Author Topic: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business  (Read 3387 times)

bkhncy192

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Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« on: June 19, 2017, 06:30:34 AM »
Hi, sorry if someone has posted this already. I didn't quite know how to search for this topic.

Given that the Mustachian philosophy is to discourage consumerism, how do I reconcile this if I own a business? For my business to do well I need others to be consumers. I'm having trouble reconciling this. I would love to own a small business and create things (ala Mrs. MMM's Etsy store), but given that I have cut my purchases down to only what is necessary, how can I then want others to support my business by buying these "luxuries"? I guess I can focus on a business idea that I would deem worthy of purchasing, but that eliminates many ideas that I consider fun to create.

What am I missing here? Any other perspective is welcome!

SeattleCPA

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2017, 07:31:14 AM »
You might find it helpful to understand that businesses, once they get sophisticated about their strategy, probably use one of three approaches to become and stay successful... a cost strategy that offers a lower price... a differentiation strategy that offers basically higher quality... and a customer strategy that offers a blend of lower costs and higher quality in a way that works best for customers in a particular situation.

Sidebar: Each of these strategies represents a alternative way to attract and retain customers... to in effect beat competitors. E.g., Walmart uses a cost strategy... Nordstroms use a quality strategy... Home Depot uses a customer strategy...

Perhaps you can work through your angst on this subject by building a business that uses the cost strategy or the customer strategy?

I did a longer blog post on this subject a while back: http://evergreensmallbusiness.com/setting-a-strategy-for-your-small-business/

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ooeei

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2017, 08:08:40 AM »
I always thought the focus of the blog was to focus on what makes you happy.  For many people that's freedom, for others it's fancy things. 

Financial responsibility and fancy soap are not mutually exclusive. If someone wants to spend their money on that, I'm not going to stop them. There are certain things I buy that are beyond the bare minimum, and I'm glad somebody makes them.

I would suggest you might want to avoid offering predatory loans, or anything that actually scams someone.  A $5 bar of soap is neither of those things. I'd also have no issue owning a restaurant that serves something beyond beans rice and eggs.

ChpBstrd

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2017, 09:06:11 PM »
I think there's something to your observation. Liquor store owners and distillers make a living off of alcoholics. Convenience store owners make a living selling cancer sticks. Fast food franchisees sell foods that cause diabetes and heart disease. Similarly, people selling unnecessary products contribute to a culture of consumerism that bankrupts families, deprives kids of time with their parents, leads to divorces, results in pollution, and causes people to waste too much of their lives at work.

If there's a middle ground between being too ethically troubled to be in business and being a crass profiteer, it might be a rationalization like one of these:

-I'm going to start a fast food restaurant that sells healthy food you could eat every day.
-I'm going to make a better quality product than all my competitors, so my customers can hand it down across generations instead of putting it in the trash 2 years from now.
-I'm going to find a way to sell my product for less so that people can actually "live better" as Walmart claims.
-I'm going to actually care for my customers, whereas everyone else is just profiteering (e.g. healthcare, psychology, nursing, helping the disadvantaged, etc)
-I'm going to give my customers something to spend money on that is more beneficial than the other things they're spending money on.
-I'm going to make someone's day every day (service industry).
-I'm going to make a product that costs less to own and operate than my competitor's products.

All these stereotypical mission statements have launched great companies. Most such companies subsequently caved in on their values as the number of stakeholders grew, their founders moved on, and they lost the ability to articulate why their vision / competitive advantage was more important than tacking a penny onto the next quarter's report, why integrity shouldn't be sacrificed for executive compensation, or why quality mattered more than a dividend. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, small business people exist to challenge the big corporations, which would otherwise stagnate communism-style and leave people with few good choices for products, services, or employment. Maybe your rationale is:

-I'm in business because I can do a better job than my shitty corporate competitors.

stashgrower

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2017, 07:51:31 AM »
Create a product or service that you believe would benefit the world. Potentially in an anti-consumerist way, e.g. a service to help people be more MMM.

ketchup

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2017, 08:29:03 AM »
My GF wrestles with this sometimes.  She's self-employed, and literally nobody needs what she's selling, at all.  It's 100% optional in every way.  Luckily though, her clients self-select to the point where pretty much all of them have silly money at their disposal and are willing and able to throw it at her.  There's a lot of money to be made in "catering to the rich."

hodedofome

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2017, 02:34:56 PM »
There's not a great way for me to reconcile these things, but as long as we live in a consumer spending economy it will be tough to avoid. Our economy would have to shift to a different foundation for there to be enough jobs to employ everyone in a more mustachian way.

I try not to worry about it too much as I can't change our entire economy. I just work to get myself financially free so I can have the freedom to make a better lifestyle choice consistent with my beliefs.

MMM has his $$$ invested in index funds full of companies profiting from consumerism. He can't escape it either.

Cossack

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2017, 08:07:06 PM »
You are not your customer. You sound like you are not really much of a consumer either. The way to make money is to understand what your customers want and give it to them. Don't try to sell something that you want. You are different from them.

We used to sell really expensive furniture. I would never have brought any of it. But those people who did loved it. They had totally different worldview than I did. It doesn't make it wrong, we just had different priorities.
FIRE'd at few years ago. I am 43, DW 39. 5 young kids 10,8,7,4 and a newborn. We have lived in Auckland, Melbourne, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Suva and currently living in Brisbane.

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anonymouscow

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2017, 11:46:10 AM »
Not everyone has the same goals and aspirations as you.

Nobody is forcing the customer to buy what you are selling.

A business has a purpose, I would just try and provide the best experience for the customer.

You could try and start a business that helps people move away from consumerism. Something like a garden supplies, seeds, rain barrels, solar panels, canning supplies, etc. So you could in a way have a business and be anti consumerist.

anonymouscow

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2017, 12:49:52 PM »
What I find odd is all the people reporting they make 100k + a year, and they are on a forum about living a simple life.

How can I motivate myself to go to school and get a 50K/yr job, when then only purpose would be to save up money faster so I can quit? It seems like I would be torturing myself for 4 years of school, and 8 years working. That seems more like an issue I can't reconcile.

Syonyk

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2017, 02:09:11 PM »
What I find odd is all the people reporting they make 100k + a year, and they are on a forum about living a simple life.

How can I motivate myself to go to school and get a 50K/yr job, when then only purpose would be to save up money faster so I can quit? It seems like I would be torturing myself for 4 years of school, and 8 years working. That seems more like an issue I can't reconcile.

My guess would be that the vast majority of people in that category discovered MMM after getting the degree/job/etc.  I'm certainly in that camp - while I don't clear $100k/yr anymore (took a lower paying job and am working part time in exchange for a radically, radically improved quality of life and being near family), I was well established in my career and cultivating some pretty facepunch-worthy hobbies and activities before discovering MMM and the early retirement types.

I'm not at all dead set on "retire as early as possible," because I do enjoy my job and I have a super-sweet gig right now (work from home doing a variety of really weird things that not many people are good at), but I'd probably do the same thing again, even if I learned about FIRE earlier.  Just make a few different decisions about places to live coming out of college.

==========

On topic, there are plenty of things you can do that fit within the FIRE and sustainability ethos.  I make a lot of money rebuilding battery packs and generally providing unofficial aftermarket support for some brands of ebikes.
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ChpBstrd

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2017, 02:35:19 PM »
What I find odd is all the people reporting they make 100k + a year, and they are on a forum about living a simple life.

How can I motivate myself to go to school and get a 50K/yr job, when then only purpose would be to save up money faster so I can quit? It seems like I would be torturing myself for 4 years of school, and 8 years working. That seems more like an issue I can't reconcile.

Failing to obtain tradable skills to earn money more rapidly has a way of becoming its own form of torture. It means demeaning work conditions, crappy hours, dealing with difficult people, and having fewer options to escape a situation you don't like even as you realize you're getting nowhere fast.

In the end, it comes down to freedom. The people in debt escape slavery to credit cards and auto loans. The savers obtain FU money, passive incomes, and more options than the paycheck-to-paycheck crowd. The financially idependent have almost full discretion about how to spend their lives. With each hard-won step, one receives a bit more personal liberty.

Besides, we're talking about accumulating enough green tokens to influence other people to work for us for the rest of our lives. We don't necessarily deserve to be able to do that. We're just the luckiest humans who ever lived to be born in a time/place where economic conditions and social infrastructure make it possible to work a few years and live off the proceeds for another 40-50y.

If the number of years is daunting, you might consider the works of Jacob Lusker at earlyretirementextreme.com . His lifestyle can make a person FI in 5 years. But even he got a PhD.

FIREby35

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2017, 08:01:04 AM »
Anounymouscow - I use my high salary to be a SWAMI:

https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/04/30/weekend-edition-retire-in-your-mind-even-if-you-love-your-job/

Let me tell you, being a SWAMI is awesome.

OP: I've thought a lot about the positive and negative aspects of capitalism. The people above have done a good job at pointing out some of the distinctions. Use a car lot as an example. You can sell shitty used cars that have been repo'ed multiple times at exorbitant interest rates or you can have a lot of clean, fuel efficient used cars that you sell at bank rates. Both are used car salesmen. My point? It's about you and how you do business that matters.

I'm an attorney. Let me tell you there are some serious shysters out there. Actually, using the car example, I once gave a red alert MMM style rant/facepunch to the attorney of a shyster car lot that had repo'd a  immigrant families car for a stupid unjust reason when he tried to defend their business. To the world we are the same. But after the rant he knew there was a clear chasm of character.

So, how to reconcile being in business? Offer something of value to the customer and do it with integrity. Then sleep soundly.

anonymouscow

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2017, 04:25:57 PM »
I understand everyone has their reasons for getting a high paying job. For me I just can't see myself going back to school or learning a new trade when the main purpose is to make money so I can retire early.

Mossy 757

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2017, 11:50:04 AM »
You should pick up a copy of Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia. It's an easy 1 day read that covers this exact topic.

lostamonkey

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #15 on: July 07, 2017, 12:11:28 PM »
Some common justifications:

-People are going to blow their money anyway, might as well make a buck off it
-Who am I to judge what people spend money on
-I give my employees good jobs and treat them well which is most important

ChpBstrd

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #16 on: July 07, 2017, 03:01:35 PM »
I just had a hella meta thought.

What if our role is to make mindless consumerism suck so that at least some people will reject it?

How many of us needed to contemplate a ridiculous, unnecessary product or service in order to break out of the assumption that spending = happiness. In a world without dog massage, McMansions, and push-button SUV lift gates, it might not be obvious to anyone that mindless consumption is getting in the way of more important things. By all means, sell the fidget spinners and Jeep accessories. You might just be accelerating at least one person to a point in their lives where they realize their entire value set came from advertising. 

FIREby35

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #17 on: July 08, 2017, 03:55:02 PM »
In a meta response to your meta thought - all things, good and bad, are perfect. All things contribute to each individual's spiritual journey. Each individual is at a different point, learning a different lesson for a different reason.

So, yes. Some people have to learn the hard way that chasing happiness by purchasing objects which satisfy desires will lead to internal emptiness.

Meta-mic-drop.

:)

Rubic

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #18 on: July 08, 2017, 04:51:30 PM »
Perhaps you can work through your angst on this subject by building a business that uses the cost strategy or the customer strategy?

I suspect that once OP actually does the nuts and bolts work of establishing
a business, all the feared angst will soon disappear in the effort to keep the
business solvent.  ;-)

Source: Former (and recidivist) business owner.

iceberg8

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2017, 02:19:58 AM »
Well, I am having a $15 mobile phone from some random store.. It calls, it even do SMS, i can record audio, take a photo I never took as it has perhaps only 0.3Mpix, but I just do not take any photos with it. (I have camera)
I always wonder, why would anyone pay $1kfor iPhone. No problem for anyone who cashes in $k per week, but here, in my country, somewhere in the, someone says East, someone says central, Europe - the average wage is $1k per MONTH, and the median is around $700-750 or so. So now tell me, what is the point of killing 1 month income on phone, which they replace every 2 years at most ? Well, maybe richer people buy it, not the average one's.
Anyway, my income is no stable, but let's say is average, but more or less, it's passive.
i did few mistakes, like buying small 7' sofa for $5K !!!! F8ck sh*t I was so stupid. Why did I buy it? I wanted it ASAP, but did not need it ASAP, i was FOOL and STUPID. i could buy for $1K and use the $4K in sme SPY and would have $8K by now.
EDIT:
All I wanted to say is, a lot of people want to spend their money into TODAY's fun/happiness. A lot of this is bought on the company's name, therefore tax is lower (here in EU), that's why someone who has a gain of like 100K, instead of paying XY % tax, they simply buy some 70K car, and pay tax a lot lower (not sure how much exactly).
But its like saying "majority is more than average" its impossible - average consumerism is average , someone will buy less by 1 stuff, someone more by 1 stuff. They are still pretty anti-consumerism in some point of view, but that +1 or -1 can d oa lot, if you have millions of customers around you..
« Last Edit: July 09, 2017, 04:04:38 AM by iceberg8 »
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Kyle Schuant

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #20 on: July 09, 2017, 03:29:16 AM »
Everyone consumes, if nothing else we drink water and eat food. But that does not mean that any consumption is consumerist. Consumerism is, wikipedia tells us,

Consumerism is a social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts. With the industrial revolution, but particularly in the 20th century, mass production led to an economic crisis: there was overproduction the supply of goods would grow beyond consumer demand, and so manufacturers turned to planned obsolescence and advertising to increase consumer spending.

So a consumerist business will sell people things they don't need or really want, and which will wear out easily and before their time. For example, every child would like some kind of toy. But do you buy them a crappy plastic truck that will fall apart in 6 weeks, or do you give them a Lego set which can be made into a truck, or a car, or a house, or whatever, and will last for literally decades?


I would suggest that one toy is more consumerist than the other. Likewise with most goods and services you can imagine.


Put another way, consumerism is wasteful spending, where wasteful is always going to be a relative not absolute term. Or we can think of the saying, buying things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like.


And you could have certain motivations, and your clients or customers another. I run a small gym business. If someone comes so they can tell their friends, "I have a personal trainer," that is consumerist; if they have a sore back and want it to stop, it's not. I try to avoid the first kind of client, you might not.
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sokoloff

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #21 on: July 09, 2017, 04:33:49 AM »
I understand everyone has their reasons for getting a high paying job. For me I just can't see myself going back to school or learning a new trade when the main purpose is to make money so I can retire early.
For me, education (formal or informal) and learning new things is its own reward. There's a pretty substantial chance that I'll go back to school after I retire, just to learn something that I'm interested in and challenge myself.

I can literally imagine going to that truck driving school, what was it, Truckmasters I think, or getting licensed to do home HVAC, get a jet type rating, or even get an MBA from one of the expensive schools around here. Not because there's any chance that I'm going on the road driving trucks or going to be a three-striper at a regional airline, but because the learning itself has value for me.

swick

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #22 on: July 09, 2017, 08:54:45 AM »
In a meta response to your meta thought - all things, good and bad, are perfect. All things contribute to each individual's spiritual journey. Each individual is at a different point, learning a different lesson for a different reason.

So, yes. Some people have to learn the hard way that chasing happiness by purchasing objects which satisfy desires will lead to internal emptiness.

Meta-mic-drop.

:)

My soul loves this response. Well said :)

Mr. Green

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #23 on: July 15, 2017, 09:45:23 AM »
There are certain things in life that people are pretty much required to buy, unless they want to shack up in the mountains as a hermit. Homeowners have to maintain their house, etc. You could certainly look into one of those areas if you felt more at peace with that than something that's extremely elective like selling fancy soap.
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jtraggie99

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #24 on: July 19, 2017, 01:08:32 PM »
I understand everyone has their reasons for getting a high paying job. For me I just can't see myself going back to school or learning a new trade when the main purpose is to make money so I can retire early.

For me, it is not about retiring early.  It IS about financial freedom.  It IS about recognizing and accepting that we live in a world that requires money to survive.  It takes money to buy food, water, shelter, etc, and everything beyond that.  And the more money you have, the more freedom you have. 

Look, at the end of the day, everyone here is saving money, not so they can simply hoard it all until the day they die.  They are saving it with the intention of spending it.  We are all consumers.  And frankly, the consumerism that many look down on so much is what drives our investments and makes us money.  If all of a sudden everyone starting living a frugal, MMM lifestyle, many, many companies would go broke over night.  It would wreck our economy, at least in the immediate term. 

iceberg8

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #25 on: July 20, 2017, 10:21:57 AM »
Maybe it would wreck the MMM World too. if everyone is frugal. Suddenly. (or slowly)
imagine, AAPL goes down o zero, as none needs that iPhone. $10 phone will do just fine. And they last 5 years and even more. Fast foods would go to 0. But then, bicycle companies would sky rocket.
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pachnik

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #26 on: July 20, 2017, 12:31:23 PM »
Maybe it would wreck the MMM World too. if everyone is frugal. Suddenly. (or slowly)
imagine, AAPL goes down o zero, as none needs that iPhone. $10 phone will do just fine. And they last 5 years and even more. Fast foods would go to 0. But then, bicycle companies would sky rocket.

I was thinking about this too.  Some companies would lose out and some would gain.  Losers:  coffee shops (one of my former faves), fast food, book stores (library).  Winners:  grocery stores (more people cooking from scratch), places with DIY stuff (Home Depot); second hand stores. 

Interesting to think about this.  :)

shelivesthedream

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #27 on: July 21, 2017, 11:40:29 AM »
Hi, sorry if someone has posted this already. I didn't quite know how to search for this topic.

Given that the Mustachian philosophy is to discourage consumerism, how do I reconcile this if I own a business? For my business to do well I need others to be consumers. I'm having trouble reconciling this. I would love to own a small business and create things (ala Mrs. MMM's Etsy store), but given that I have cut my purchases down to only what is necessary, how can I then want others to support my business by buying these "luxuries"? I guess I can focus on a business idea that I would deem worthy of purchasing, but that eliminates many ideas that I consider fun to create.

What am I missing here? Any other perspective is welcome!

I too have felt a certain disgust at the idea of trying to get people to buy more things. But here I am thinking of starting a business that is based around physical goods (dresses): https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/entrepreneurship/advice-on-bootstrapping-a-small-line-of-professional-womenswear I've been percolating it for years now, and finally distilled it into a concrete product idea and feel like it might be the right time in my life.

Things that make me think it would be compatible with my Mustachian/environmental principles:
- As evidenced by the comments in that thread, it is something that people really want
- I do not believe I am duplicating something that exists widely already and trying to do it more cheaply or to get people to buy my product (as opposed to a competitor's) through marketing alone
- I am investigating things like what to do with production waste (fabric offcuts), how to package it (simple cardboard boxes, no plastic), and how to manufacture it (organic fabrics? factory remnants?), and how to make sure I never dump any product or raw materials (keep a very small core line that's always in production and then make limited editions, ignoring fashion seasonality, making something that has the longest possible aesthetic lifespan)
- I am trying to develop the best quality product possible. This will involve a lot of testing and feedback, and very very slow expansion of my product line (I am going to start with one dress in one or two colours and see how it goes).
- I am considering how I can make it durable and how it can be disposed of (strong seams, quality fabric, recyclable packaging, can be given to thrift store, cut down, maybe composted) and will communicate this to my customers (and advice on repairing it?)
- I am creating something that can easily be maintained at home in an environmentally/wallet-friendly way (wash at 30, hang dry or tumble dry, possibly iron - no dry cleaning, no handwashing (because who wears something daily that can only be handwashed??))
- I am going to treat any employees I might ever have well (pay decent wages, treat them like human beings with dignity, respect that they have a life outside work)

You know, if you make one single product that's so good that you never have to do any advertising beyond getting a few initial customers who will then spread the word... it's a tall order but it seems pretty anti-consumerist to me. That's my "reach for the moon and even if you miss you land among the stars" goal.

FIREby35

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #28 on: July 21, 2017, 06:31:22 PM »
SheLivestheDream

What a cool idea! I mean, I'm a man and I'd never use your product, but I just love business and I can totally see your vision. Sounds like a blast!

Any advice I would give is, just do it. It's hard taking that first concrete step. Quitting a job, forgoing a "more lucrative" career, letting go of what you have been. I often tell people thinking about a small business to "take action" and "just do it." When I say that I'm imagining a person like you: sitting on the edge and just wondering, "Can I do it?" Answer, "Yes, you can."

Can you imagine leaving a dream like that undone? Oh, please follow your dream - and come tell us about it!


shelivesthedream

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #29 on: July 22, 2017, 05:34:25 AM »
SheLivestheDream

What a cool idea! I mean, I'm a man and I'd never use your product, but I just love business and I can totally see your vision. Sounds like a blast!

Any advice I would give is, just do it. It's hard taking that first concrete step. Quitting a job, forgoing a "more lucrative" career, letting go of what you have been. I often tell people thinking about a small business to "take action" and "just do it." When I say that I'm imagining a person like you: sitting on the edge and just wondering, "Can I do it?" Answer, "Yes, you can."

Can you imagine leaving a dream like that undone? Oh, please follow your dream - and come tell us about it!

Thank you! I feel like the opening bars of "Climb Every Mountain" should have underscored your post. I'm just not one one of life's "leap in and just do it" people, so this is going to be a long, slow road for me, but I feel like I'm taking the first steps along the path. It's funny, my username is actually kind of a joke to myself because when I made my account I was so NOT living the dream and I didn't even know what the dream was, but I wanted to pick something positive. And maybe someday my username will come true!

And hey, if I manage to make such a great dress you're always welcome to try one on. Unless you're worried there won't be enough pockets... :)

shelivesthedream

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Re: Reconcile anti-consumerism with owning a business
« Reply #30 on: July 22, 2017, 05:49:22 AM »
Also, please comment in that thread if you're interested in following along with me. There's some amazing chat going on there already, partly about dress wishlists and partly about business.