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Failure. Advice requested, please!

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Silver Contributor
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Speedway Pass
Dec 27, 2015
Phoenix OR
TL/DR: Consulting business failed. Currently driving a forklift and moving furniture for minimum wage.

Assets: consulting program, chemistry degree, micro niche lab supply business

Threats: medical issues which are just recently under control, but require constant vigilance

Dream Fastlane: online distributor for industrial wastewater industry, with solid customer service and marketing teams.

Longer version:

I'm really good at patterns and seeing the big picture. My business framework is great, and reproducible. I KNEW I wasn't good at marketing. But being the cheapskate that I am, thought I could just learn it. Nope. I ran out of money by the time I realized I needed to outsource. I've learned a lot about it, though - enough to direct someone who likes it and is good at it.

I want to actually USE my chemistry degree, not get further away from it. I know exactly zero people in the wastewater industry, even though my senior thesis was on phytoremediation. I don't know what they want or need, or how to ask them. The DEQ said they live on price and service, but I'd like to find the blue ocean that sets me apart.

I can't support myself on minimum wage, even with 2 lodgers - but I'm having trouble even getting interviews.

How do I assess the industry to find what they need?

How do I find good people to team up with that are better than I am?

Do I try to expand the micro niche business? My main product vendor may or may not be able to supply me at all anymore... it may be dead too, then.

I had a pity party that's lasted almost 24 hours, and I'm just disgusted with it. What next? Ideas and suggestions, please!

(yes, currently researching and reading all the relevant archives)

Thank you!
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The higher, the fewer
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Speedway Pass
Aug 27, 2017
Is there an entry-level job you could get in the wastewater industry? You could try and replace your minimum wage jobs driving the forklift and moving furniture with a minimum wage job in the wastewater industry.

Then, since it sounds like you are cash-strapped, you could have a sidehustle to get some cash and then pursue your wastewater Fastlane plans. Since you'd also be working in the industry, you'd be better able to spot needs and gain some domain experience.

For a sidehustle you can even just buy and resell items. Check out Gary Vaynerchuk's Garage Sale Arbitrage series. Also look through your belongings and sell what you don't need on eBay or Craiglist.

Speaking of Craigslist, check out the free stuff section and see if there is anything there you could resell or fix up and then resell.

You don't need to build a team of people right now, that shouldn't be your focus.

How is your niche lab supply business going? Could you work on expanding that?


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Speedway Pass
May 3, 2014
Marbella, Spain
I had a pity party that's lasted almost 24 hours, and I'm just disgusted with it.

That made me smile. If all my hopes and dreams had come crashing down and I was back at mediocrity I think almost anyone would throw a pity party. < 24 hours? I think you earned it.

Phytoremediation is an interesting subject to specialise in.

  1. So you have mothballed your business until you can finance the marketing.
  2. You have zero disposable income and are actually running at a deficit.
  3. You want to use your degree to build a Fastlane in the wastewater industry.
1/ How confident are you that marketing will work? How much demand is there for your consulting business? Are you sure it's on point? How much consulting have you done already? I take it it's B2B in an area associated with Phytoremediation?

The micro niche business. Can this provide a stable and worthwhile income? You say that your supplier "may not be able to supply me at all anymore". Is that a fact or a follow on from the pity party? You need to know one way or the other. You can't invest time and money into something where one of the main cogs is likely to blow up. If he is wobbly can you find an alternative? Could he even help you find an alternate supplier?
Would this provide enough money to get you back on your feet? If not then you have to consider it dead in the water.

2/ You obviously need funds, not only to live but to build a business. @rwhyan has provided some solid methods of hustling. You really need to be getting away from minimum wage ASAP. That stuff will just drag you down. You would probably be better off flipping burgers, at least they provide a free meal. Does your health cause any jobs issues? I know if I had to go back to square one and I didn't have a skill/trade to fall back on I would set up something like a window cleaning round. Cheap and easy to produce money within 24 hours. You will be surprised at how much money is in low tech local services. Stuff like:

Window Cleaning
Car Detailing
Gutter Cleaning
Garden Clearing
General garden services
Drive pressure washing

For business you can either go door to door (ideal for creating a window cleaning round) or get on all the local Facebook groups and post ads. A friend of mine does this when things are quiet and he can fill his mobile car detailing business up for a month at a time by posting an attractive offer on Facebook.

He doesn't care if the group doesn't allow ads. They will remove them but he gets his appointment book filled and it costs him nothing. Then he uses all the new customers to garner more business by getting referrals. Oh and he employs friends to do most of the work as he has a window cleaning round and a few other hustles so doesn't have time to do all the detailing himself.

3/ So you have to find a way in. Does your university have any contacts you can reach out to? How much have you networked on LinkedIn? What conferences, seminars, trade shows etc. can you get on/to that you can use for networking and making contacts? Even if you can't get into a conference you can still network at the hotel bar after the days events. It's no good casting your net where there are no fish, you need to get in a boat and row out to their feeding grounds.


Gold Contributor
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Speedway Pass
Aug 6, 2017
New Mexico
Who already has the pain that you can solve? For the moment, forget marketing. Instead, actually talk to those who have the pain. Why do they have the pain, how have they tried to fix it, why didn't those efforts work? Take notes. These conversations cost nothing but your time, but might reveal gold nuggets.

If the pain is only low/moderate, unless you can provide additional value (e.g., cost savings, better efficiency, etc.) you'll probably have an uphill battle to get even 1 client/customer.
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