Home Business Idea #5: Publish a Local Diner's "Gazette"

I’ve been sharing ideas for part-time, home-based businesses that would cost relatively little to get off the ground and can bring in an income stream. None of my ideas will make you rich (I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that!). But they could provide some self employment income that will help you sustain a deliberate agrarian lifestyle.

We agrarian-minded souls find ourselves in different situations. Not all of us have the advantage of being born and raised in the agrarian paradigm, or of having an enabling inheritance, or of a substantial life savings to draw on. Those who are blessed with such situations and choose to live a simple, rural-based, agrarian lifestyle are blessed indeed, and wise to boot.

The rest of us find ourselves stuck in a sort of industrial-agrarian twilight zone, carefully assessing our limited options with limited resources as we look for a responsible pathway that will take us into a deeper and purer agrarianism. From our vantage, no matter how you examine the conundrum, some source of income is an unfortunate necessity.

To my way of thinking, the most preferable source of income is found within home-based self employment. And the best kind of home-based employment involves the whole family working together to make it happen. Outside of farming there are few examples of such a family economy that truly works. And this is where we who desire this thing find ourselves smack dab up against the conundrum (cut now to the twilight zone theme music and Rod Sterling introduction).

All of which is to say, I’ve got another idea for a part-time, non-farming home business and this one is particularly appealing to me, in my situation, at this time in my life. Perhaps it will be to you too.

If you have a computer and some basic desktop publishing skills, you can start this little home-based, community-focused business for less than $500 and make a steady income off it. You could do this business at 18 years old and, if your mind was still clear, you could still be doing it at 86 years old. What I particularly like about this idea, as opposed to previous ideas I’ve shared with you, is that a husband and wife can work this business together.

Did you know that the average age of widowhood in America is 55 years old? I’m pushing 51. My days are numbered. Even if I happen to beat those odds, chances are that I’ll kick the bucket before my wife. What will she live on with me out of the picture? Life insurance? I got some, but not a lot. Life savings? That’s a laugh. Social Security? I guess that would help. Financial assistance from our children. I certainly hope so to some degree if it's needed. Maybe she'll remarry some rich guy. :-)

But the sad fact of the matter is that many older women who chose a career inside the home are, upon the death of their husband, forced to find some sort of job to get by. Unfortunately, the job market for older women who have been out of the work force is not promising. That being the case, isn’t a small home business that a husband and wife can operate together a good idea? Sure it is. It’s a real good idea. Now (finally) I’m going to tell you what this business idea is.....

A few years ago my family and I took a trip to Maine. We went to a restaurant and I noticed a free, single-page paper in a simple Plexiglas holder. I took one of the papers and looked it over. I found similar papers in other restaurants in Maine. I had never seen anything quite like the paper here in New York. I immediately saw this paper as a good idea. Let me describe it for you:

The overall size of the paper was 11” by 17”, which is know as “tabloid size.” It was printed on both sides and folded in half. Down the right and left hand side of front and back there were advertisements for local businesses. Every ad was the same size (2” by 3”). So there was space for 32 ads. There were absolutely no ads for restaurants. Between the rows of advertisements, in the 5” by 17” column on both sides of the paper there was some “easy reading,” which amounted to things like a horoscopes, famous quotations, entertaining anecdotes, and so forth. Except for the horoscopes, I found the paper interesting and fun to look over while waiting for my meal.

Now lets do the math. If you charged $20 a week for an ad, the paper would bring in $640 a week. What would it cost to have a quick print shop crank out a few hundred copies? Less than a hundred bucks. What about other weekly overhead costs? Maybe $40. So you end up clearing $500 a week. That’s $26,000 a year.

A closer look at the periodical revealed that every advertiser has a lock on their category. In other words, if Big Bob’s Auto Repair advertises, Big Bob “owns” the auto repair category. He has no competition. That’s one good incentive for advertising in the paper.

Another incentive for advertising is the uniform size of the ads. No one is going to take all the attention with a huge ad. And the position of each ad rotates to a new position each week. Then there is the cost. Twenty bucks for a 2” by 3” ad is pretty reasonable.

The paper that I discovered in Maine happens to be a franchise. Maybe it is already being published in your area. I know it’s nowhere near me. You can learn more by going to This Link.

I think the basic idea for this little home publishing enterprise is brilliant. I don’t know what a franchise costs but it might be worth checking into. Personally, I just need the spark of an idea to fan my own flame. I can come up with my own name, my own style, and my own “easy reading” copy.

Even in a rural community like I live in, centered around a small town with several small businesses, the idea has potential. I would start with a smaller-size paper and gear the center copy to suit my particular community. I would nix the horoscopes section for sure and replace it with something inspirational. I’d include tidbits of local history, local trivia, and so on. There is no end to interesting and informative copy that you can put in such a paper.

I would endeavor to celebrate the rural/agrarian culture of my community and encourage advertising of local agricultural products and enterprises. Perhaps a section of $5 agricultural classified-style ads would prove popular. In my town, the current weekly "Pennysaver" newspaper has few local ads and is published by a big company from outside the area.

My approach would be more of a personal, conversational, editorial-type format. Nothing serious or contentious would be discussed. And I’d probably work in some excerpts from my old farm almanac collection.

My original intention was to pursue this idea a couple years ago with my oldest son who was learning graphic design. He wasn’t interested so I put the whole thing on the back burner. But the idea seems like a natural for me and I contemplate it often. If the idea appeals to you, give it some contemplation yourself. It could turn out to be a perfect little home business for you. I hope so.


This essay is part of a series on home business ideas. CLICK HERE to go to an index of all essays in the series.