Opinion on business idea - am I nuts?

Hello! I posted this message yesterday on the Lupus UK forum so apologies if you've already read it on there.

I've had lupus since I was a child and secondary Raynauds for the last couple of years and have had to take this year off work (I'm a primary school teacher) due to bad reactions from medications. I'm much better now and have been thinking it's a bit crazy to go back to teaching full time so am considering starting my own business and I'd like to run the idea by you - not sure if I'm nuts or not!

I went on a cob house-building (making proper houses from a mix of clay, sand, water and straw) course during the summer and have been determined that I will build my own cob house as soon as I can get some land. The friend I went with also wants to build one and we've cooked up a business idea. We want to build teaching and therapy studios around our houses and teach people about sustainable building and how to use cob to create structures such as pizza ovens and small studios etc. My friend is an art therapist and she will run environmental art therapy sessions. We intend to build a bed and breakfast as well and want to make it fully accessible so everyone can come and be supported if need be as the benefits of working with nature are massive. I'm concerned that many people who have chronic illness, disabilities etc don't have access to the natural environment to do amazingly rewarding stuff like cob-building and so want to make it so everyone can come. We also intend to work with schools and I know that children love this kind of stuff! I was wondering if such a place existed near you (we're on the Isle of Man so we probably aren't!) would you be interested in learning about cob-building or having environmental art therapy (working through emotions through engagement with the natural world)? I'm not sure if just because I'm into these things that I assume others will be too! I highly recommend a google search for cob houses if you haven't seen any as they are beautiful!

6 Replies

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  • Hi,

    What an enterprising person you are!

    I'd suggest you get a business model template online & complete it as if you were going to need a bank loan (even if you're not).

    You'll need to know:

    1) start up costs (land, salaries of staff, rates, insurances, materials, taxes, etc)

    1a) are costs of materials static or so they fluctuate (will EU leave impact?) are they perishable? What's order lead in times? Do you have suitable storage? (How long in advance do you require a booking to be to facilitate)

    2) cash flow forecast projection for 5 years (as realistic as possible)

    2a) website building - can you learn to build your own or do you need someone to do it for you

    3) have a pre-launch marketing strategy (book orders ahead of start up, etc) and a plan for repeat business/new customers/assess 5-10 year possible and probably demand. Are there home building roadshows and similar events you could be at to attract business, etc

    4) for a lot of this, you'll need market research - what it will cost to run v what people are prepared to pay, if there is a market for it at all, what your target market is (I know it's a lovely idea to want people with conditions, but these people might be: priced out/not interested/unable to physically/be too small a niche to base your business on alone) consider all possible customer types: retired/in work/stag-hen/children(primary, secondary)/enterprising adults, what hra you'll work (not just on courses, but doing taxes accounts etc), location - nationwide, global? (If you're aiming for people who will visit, are there deals with local hotels you could arrange, or are you planning B&b or equivalent yourself? Will your capacity limit your capacity for classes and frequency of them?)

    5) are there Gov grants / schemes you could be a part of? E.g. Princes trust, affordable housing, promotion of trades alternative to traditional uni courses etc

    It sounds very niche to me personally and I don't think I'd be especially interested but that doesn't mean anything (study of one!) so I'd think about what you need to know then get studying and put together a solid and realistic business case. It will likely expose some things you'll need to address e.g. In the first year you may be running it part time so may wish to work part time or even full time alongside until it establishes itself (e.g. Research might show weekend bookings much more desired, for instance).

    Practically, as self employed, you'd have to think about contingencies for ill health, holidays, training/qualifications etc

    Loads and loads to think about - bit of a brain dump here! I hope that's helped a little (if you can make sense of it)

  • Thanks for the extensive reply! Loads of really helpful things here to help direct me. I've found out about a few of the things you've mentioned but haven't put them all together yet so the business model template will be really useful. Thanks again for taking the time to give me advice - I really do appreciate (and need) it!

  • Very enterprising of you. Is there a way children could be involved as you are a qualified teacher? Any links with the NC? Also people with mental health issues might be another target market? I was thinking ptsd especially vetrans.

    Good luck.

  • Thanks for the reply! I will certainly be getting children involved as much as I can as they thrive with this kind of activity, particularly ones that struggle in the classroom. I've spoken to some teachers and a local head teacher and they're very keen, so that bodes well. Funny you should mention those with mental health difficulties, as we're planning that as well. I've worked for the mental health service in the past and my business partner currently does, also my husband is the manager of the community mental health service on the Isle of Man which is rather convenient! That's one of the joys of living on the Island as it's not hard to get to speak to the people in charge (we're not part of the UK, and have our own government).

  • Hi

    Great idea and very helpful replies so far. I've had SSc (diffuse) with severe secondary Raynauds for 12 years now. From my own experiences, when you're in a good phase, grab the opportunity and run with it because it can be very energising and in turn helpful for your illness. As you say, art and nature in all its forms is wonderfully therapeutic. My passion has always been gardening which is challenging in cold weather and with ulcerated fingers, but the focus and purpose it provides is great for the mind. It's great that you have a business partner that'll make a huge difference too. Get plenty of rest , eat well and enjoy it - sounds like it'll be really good for you.

    Best of luck !

  • Thanks for the reply! I too love gardening and it's got me through some tough times when I could hardly stand up and used to sit in the garden and lie down between pulling up weeds. Good on you for carrying on with it with severe Raynauds - I have it quite mildly I guess, but even that makes things difficult in the garden in the colder weather. Thanks for the encouragement - it's much appreciated!

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