Nontraditional business models

For many years I was the owner of a home-based word processing service. Back in the 70’s this was still a pretty unconventional approach to business — in fact, when I started the business it was a typing service. Many first time clients came in expecting a little old lady who was a poverty-stricken former secretary. But I grew into a full-time business — usually employing at least 2 part-time word processors and a handful of free-lancers.

Now I’m employed in the so-called straight world (digression: It fascinates me there are so many meanings to that phrase…).  I work mostly 5 days a week and mostly days and mostly in an office or class setting. But, even though mainstreamed,  I’ve never lost my interest in alternative business models. The explosion in this arena is exciting to watch.

Much of the recent boom is a result of the recession, of course. Self-employment is a naturally coping plan for anyone with that “gene.”  Cooperatives, mobile businesses, bartering, all the varieties thereof, are creative and thoughtful solutions to the combined need for money and satisfaction from work.  A great example to me is Martha’s Vineyard Fiber Farm.  They have implemented a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for fleece and yarn!  It’s a brilliant concept and I’m eagerly awaiting my first share from the Spring 2009 shearing.

A CSA shifts some of the risk of small farming to the buyer — we commit to a share of the harvest at a set price paid either upfront (as in my fiber share) or on a monthly basis during the harvest season. The commitment is pretty ironclad because the farmers rely on your payment to plan their year and provide the seed money (literally in some cases, of course).  You share the risk — if the harvest sucks, your share will reflect that. You share in some unknowns — what will be in the box?  Eight pounds of Kale and no broccoli? A dozen onions and not one tomato? Only the harvest gods know.

I’ll report back when I receive my fleece share. I can’t wait.  In the meantime, check the link below for more about this wonderful fiber farm and it’s sister farm in the Hudson Valley. Kudos to them for such creative thinking. Lordy, but farming looks like hard work.

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