Imagine facing the Great Depression as a 19-year-old who’s left the despair of Detroit for a new start in rural southern California.
You’re flat broke, never held a job, never been beholden to a boss and are still too young to have a family to support.
What do you do?
Here’s how George W. Haylings played this hand.
First, he consolidated.
He sold his car for $200 and lived on that $200 for two whole years. That’s two dollars a week: $1.50 for food and 50 cents for charging the battery in his radio.
Living in a tent for two years would discourage a lot of people…but George had ideas.
Fortunately for George, he had a trump card that helped him put these ideas into action.
That trump card was his Aunt Emily who lived in England. She knew his circumstances and sent him a few pound notes in their routine correspondence. Those pounds allowed him to run his first advertising tests.
What happens next is elegantly weaved into his promotion for the now impossible to find: “A Lifetime of Homework: The Autobiography of an Entrepreneur and His Imaginative Enterprise.”
“It was raining. It rained for three weeks. The tent was dark and lit in the daytime with a kerosene lantern. And here I gave birth to the plan that would give me homework for the rest of my life! I wrote it all down, had the brief mentioned test. Later, when I started in earnest, I jumped from the $2 a week to $100 a week…and right in the middle of the depression! The average wage then in California was $25 a week. Wages were lower in California. Back east in Detroit even my Dad was only earning $40 a week as a skilled toolmaker at Packard Motors…and later he was unemployed for several years!”
In 2007 dollars, that’s about $1,500 a week. While George’s counterparts were waiting on soup lines and selling apples on the street corner, George was raking it in…yet he hardly appeared to be working.
His girlfriend’s parents were convinced he was some kind of gangster.
What exactly did George sell? Good question.
Here are some of the titles he marketed:
- 125 Ways to Make Money With Your Typewriter
- Discovered! 505 Odd Enterprises
- How to Make Money at Home
- Small Business of Your Own
- You Can Own a Business
- Vacations Unlimited: A Retirement Kit Comprising Plans, Data and Secrets Dealing With Early, Successful Retirement
- Profitunities: A Most Unusual Book
- Easier Ways To Easier Dollars
- Little-Known Ways To Lifetime Profits
- Hidden Dollars
As you can see, these are biz-op in nature.
Like Ernest Weckesser who would come several decades later, George was a master of case studies. He voraciously hunted down and chronicled any unusual business venture that crossed his radar. And it’s the preciseness of the case study that provides the golden layer of proof that’s in such scarcity in this market today.
Here’s an example:
U.S.A. . . . . ARTICHOKE FLORIST
Why be an ordinary florist, be an Artichoke Florist!
One young lady clips the flowers off of her father’s artichoke plants and sells them from a roadside stand. Passing tourists buy the odd blossoms out of curiosity…Something to show their friends and neighbors.
Each blossom is fairly large and resembles a large blue thistle. The leaves are of an olive green color. All in all, the plant is attractive and there is something about it that makes people ask what it is, admire it, and want to buy it. At least that was the experience of this pretty girl when she first decorated her father’s produce stand with the artichoke flowers.
When she saw how the customers wanted to buy some of the blossoms she decided to do something about it and it wasn’t long before her stand had piles of the blossoms on hand for sale. Her profit amounted to $5 to $10 each day and the total for the year amounted to almost $500. Pretty good from a waste product that all farmers throwaway. Thousands of farmers raise artichokes and other flowering shrubs. #283
How would George Haylings’ model fare today?
Perhaps, his model is even more valid.
Since George used small display ads for lead generation and then followed up with direct mail, ironically, he’d be light years ahead of almost all of his online competitors who ignore direct mail and convert only a fraction of the sales.
The takeaway from Haylings: get the lead and convert them offline.
George, thanks for the “Lifetime of Homework.”