Author: leilani

Hey Kettle, You’re Pot

Hey Kettle, You’re Pot

As I’ve been saying for a while now, hubby and I have been trying to find viable small business ideas, something that we can start on a shoestring and is still scale-able. In other words, we need to be able to meet the demand in the event of explosive growth. That’s not an option with the spouse-man’s yard sale turnovers, nor the various get-rich-slow projects he keeps throwing out, 99.999% of which involved my doing a shit-ton of time-intensive work.

We’ve got a little bigger shoestring now, but I know us. We need to invest the money while we’ve got it, before we blow through it all. Hubby had been nay-saying everything without contributing anything valuable to the pot in return, and I hit the point of saying, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. Deal with it.”

As I mentioned, I bought the stock for the medical marijuana website (the stock code is LBUY if anybody’s interested) and whilst it’s not making me rich, we’re in the black and staying there pretty consistently so far.

I invested in a decent camera for hubster and we’re building a portfolio of high quality photos. I have one friend who’s a retired pro photographer, one who worked many a year for a portrait studio, and I’m going to be begging for more submissions from my friends in the near future (Hil, you KNOW I’m gonna be talking to you, and probably Dangerspouse specifically for food porn, if he’s got a good enough camera.) I bought some stock photo packages for resale, but the better option is to build something that’s different than everybody and their brother offers. I talk to people who are ALWAYS looking for stock photo sources for blogs, magazine articles, book covers, etc. Book designers and bloggers don’t have deep pockets, and everybody’s looking for images that aren’t being used by thousands of other people at the same time. If you submit and your photos sell, you get paid. We’re trying to figure out a way to keep it cost effective for buyers and for us, while still treating our photographers fairly. I do know most of those categories prefer to get their photos from paid sites vs. free ones, because with free ones you’re never quite sure of the picture’s legitimacy. I know people who got sued for using free stock photos on their blogs.

The camera base and a couple of basic lenses, first year’s hosting, and software, together will run us $1500 or so. In terms of business investments, that’s peanuts. My partner in crime in Canada wants me to drop $3000 into our joint effort there, and I might eventually – but not until I sock some more cash back. If that ends up happening, next year the photo site will move to our own servers and we’ll have another prong added to our business portfolio.

Then today I sent a query about a fourth option, one I think could ramp up insanely fast if we can cut the deal.

With all of my health issues, I’d been debating the purchase of a medical marijuana card. I have zero desire to get high, but I’ve got neurological crap going on and I know cannabis is known to help with pain and other neurological factors. During my wheeling and dealing on Simbi, however, I traded for a couple of facials with a local lady, who told me I didn’t need a medical marijuana card for CBD oil. I had also run across CBD oil as an option when looking into a franchise, but that turned out to be a MLM scam. It’s legal since it contains no THC, but does all the things. At least, it does all the things for which I wanted medical marijuana.

So I bought a bottle, despite the price nearly giving me a coronary. $40 for one liquid ounce. I don’t know the cost of marijuana, but considering you can buy food-grade hemp oil at the health food store for $10 a 16-oz bottle, that sounded steep to me. (The version sold for food has been stripped of its cannabidiol, the medicinal component.) Since my youngest daughter’s neurological issues are becoming life threatening and the doctors say verbatim there’s nothing they can do, I gave her my bottle to try and went back to buy another. It was up to $75 for the same one-ounce bottle. What’s more, I bought the last bottle they had and they said they couldn’t keep it in stock at that price.

Considering what I considered price gouging, I decided to hunt online. I found the option from the MLM – also around $75 for the same size bottle. And I found a seller on eBay for a pittance in comparison, and ordered a bottle, which was delivered today. Thank goodness for the delivery, because eBay kicked the seller to the curb, wouldn’t let ’em sell their product on the site. I couldn’t find it anywhere else for less, nor from any other seller that cited comparable details about the makeup and potency. (The MLM came close, but no cigar.)

The seller enclosed pages and pages of documentation with the bottle I bought, including their website address. I just emailed them to ask if I could buy from them wholesale. Because DUH.

Incidentally, this is all legal and above-board. Medical marijuana is legal in Arizona and a few other states, but hemp oil is legal in all 50 states, without a medical marijuana card. It won’t make you high. It DID, however, provide pain relief for me without 1) making me giddy or lightheaded; 2) making me nauseated; 3) causing me to lose feeling in my hands and feet; 4) making me tired; or any number of other nasty side effects I’ve encountered with prescription and over-the-counter options. It DID reduce my stress levels, too, and unlocked my muscles I didn’t even realized were locked until then. There’s more, but this isn’t meant to be an ad for the stuff.

If I can work this deal, it might kill two birds with one stone, as it were. I can potentially help myself and others, while developing a line of business I can do from home, or by opening a small shop close to home. I want eventually to sell online, but even at a local level we could potentially do extremely well. That’s doubly true if I can undercut the competition. If this goes through, I can undercut the heck out of them, and that’s if I pay this seller’s retail price per bottle and sell it for double what I paid for it. If I buy 50 or 100 bottles at a time, for example, I’m sure I can negotiate for a better deal.

Now hopefully I’ll hear back from these people and they’ll consider my proposal. We’ll see how it goes.

On a more somber spot, my younger kids’ health took a turn for the worse. I’m not talking just my daughter, though she’s had one crisis after another. My younger son is going through a similar trajectory now, too. My daughter finally went to Mayo Clinic and they said at minimum she has POTS syndrome – which, unlike the tongue-in-cheek reference to “pot” in this entry, is neither fun nor profitable. It means her autonomous nervous system is progressively further out of whack. In plain English, all the things the body does automatically: heartbeat, blood pressure, kidneys, liver, pancreas, lymphatic system, breathing, neurology – all that stuff is moving to its own erratic beat. And there’s not a damned thing they can do with it. We believe my son likely has the same thing, and the other two kids have some variant.

Yes, it’s as deadly as it sounds, and it’s genetic, meaning it’s likely the grandchildren will also have inherited it. They’re still doing test after test on my daughter but we’re compiling as complete a family history as we can. We don’t know now if my mom died of ALS or if she had some variant of this. We assume my baby sister and I share somewhat milder versions of it. Sister has been taking meds for tremors and other issues for a few years (something I didn’t know until today.) Not sure yet whether or not it’s related to the childhood seizures, though we’re throwing that into the folder, too.

Gainfully and Stuff

Gainfully and Stuff

After my last entry, I guess I should clarify – for those who don’t follow me on Facebook – that we’re not in imminent danger of starvation. We’re doing reasonably well, though I’d breathe easier with a few more cash flow options.

I did invest a couple of hundred bucks (literally only about $200) on some stock. Pot stock, sort of. The legal marijuana option is a hot topic, and I figured I’d gamble on 100 shares of what I think would be considered penny stock. It’s legit enough to be offered through my eTrade account, but pretty sure instead of the NYSE, it’s traded in back alleys somewhere. Rather than investing in direct marijuana sales, I invested in a website (Leafbuyer.com) that’s a kind of Priceline.com for legal weed – where to find it for less, etc. I don’t personally use the product. I’m not a prude about it, nor am I stupid. I think the market’s too strong to dismiss. If you want to get high and it doesn’t harm anyone, go for it. If you’re doing the medical version thereof, good for you! If I can make a buck or two from it, better yet.

I logged into my investment account on principle, knowing that a week into things doesn’t mean a thing, I lost I think $4 in value (for all 100 shares combined.) Given the fiasco in the White House has sucker-punched all markets, I honestly consider that pretty good. Besides, it’s only been a few days AND I wasn’t going to invest anything we couldn’t afford to lose.

We also did a different type of preliminary investment, and we’ll see where it goes. Stock photos are big deals these days, but the low-cost options are being gobbled up by the big boys. I used to have a $10 a month membership, which Adobe acquired and tripled the cost. If I absolutely had to have it I’d probably pay that, but like most designers, I can’t justify shelling out that kind of money unless it’s making me some significant money. I belong to a lot of author forums, and most bemoan the loss of reasonably priced sites. I have some connections to photographers and I personally can do other types of illustrations via Photoshop. Figuring our upgraded hosting, we’d only need about 5 subscriptions at $10 a month each, and we’d be making a little bit of money. (This is operating on the thought of paying photographers a percentage, too – otherwise our profit margins would be even better.) Anything over that would be gravy. The spousal unit and I can easily handle upgrades, and spousal unit knows photography well enough to approve and reject submissions. He got voluntold for the job.

Could end up making pennies, or could take off. 100 subscriptions – not a huge figure, obviously – would put us squarely in the black and pad our income nicely. 300 subscriptions would be enough to pretty nearly replace my income as it sits now. Not that I’d retire with that, not for a single website. But there are other types of businesses that would be doable for similar investments. If this one comes together, we could expand into other areas. The idea is as much as possible, keep the upkeep and outlay on the low end.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – er, job – I’m on a pilot team for a new program. I take all promises from this company with a grain of salt, mind you, but the scuttlebutt is it might spell more money, because the scope of the job will change significantly. We shall see.

Potter’s Field

Potter’s Field

My grandson, the one who was counting to ten at ten months and so on? He’s starting kindergarten this year. Lest you think I was exaggerating about how smart he is, his mom told me he’s reading Harry Potter books now. BEFORE starting kindergarten. I mean, granted, there are little ones reading newspapers earlier, but not many in that age group have either the ability or the stamina to get through a full fledged novel. Little Guy also knows how to multiply and divide. Ya think he might get a little bored by kindergarten? Just a wee bit? It pisses me off, because his parents kept him BACK a year. He was supposed to start last year. Unless something drastic happens, I assume he’ll get moved ahead at least a little, but I hate seeing him handicapped that way. At least if he was with us and bored to death at school, I could work with him and try to keep him engaged, but that’s not an option. Bad enough the schools seem intentionally designed to stomp out intelligence these days..

Meanwhile, back at the black hole of mental processes that’s my business plan, I think I spied a glimmer beyond the event horizon. It can’t happen for a couple of more days, but the plan is to drop a couple hundred bucks into some stock purchases. It’s chump change in terms of stock buys. I believe this little beast may technically be considered “penny stocks”, though it’s on the NYSE. (A lot of the penny stocks aren’t.) We shall see if my hunch plays out. I’m not betting the proverbial farm on it, but we can risk that much without going up in financial flames. I’ll be less cryptic if and when the purchase goes through successfully. Then I’m closing eTrade and not looking for a few months, because I’ll drive myself nuts if I follow it daily.

I’m giving hubby two weeks to come up with a viable business, then I’m done. I suggested an option for us for a mostly hands-off business (vending machines). He turned up his nose at it. I told him at the end of two weeks, if he doesn’t have a better idea, I’m going ahead with whatever I decide at that point. To be fair, it most likely won’t be vending machines, because while they require very little time invested, they also make very little money. It’s not worth investing a few hundred bucks for $15-20 a month income, which is well within the realm. (Keep in mind when someone calculates the income from vending machines, it’s ALL vending machines, including the 25 cent gumball machines. They make very little money but you also have a lot less invested in them.) The reason for the ultimatum is we have mumblethousandmumble in savings, specifically for this purpose. I closed out a retirement account so we could start a damned business. And the longer we wait to start the business, the more that money’s likely to be pissed away with nothing to show for it. If that happens, I’m going for the jugular. We already did this once, I followed hubby’s grand ideer I already knew would tank. Two years later, we spent it all and have nothing to show for it. Never made a single penny. So while I’m not going full screaming-banshee on him, neither am I waiting while he hems and haws for two or three more years.

Hubby accuses me of being impulsive.

I DO jump too fast sometimes. But most of the time (case in point, aforementioned stock), you snooze, you lose. Can’t tell you how many times that’s happened. I refuse to snooze. Cutesy rhyming 100% on purpose.

The Wanderers and Future Tycooons

The Wanderers and Future Tycooons

The past couple of weeks have been challenging. No vacation time this time around, but we did do a drive into the mountains last week on my day off.

saguaro-lake
Yes, Arizona DOES have lakes. Several of them, in fact. Most, including Sauguaro Lake (shown here) are artificial, created through a series of flood control dams on the Salt River. This used to be a huge swim party on the weekends, with virtually everyone from Phoenix migrating to the lakes. Now, thanks to spiraling access fees, the crowds have thinned substantially.

superstition-back-large
Click on the smaller image to see a larger view. This is the back of the Superstition Mountains, the part you don’t see on postcards and their ilk. What’s tough to see from any photo is how rough the landscape is. Sitting all the way at the top it looks like there are skyscrapers in clusters. In fact, it’s clusters of vertical stone buttes atop larger almost-vertical stone buttes.
tortilla-flats-hangman
This cluster of buildings is Tortilla Flats, a tourist spot between the lakes. Please notice the hanging man over the front door. Out west, we take gallows humor literally.Nearly as I could tell, there are two restaurants and one general store. Along the front porch are such novelties as a real wooden Indian (oxymoron much?) and one of the old automaton carnival fortune tellers in a glass box.

 

tortilla-flats-ladies-room-2
This little, erm, lady is part of the decor in the Tortilla Flats ladies’ room. I imagine comparable artwork embellishes the facilities for gents, though since hubby didn’t visit I can’t swear to it. I tried to take a photo of the hallway just beyond the white door, where ceiling and walls are papered with real dollar bills. Sadly, that photo didn’t turn out well enough to post.

burn
This blackened mesquite skeleton marks where one of dozens of wildfires ate through acres, before the rainy season kicked in. We were sort of lucky this year – there were no half-million-acre fires kicked off, though one of the fires took out several homes in the tiny town of Dudleyville.
Dirt Road
We went rockhounding up in the mountains near Payson and this well-maintained dirt road welcomed us. Despite recent rains, there were no muddy spots preventing access.Sadly, our trip passed a somber sight along the way: further down the hill, searchers still had the streambeds ribboned off. They were trying to recover the body of a man whose entire family was taken out in a flash flood. I believe he was the 10th known victim. They were bracing to potentially find more, as they estimated as many as 100 people were at the popular swimming spot when a flash flood washed through.

 

lookout
I know this isn’t the sharpest photo. It was blown up to show the ranger station at the top of Diamond Point. This is a fire lookout and these men and women have a tough job. It’s a long drive up dirt roads, into an area where bears, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions call home.

oak
Okay, this one’s pure whimsy, because it gave me a huge smile to discover real, actual oak trees in this part of the world. Arizona has a native oak species called Live Oak. It’s more shrub than tree, has tiny compound leaves, and itty bitty acorns. I didn’t realize the real McCoy lived up in the higher elevations until we were up there last week.

My captions were being snarky. Hopefully they all convey when I push the publish button.

Our travels have focused largely on rockhounding lately, and we’ve found some intriguing goodies. We picked up a fairly large nodule of turquoise last week. With turquoise going for $$ per gram, it’s a pretty piece to discover. We also found several geodes and various other unidentified species, though pretty sure I know what some of them are. G found one ginormous chunk o’ rock with huge crystal formations. Haven’t yet figured out what kind of crystals they are, because I haven’t had a chance to examine them. I know we have quartz up the wazoo, particularly in that part of the world. But we also have a number of other native stones, including several which are known to exhibit crystalline properties. We’ve found garnet clusters, for example, and wulfenite, etc. I’d need to do more research on these – look at crystal behavior, hardness, fluorescence, etc.

G bought his metal detector a couple of weeks ago, then bought a second one at a yard sale for $3 last weekend. (Considering they cost around $100 and up new for a fairly decent one, he practically stole it.) Go figure. He also bought a rock tumbler, so a few of our discoveries are in the early stages of becoming polished beauties. It’ll be interesting to see how they turn out.

Meanwhile I’m looking at other business options. My work situation is at best volatile. You sure can’t count on anything. I was approached about teaching, which I’d love, but I’m not egging those chickens yet. I started looking at franchises, with a friend pegged if we need someone to answer the phones. So far all the “franchises” under $20,000 have been pyramid schemes. Umm… how about no?

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