Don and I were talking yesterday about making an income in a bad economy. We're not necessarily talking a grid-down situation (in which case barter would probably be the only economy); we're talking about an economic depression.
As you may or may not know, we make our living almost exclusively selling wooden tankards (mostly wholesale). We're done this since 1993 and it's kept our family solvent, though not wealthy. Through harsh experience we've learned to be frugal and creative.
And - God bless 'em all - people are still buying tankards. We just shipped a wholesale order off to a fellow who sells them at the Arizona Renaissance Festival. We're working on a custom order for a co-ed service fraternity.
But the day may come when the economy is so bad no one will be buying a luxury like a tankard. Should that day ever come, what will we do?
We don't know.
What we need to come up with is an item that is needed rather than wanted. This is where I envy my friend Enola Gay because she makes things that are needed.
I've always said the best way for a cottage industry to succeed is to find a niche and fill it. We've filled a niche for almost two decades by providing wooden mugs to people who like that kind of thing. But we may need to transition to a new niche, one that would be important in a depressed economy.
I'm not exaggerating when I say we've spent years talking about this, and we're no closer to finding a solution now than we were then. So I got the idea to open this topic up for discussion.
What advice can you give a creative woodworker for a product or service that would be important in a bad economy? Do you have a regional product or service compatible with our skills that we would borrow for our region? We'd love to hear your thoughts!
(Husband of the boss commentary)
I think it's important to make a small additional comment here. Although I know that the job market is tight, I firmly believe (because I've seen it up close and personal) that more than a few of the folks currently out of work are unwilling to accept available jobs because those jobs are: (1) beneath their dignitary; (2) weren't in their previous field; or (3) don't pay as much as they previously received.
None of these excuses apply to me. If it means feeding may family I will stand waist deep in manure fishing out golf balls at my feet. So don't limit your suggestions to wood working. I have several other sets of skills and I've never been shy about learning nor about working hard if it means my family is made safer. So rather than focus on me, think - really think - about what a Great Depression will be like in the world of today. What jobs will keep bread on the table? We will all learn something by your thoughts and suggestions.