Puzzles for Sale: A True Story
A subscriber to the Unusual Ways Newsletter sent in
the following story about how he made (by hand) puzzles for sale
at a craft show. It is a great example of just getting out there
and trying something to make money. It is also a great example
of how you can start with almost nothing, as you'll see...
A Puzzling Way to Make Money
By M.S. Wardrip
When working my way through electronics school I didn't have
much in the way of discretionary funds. In fact, there were no
extra funds available at all. Rent, food and keeping a bicycle
running were my expenses and often I didn't have enough money
to pay those! How to get by remained a mystery to me until I
solved the puzzle.
The solution to the puzzle? I remembered eating at a 'Country-Style'
restaurant in the South which had little triangle-shaped wooden-peg
puzzles on every table. To play it you take a peg, jump a peg
and then remove it. You repeat this with the goal of winding
up with only one peg left on the board. Depending on your skill,
you might have 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 pegs left on the board.
The puzzles were fun to play while you waited for your order
to arrive. After your meal you could purchase a 'wooden-peg-puzzle'
for yourself at the counter for around $5. I thought, in the
back of my mind, "I could easily crank out some of those
puzzles and sell them." "But where could I sell them?"
I wondered. And then it hit me one day. I could sell these at
a local crafts fair that was coming up shortly.
Ah, but where would I get the money to invest in materials,
tools and entry fee? A school-mate had a wealthy parent and I
thought to myself, "Why not just tell them my idea and ask
for a short term loan?" I did so and to my surprise, they
actually loaned me $100 to get started with the agreement I would
pay them back immediately after the crafts fair. Now I had my
investment money and still had a week to get ready.
Day One: I went to work on the phone and reserved an
eight-foot table at the crafts fair. It costs me $25 entry fee
for the day. Their rule: Must be handmade crafts. I assured them
it was. I made a list of the things I would need. Next I did
some price comparisons on the phone of my list. Then I ordered
1 - 3,000 piece bag of 1 5/8" Multi-Colored Wooden Golf
Tees at a local Golf Course Pro Shop @ $45 plus tax
4- 10' 3/4"X12" White Pine Boards @ $5 each - $20
1 Bag of 200 Zip Lock Sandwich bags @ $2 plus tax
Total Invested: $100
Day Two: Back at home I dug out an old bench type drill
press stand that held a portable electric drill and an 1/8"
drill bit I already had. Also, I found some sand paper, some
old wood stain, a paint brush and a rag. (You could borrow a
drill press if you don't have one)
Day Three: My order came in. I picked up my golf tees
and my boards. Now I was all set to go into production. I measured
and marked the boards and sawed out 200 - 5 and 1/4" triangles
that were 3/4" thick with a common circular saw (you could
borrow one), then lightly sanded and stained the little blocks
Day Four: Next I made a little triangle template out
of thin metal that slipped over the wooden blocks. It had 15
evenly spaced holes in it and served as a guide to vertically
drill the holes in the blocks with the drill press. The bottom
row has 5 holes, next row up has 4 holes, the next 3, next 2
and one hole at the top. This was the most time consuming part.
I drilled 15 holes in each of the 200 blocks. Be sure to set
the drill bit go most of the way through the block but not all
the way through. This took all day! I rested well that night
while visions of puzzle boards danced in my head.
Day Five: I put 14 golf tees in the drilled holes in
each of the 200 puzzles. That comes out to 2800 pegs. This too,
will take a while to do. I put each assembled puzzle in a sandwich
bag, put in an extra loose peg as a spare for my customer, zipped
the bags shut and placed them neatly in cardboard boxes. I slept
well knowing I was ready for the crafts fair.
Day Six: I got up early, called my friend who I had
arranged to drive and accompany me to the fair. I got out my
plastic cash box, made some little price signs for my display
table, grabbed a picnic lunch, water, three folding chairs and
we were off to the crafts fair with my puzzles in tow.
Once there, we set the booth up with a chair out front for
my customer and two behind the table. I spread out several unpackaged
puzzles on the table as display models along with some little
signs that read, "Handmade Wooden Puzzles - $5.00 Each"
The crafts fair started at 8 am. I was sold out by 12 noon.
200 puzzles sold! @$4.00 each!
I made a grand total of $800!, had a wonderful time, met some
really friendly people and after paying back my investor, pocketed
$700 which supported me through a good portion of school. I even
bought my friend's gasoline and a nice dinner.
The highlight of my day was when a young boy about ten years
old came up and said, "I've only got $5.00 to spend and
if I can work one of these puzzles, I'll buy it." He sat
down and tried working the puzzle until he got it right and then
said, "I'll take it!" He was a very satisfied customer!
What would I do different next time? I would write down the
solution to the puzzle on paper, make copies and put one in each
bag. Also on the instructions I would include a warning:
"CAUTION: Contains Small Pieces - Keep Away From Small
Children" and an order blank with my company name and address
for future orders or correspondence.
That's what solved the puzzle of making money for me... puzzles.
©copyright 2012 - Mark S. Wardrip