Create a Micro-business in Construction

Last time, I promised an example of what it looks like to create a microbusiness from what matters, what you love, and what do you do well. To do that, I’ll share the story of Curtis, a construction entrepreneur.

Why Curtis became an entrepreneur

Jigsaw And Measuring Tape On TableCurtis is an ex-Marine recently back from the Middle East. He and his wife have four children whom they are homeschooling. Curtis has experienced some difficulty with post-traumatic stress, and because of this it is important to him to work outdoors. He is incredibly thankful to have survived his service, and because of this, is committed to giving back by volunteering with the Christ in Action disaster relief organization. He wants to create a business that will allow him to do so.

What matters (Values)

  • Working independently outdoors
  • Flexibility for volunteer service
  • Time alone and with family

What he loves (Joys)

  • Working with his hands
  • Building something sturdy and lasting
  • Creating something valuable out of something that seems worthless
  • Spending time with his family
  • Helping others who are in difficult places
  • Playing music with a group of friends (he plays acoustic guitar)
  • Hiking with his dog

What he’s good at (Skills)

  • Strong, sturdy craftsmanship
  • Creative use of recycled materials
  • Simple custom designs
  • Medic duties (learned in the military)
  • Basic landscaping
  • Making grilled cheese sandwiches
After considering these things, Curtis decided that small-project construction was a logical place to begin—we’ll call it his Task. It fit within his values, joys, and skills, and had a relatively small start up cost, which was important as Curtis didn’t have much in savings.

How the 5-Stage Business Model worked in a construction business

Do: Start small, keep moving

Curtis began by simply doing the things he was good at. He used his talent for creative reuse and sturdy craftsmanship to add a workshop lean-to on his garage and build a treehouse for his children. A neighbor who saw the treehouse asked if Curtis would be willing to repair her deck and build a few birdhouses, and then commissioned a playhouse for her granddaughter.

Other small projects began to roll in, most of which could be completed during evenings and weekends. As his project list grew, Curtis realized that he was earning almost as much at his side work as at his day job. His hobby had become a full-fledged microbusiness.

Share: Show and tell how your Task can benefit others

Curtis decided that if he wanted to build his business into a full-time venture, he would have to expand the number of people who knew what he had to offer. He began volunteering at Habitat for Humanity projects with his two oldest children, and as he shared his talent, others recognized his ability and began to share his name and recommend his work to friends who needed help with construction projects.
At home, his 12-year-old daughter created a simple WordPress-based website for his business, with photos of his projects, the story behind the business, a few brief how-to tips, and contact information. As Curtis began to get referrals for larger projects, he gradually became so busy that it was time to make a decision on whether to cut back on his microbusiness or his day job.

Teach: Become an industry expert

As he was considering whether it was time to quit his day job, a local community college invited him to teach basic woodworking skills in the coming semester. The amount he earned was small, but it gave him the confidence to quit the day job, which was a good thing, because teaching led to more referrals and more work.
As a teacher, he was perceived as an expert in his field, which gave him the opportunity to bid on more jobs. Because of the teaching connection, he also became the go-to expert when local media needed a quote about a zoning or construction issue. The free publicity from his media quotes brought additional business, and Curtis found himself almost as busy as when he was working two jobs.

Package: Create passive income

As Curtis did a year-end assessment of his business in preparation for the new year, he realized that he had lost touch with one of his “things that matter.” He no longer had the flexibility to volunteer whenever he was needed. After brainstorming with his family, Curtis decided he needed to create some passive streams of income so that he could earn more while working less.

His wife helped him put together patterns for some custom wood projects suitable for various ages, and they listed them as downloadable e-products on Clickbank. Because they knew many people in the homeschool world, they sent review copies to influential bloggers and donated a few pattern sets as door prizes for homeschool events. In addition, Curtis’s daughter added the patterns to the business website along with a plug-in that allowed small ads from Google AdSense to show up at specific locations on the site.

Multiply: Do more of what you love, less of what you don’t

Passive income from the project patterns and website ads slowly gained momentum. With Clickbank sales deposits showing up every other Wednesday in his bank account, and a check from Google Adsense every month or so, Curtis had an income and was able to become more picky about the kind of jobs he took. He returned to his original focus on small, custom-designed creative projects that involved the creative reuse of unique materials.

He and his family created more patterns, then a short how-to booklet, and finally, even a two-semester home study course based on the college classes Curtis taught. The website continued to grow as each of the children learned to add photos, tips, short articles, reviews of construction books and products, and more. As passive income increased, Curtis realized he had achieved the dream of earning what he needed, doing what he loved, right from the workshop in his back yard.

And that’s what it means to do what matters and make it pay.

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