Flipping through a copy of the Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2012 (I’ve found that running a Little Free Library is a great way to guarantee a varied and steady stream of reading material!), I was surprised to find it almost Readers Digest-like in its pithy readability. I always remembered the Almanac as being just packed with tiny-print charts of various kinds, but either it’s changed or my memory is off. There are glossy pages now, with quotable quotes and brief paragraphs about popular trends. (Those plain b/w pages with densely packed charts of moon and weather and tides and all are still in there too, of course.)
Another thing that struck me was the interesting ads for all sorts of homegrown, niche businesses I’ve never seen advertised anywhere else. Without having any direct experience with the businesses, I can tell they are successful. Most of them have been in operation for a long time — one since the 1700’s!
A partial list:
Bennington Potters of Bennington, Vermont, “making pottery locally for 63 years”
Constitution Rugs Inc., a braided-rug factory founded in 1949 in Bristol, Rhode Island
Mt. Caesar Alpacas of Keene, New Hampshire — fair-trade importers of alpaca fiber and clothing
Country Carpenters — post & beam sheds, carriage houses, and barns shipped nationwide from Hebron, Connecticut
Mrs. Nelson’s Candy House — candy factory and store in Chelmsford, Massachusetts for 51 years
Sla-Dust, “the original all-wool dry mop” from Slack Mop Company in Pittsfield, Vermont, “celebrating 100 years 1909-2009”
W.T. Kirkman Lanterns – “Absolutely the best selection of oil lamps, lanterns, and parts in the world!”
Taylor Manufacturing Company of Moutlrie, Georgia — maker of bean-shelling equipment
Cape Cod Cupola Co. of North Dartmouth, Massachusetts — weathervanes and cupolas
The Old Farmers Almanac itself, which apparently has been in publication since the 1700’s!
The ads convey a sense of pride but no hype.
These companies are successful in my book because they have identified a need in the world that fits their talents and passions, and they seem to know what they are about and not feel they have to chase every new thing. Also, at least some of them have been around for a long time, building intergenerational wealth.
See any ideas that appeal to you? What kind of business would you start right now if you felt you could? And what is it that makes you feel you can’t?