One of my favorite procrastination strategies is to fire up my trusty laptop and click around through newspapers from all over the world. I tell myself, "I'll clean out the refrigerator right after I see who Sandy Banks has been taking to task in the Los Angeles Times." Or, "the laundry can wait. I want to read all the columns that earned Regina Britt a shot at a Pulitzer."
Now that I have a daughter living in Mississippi, Jackson's Clarion-Ledger Web site is required reading. It allows me to satisfy my helicopter mom tendencies while hovering just below Molly's radar.
That's how I learned that the Precinct 4 police station, located right across the street from her little house in the artsy Fondren section of town, is moving. Great. Just great.
Yesterday, I needed to clean out a particularly bulging closet. Which is why I found myself online, reading the Sydney Morning Herald.
I was drawn to a column called Guide to the Bleeding Obvious. That's where I learned about a dog toy called Fetchstix. It's exactly as the name implies. It's a bundle of three sticks. If you're waiting for more, there isn't anything.
The product consists of hardwood sticks, cut from Vermont maple saplings. They're tied together along with an illustrated manual and even a technical assistance number in case you have trouble figuring it out. It's sold for $12.99. That includes shipping.
If you want to get really fancy, you can have your dog's name burned into the wood. Those sticks are $12.95 each.
Good grief, Snoopy. Sticks? Really? There are people who will pay actual money for sticks?
That article started the entrepreneurial lobe of my brain to clicking. What do we have right around here that is marketable in its natural state? Sure, for centuries crafty settlers in these hills made do with items at hand, creating corncob and apple-head dolls, pine-needle baskets and whittled knickknacks.
That's not what I'm talking about. What can I just pick up, slap on a label and a cutesy instruction manual and make a killing? Looking around my neighborhood, there's plenty of red clay and kudzu. I can't imagine anyone stupid enough to pay for dirt or weeds, but then I would never have thought there was a market for sticks, either.
Right up the road from here, the Chattahoochee River burbles over pebbles, worn smooth throughout thousands of years.That's it! I'll gather up a truckload of pebbles and paint some esoteric looking symbols on them. I'll call them Cherokee Skipping Stones and write up a manual with a goofy history that borrows significantly from the Sautee and Nacoochee legend. There might even be a market for an instructional DVD.
I'll package about 10 in a box and sell them for $19.99. No free shipping, though; rocks are heavy.
Just think, repeat customers are guaranteed. After all, these things aren't boomerangs. Once you toss them, they're gone for good.
Now all I need to do is find a way to get my hands on Fetchstix's customer list. After all, if they'll buy sticks, they'll buy stones.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears regularly and on gainesvilletimes.com.