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Making Money with a Sandwich Board Sign

Every now and then a character in a movie is seen walking around wearing with a sandwich board sign, but sandwich board advertising is an unusual way to make money in reality. That's why I loved the following story sent to me by a subscriber to the Unusual Ways newsletter. It is the first entry in my Most Interesting Money Maker Contest.

Mark Peterson
Minneapolis, MN

I graduated from high school in 1979. The job market was weak for high school graduates that spring, and I was having difficulty finding some way to make money for college that fall. My dad had an entrepreneurial bent, and encouraged me to keep looking -but also think of a way to work for myself and generate income.

I'm not sure if the idea came to me from a movie, readings, stories, or maybe even a dream. A possibility that popped in my head (with a light bulb!) was to be a sandwich board man. Even those of us that didn't grow up during the depression can picture a (usually) man walking around with signs in front and back advertising to "Eat at Joes" or some other message. Living in a suburban area, there were enough businesses to be potential clients. I determined there were also several high-traffic areas that would entice someone to try an unusual advertising medium that stuck out over the traditional and typical methods.

I started contacting places I thought would be most interested - pizza parlors, restaurants, video stores (this was the dawn of the video age), and sporting good emporiums. I walked into these businesses and made my pitch - for $10 an hour per side, I would be a human face that would project a positive image of their establishment. I could answer questions, hand out coupons, and uniquely encourage a person to visit their business. Part of their obligation was to provide the artwork for the sign.

The only objection I faced was that their advertising budget was maxed out. Otherwise, everyone I spoke with were at least curious. After contacting potential clients for less than half a day, I had five that wanted to "try me" and try the sandwich board. Since I had two signs/two sides, I could advertise for two businesses each hour - $20! Mind you, at this time the typical wage I could expect was $5-$6 an hour. Although not working 40 hours a week, I could work part-time and do as well walking around with a sandwich board that working for someone else. Plus, I was working for myself and doing something fun.

I spent that summer "pounding the pavement" (and working part-time elsewhere) and enjoyed myself. People would honk or stop by, and most importantly the clients were very pleased at the response. I was off to college and considered doing the sandwich board business there, but was too busy studying and involved with activities. Unfortunately, due to being out of town (for school and later work), and then for physical reasons, I didn't continue through college. Receiving a full-time job out of state ended my career as a sandwich board guy - but not as an entrepreneur.

Great story. If the internet goes down I might just have to get a sandwich board sign and hit the streets.

By the way, if the contest is over by the time you read this subscribe to the newsletter and I'll announce any new competitions. In any case send me any story you have of an odd way you have made money and if I put it on the site I'll send you an e-book (I'll let you choose from several that I publish).

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