Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Hipster's Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business

I've lived in Williamsburg, New York for almost eight years. In that time it's transformed from a peaceful old Italian neighborhood to the hipster capital of the world. The smug, self-centered youngsters are still pouring in, hundreds by the day, but the area's saturation point has already been reached so the overflow wander aimlessly. Clusters of well-dressed Brown graduates pace back and forth on Bedford Avenue, flipping through the song libraries on their iPhones and desperately hoping to run into somebody who'll point them towards a career that won't require either talent or work.

Hey, I live to serve. Judging from the flea markets I've been to, here's what all the other unemployable English majors have been doing to start up home-based businesses.

1. Think of a colorful, memorable company name. What you want is a wacky, cutesy image that personalizes you: "Patches My Three-Legged Dog," "No Green Thumb," "I Farted in a Tent." Don't go for something like "Desperate Girl With No Known Skills." I mean, that could describe all of us.

2. Hire somebody to draw a logo. Yes, you could do it yourself, but if you had any talent you'd be working for somebody else, right?

3. Come up with a product line. This is easily done by going to any bookstore and searching through pictorial literature of the low-tech arts. (Your parents called them "craft books.")

If you're a girl, you can crochet mittens or hats. Bake cookies or muffins. Sew placemats or scarves. (Just make rectangles and let people do what they want with them. It encourages the user's connection with your art and besides, you're no fabric-usage Nazi.)

If you're a guy, make bowls by melting vinyl records. Fashion picture frames from "reclaimed" materials (i.e., anything in a dumpster that doesn't rot). Find images in magazines and decoupage them onto decorative plaques.

Sure, when your parents did that stuff it was hopelessly lame, but they didn't have a Betty Page tattoo or an ironic haircut, right?

If you have problems perfecting your product line, find a successful business and copy them. Stella McCartney t-shirts, Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, Hallmark cards. Think of it as an homage, but wear your running shoes in case the police show up.

4. Decide how much you deserve for your work. This is probably the hardest part. Investment bankers make at least a million a year, and what, are they better than you? NO! This is America! They're pencil-pushers, and you're a college graduate who's made a cupcake! Calculate backwards from the money you deserve, and don't even think twice about listing those squat, dry hockey pucks for $18 each. Remember, all your customers have rich parents too.

If some small-minded idiot complains about your prices, sarcastically say to them, "I should have known by looking at you that you were poor. If money is really so important to you, why don't you take one for free?" If they try, though, throw a Kombucha Rice Krispie Square at them.

5. Call your parents for start-up money. If they're less than enthusiastic, complain that they're sabotaging you. Tell them it's cheaper than paying for graduate school, plus there's real long-term potential in selling handmade, eighty-dollar potholders.

6. Don't take negativity from customers. Your pillow is less than square? The shoulder strap on your messenger bag is askew? Snatch your hand-crafted artwork out of their hand, and tell that small-minded jerk to go buy from somebody who knows how to operate a sewing machine.

For other cases, customize one of these retorts:

"I am not a robot! I work by instinct, and my creations cannot be constrained by your middle-class values!"

"Yes, it'd be nice if they soft or sweet or tasty, but they're fashioned from sustainable, free-trade bulgur wheat."

"They're a trifle pricey, but I value fair pay for labor over your petty individualistic greed."

Avoid stooping to their level with replies like "Hey, asshole, this shit is all recycled! What, do you fuckin' hate the earth?"

Now go forth and sell! Make millions and get famous! Because when it comes down to it, isn't that why your $93 "Fuck the Patriarchy!" tea towels exist?


David said...

But you didn't provide any links to their websites!!

Now where will I go to find my hemp dog booties?

Yet Another Steve said...

Be of good cheer, David, a dear friend just pointed me to etsy.com, where all your dreams of one-of-a-kind-ness can come true. Or nightmares, depending. They even have knitted hats for crazy old bag ladies, though of course they don't call them that.