actor who wants to inspire and educate people,” said Cross, who teaches classes mostly at small businesses. “Most business owners don’t know that if you have 10 or more employees, OSHA (the federal occupational health and safety agency) requires at least 10 percent of your staff to be trained in CPR.”
Cross, who has taught CPR to about 2,000 people, charges $525 for up to a dozen employees to attend a four and a half-hour class. He said his biggest challenge is overcoming his students’ fears about getting sued or sick if they try to save a life. “I talk about the Good Samaritan law, which protects anyone trying to save a life from being sued,” said Cross. “I also suggest they wear latex gloves and safety glasses to avoid blood spurting into their eyes.”
Teaching CPR in Southern California provides Cross with the flexible schedule he needs to attend auditions, rehearsals and perform in the evenings at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, among other venues. “There’s a little bit of juggling back and forth between my teaching and my acting, but it works.”
Across the country, Steve Fulton works as a freelance mechanical engineer to supplement income from his Blue Ox organic farm in Enfield, New Hampshire. “I’m still doing engineering projects and enjoying them, but I prefer being outside,” said Fulton, who holds about six patents on a variety of machines. “There is a lot more immediate gratification and feedback from farming compared with engineering projects.”
This past summer, he grew about 30 different vegetables on 10 acres, including lettuce, squash, tomatoes and eggplant. Fulton sells everything he grows to local grocery stores. His first cash crop was soybeans which he started cultivating in 2002. Although he is a successful organic farmer, he still can’t support himself by farming alone.
“Last year, I made some money farming, but it’s definitely not paying all the bills,” said Fulton. “I wish I had known how slim the (profit) margins would be. Still, selling vegetables does cover the farm expenses.”
Unlike engineering, which is detailed and precise, farming is totally unpredictable. “The weather is a huge factor,” said Fulton. “Most of my land is pretty wet, so rain is a bad thing.”
Working hard outdoors isn’t a problem. Fulton has a few part-time helpers during the busy summer season. However, he says his biggest challenge is keeping up with all the paperwork associated with running a small business. “You get into farming because you want to be outside growing things—not filling out paperwork.”
Jane Applegate is president of The Applegate Group Inc., which provides strategic marketing and video production services to big and small companies. She’s the author of four books on entrepreneurship, including 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, published by John Wiley & Sons. For more information, visit www.theapplegategroup.com or follow Jane on Twitter @janewapplegate.