Those who have followed my internet writings over the years (since 2005) know that I have a homestead-based mail order business called Planet Whizbang, which started as a side hustle when I worked full time at a NY State prison.
And you know that Planet Whizbang prospered. So much so that in 2013 I left the security of my government wage slave job to work my Planet Whizbang business full time. It was a dream come true, and it still is. But....
The measure of prosperity that I enjoyed with the Planet Whizbang business for a number of years has declined precipitously since 2013. My business income is now half of what it was six years ago.
This is not a personal crisis because my wife and I have, in seasons of prosperity, lived well below our means. We live simply and have no debt.
If you've read my writings for long, you know that I've always been wary of debt, and this wariness is for the exact reason that I'm writing about here... it is unwise to suppose that the future will be like the present.
There is a clear agrarian sentiment in such thinking. Farmers well know that you can not count on a successful crop every year. The aphorism, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch," comes to mind.
I have often considered the parallels between my little mail order business and farming. I have chores to do every morning in the form of orders to fill. The chores must be done, whether I feel like it or not.
Then there is the matter of planting seeds and harvesting a crop. Every product idea I pursue is a seed planted. A lot of work must be done to develop the idea and bring it completion. Then I wait to see if the idea is productive; if it bears fruit. Delayed gratification is fundamental to the agrarian life.
Some idea "crops" bring a good harvest. Most bring a moderate harvest. Some bring no harvest to speak of, and the labor invested is in vain.
In the final analysis, every farmer, and every small-scale, mail order craftsman-entrepreneur like myself is dependent on God for the increase. That's the way I look at it.
We do our work diligently and God blesses us to the degree that it pleases Him to do so. There is a direct dependency on God's provision with both endeavors. It is a heavenward dependency that is not at all like the usual modern-world dependency on a wage-slave job with a steady paycheck and benefits.
There is another agrarian precept that comes into play with my home business. It is diversification, and it is best summed up in the adage: "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."
Planet Whizbang was built on my Whizbang Chicken Plucker book. With an initial investment of less than $1,000 I published and promoted the now-famous plan book. In time, sales of the book took off, and people started buying parts from me to make their own Whizbang poultry plucker.
There was a time, years ago, when I was shipping out as many as 10 Whizbang "Shebang" plucker parts kits a day. The volume of sales was astounding to me, and to my UPS driver.
But these days I might sell an average of two kits a month. At that rate, I have enough plucker parts now in stock to last more than a decade.
At one time, I was ordering 20,000 rubber poultry plucker fingers at a time, and placing several orders in a year. Last year I had enough fingers in stock that didn't need to order any. Then, last month I placed an order for 10,000, and those will last a long time.
The reason for the drop in sales is the introduction and proliferation of cheap China-made poultry pluckers. You can now buy a nice looking, already-made plucker (on Amazon) for less than the cost of materials to make your own Whizbang plucker. And the US market is now flooded with very cheap, synthetic-rubber plucker fingers.
The quality of the cheap pluckers is poor, and synthetic-rubber plucker fingers have neither the longevity, nor the durability of my natural-rubber fingers (not even close), but that doesn't really matter to most people.
Which brings me back to diversification... If I focused my mail order business only on chicken pluckers (plan books & parts), I would not be able to keep my bills paid these days. Diversification of products has kept my mail-order business alive.
Please understand that this is not a tale of woe. Planet Whizbang still keeps our bills paid, we are still able to bless others financially as God leads us, and we are still able to put some money into savings. But the measure of prosperity God once gave me has declined, and there is a lesson in this for any aspiring entrepreneur.
With lessons in mind, I often think I should someday write a book about what I've learned about small-scale, hands-on, solopreneurship. I may title it: "Confessions of a Whizbang Entrepreneur." Or something like that.
What all of this leads to is the Bible verse at the top of this post. That verse sums up my "ambitions" as an entrepreneur and as a Christian. That verse is profoundly agrarian, and totally Contra mundum. Incidentally, that verse was a big part of why I stopped writing my once-popular The Deliberate Agrarian blog years ago.
That verse also explains, in part, why I haven't posted an essay to this blog for awhile. Quite simply, I've been working with my hands a lot lately. Most of the products I sell require an investment of my time and my handwork to create, and then to mail them off.
Besides that, I'm starting to focus more time and attention on other income-producing, home-business ideas. It's more of the diversification principle in action.
So, that's the story of the rise and fall of a homestead business. It's not a sad story. It's just a story, and it's an update for those of you who have followed my writings over the years.
With winter over, I am now fully engaged in the work of my home and business (another agrarian similarity). So I'll be blogging here only rarely, if at all, until the pace of life slows down later in the year.
My thanks to those of you who have recently contacted me to see if I'm okay. Feel free to drop me an e-mail any time: Herrick@PlanetWhizbang.com