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Making a Living Refurbishing, Recycling or Reselling Old Things

Posted on 15 April 2009

When Jim, a former engineer, decided to start his own business he wanted it to center around his passion for automobiles. He had always been interested in restoring old cars, but hadn’t found the time to do so since high school when he spent months happily restoring the old Dodge he inherited from his grandfather.

After finding a garage space near his home that he could rent cheaply, he set out to find a classic car he dreamed of — a Rolls Royce from the Fifties. He knew that once the car was returned to its original glory, he could earn at least $15,000 profit. In the meantime however, he needed another profit center to provide cash flow.

He stumbled on the perfect solution when an elderly neighbor asked him if he would help her sell a car she could no longer drive. He placed an ad, showed the car to prospective buyers, and pocketed a $500 commission once it was sold. Since he was confident in his knowledge of automobiles of all vintages, Jim decided to buy and resell used cars. Knowing that many sellers were happy to be rid of an old auto, Jim started with the classified ads in his local paper. He now averages one car purchase every week. After doing some minor repairs and a bit of detail work, he runs his own ads. “My initial goal was to earn $500-1,000 every week from used car sales. “I’ve never earned less than $500, and often go over $1,000. It’s been a terrific money maker — and I love putting my knowledge about cars to work.”

In the recycling conscious Nineties, we’re going to see more ventures that are started to refurbish, resell and recycle previously owned goods. No longer are the only stores selling used goods just “thrift stores” — although many bargain shops are doing very well, too. Today, retail stores are popping up all over the country to sell used clothing, sports equipment, and children’s clothes and toys. Secondhand computers, books, and records are also finding new homes thanks to small business-owners. Selling used goods is especially appealing to would-be entrepreneurs who want to do good for the planet by rescuing serviceable items from the trash collector.

Sometimes used items are refurbished, like Jim’s classic automobiles and resold once they’ve been repaired and/or cleaned. Other entrepreneurs give new life to old things by creating something new. Pamela, who loves handmade quilts, scouts estate sales, flea markets and antique shops for quilts that are in poor condition. Often the quilts have fallen apart in places, but still have sections intact. She carefully disassembles them, carefully cleans the good portions, and resews them into decorative pillows. Pamela’s pillows show up in decorating shops around the country and sell almost as fast as she can produce them.

Another artisan buys antique chests and chairs of moderate value and uses his skill to restore them with decorative painting. Vines, flowers, animals and hearts make each of his pieces a unique and functional work of art.

Then there’s Suzanne Brangham whose passion led her to renovating real estate. In her book Housewise, Brangham tells others how to start a profitable business of their own. She should know. This self-made millionaire restored over 70 properties in her first 15 years in business. “My story began in San Francisco in 1972,” she writes. “When I couldn’t find a job I liked, I decided to create my own career. I agreed to purchase a dilapidated apartment with very little cash, then renovated and resold it in six months for an enormous profit. After a few more successes like this one, I formed a California corporation with two friends in order to renovate homes. Three years later, I bought my partners out, returning four times their original investment. I kept rolling real estate, buying more and more property with the profits from houses I sold. I was making money on every single house I renovated.”

Happily, as Brangham points out, this is an opportunity available to anyone, living anyplace. There will always be houses that need fixing — and buyers for them once the makeover is done.

Another dedicated recycler is Chicago’s legendary Leslie Hindman, who started her own auction house and architectural salvage business while still in her twenties. “Ever since I can remember,” she says, “I’ve had two favorite places in a house; the attic and the basement.” While most of the things she recovers are “ordinary treasures,” she also has the distinction of having uncovered an original Van Gogh and successfully auctioned off the remains of Comiskey Park.

Of course, a business dedicated to the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” credo is not for those who still believe that only brand-new will do. But for those who created a second-time around business, there’s the double pleasure of earning a profit while making a contribution to the environment.

Whether you have an appreciation for the beauty and craftmanship of older objects or a desire to get the most out of every item that comes your way, the possibilities are enormous for businesses which specialize in reselling things that have years of pleasure and services left to give.

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  1. a make money blogging carnival - April 17, 2009 : SuccessPart2.Com says:

    [...] presents Making a Living Refurbishing, Recycling or Reselling Old Things posted at Higher Education and Career Blog, saying, “When Jim, a former engineer, decided to [...]

  2. Momentor » Blog Archive » Welcome to the April 20, 2009 edition of carnival of personal development says:

    [...] presents Making a Living Refurbishing, Recycling or Reselling Old Things posted at Higher Education and Career Blog, saying, “When Jim, a former engineer, decided to [...]

  3. Andy Parkinson’s World » Blog Archive » Welcome to the April 20, 2009 edition of carnival of personal development says:

    [...] presents Making a Living Refurbishing, Recycling or Reselling Old Things posted at Higher Education and Career Blog, saying, “When Jim, a former engineer, decided to [...]

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