Marcy Jones has been physically fit all her life. She started out as a gymnast in high school and has stayed active in sports. But when a friend asked for her help to get in shape, the 44-year-old Washington, D.C., executive assistant parlayed her athletic ability into a healthy sideline as a personal trainer. Today she does in-home personal training four to six days a week, seeing two or three clients an evening, with most of her business coming by word of mouth. Jones is just one of many Black women who have applied their talents and skills to create an additional source of income outside their nine-to-five gig. They join the nearly 14 percent of women business owners who turned a personal interest into a business, according to a report by the Center for Women's Business Research. "Black women are more likely to start a business while still working," says Beatryce Nivens, a New Jersey-based career-management counselor. "Some look at their situations and say, 'Gee, I'm not going to be CEO,' so they decide to use their talent and skills for themselves." Others are underpaid at work and must find additional ways to make ends meet. So they develop lucrative sidelines from activities they've always done and taken for granted, like sewing, baking or even creating wedding favors. These 15 ideas may help jump-start your sideline moneymaking:
1 BECOME A PERFORMER If you can sing or have theatrical talent, make the most of it by performing at weddings, parties and other events. Place an ad in your local paper or grocery-store bulletin, and let friends know you're available. Church-choir singers or musicians can make anywhere from $50 to $1,000 and more performing independently for weddings or parties. Sisters with theatrical talent can make between $40 and $150 an hour working children's parties as clowns, magicians or cartoon characters, painting children's faces, telling jokes, and creating balloon animals.
2 OFFER A CUSTOM SERVICE When Essie "Star" Dantzler, 44, bought her commercial embroidery machine in 1992, she intended to use it to design clothing. Today she runs a thriving logo-embroidery business. She has ten regular clients who place large orders for jackets, caps or T-shirts. They may order as many as 240 jackets, but most requests range between 50 and 150 items. She also embroiders baby bibs and blankets for gift baskets and sells them for $5 to $25. The embroidery machine cost $9,000, which Dantzler paid off in three years, thanks to her thriving business.
3 PROVIDE ANIMAL CARE Love animals? Become a pet sitter or dog walker. More and more people have pets and don't want to leave them alone, You can make up to $20 an hour per pet.
4 TEACH A CLASS If you have a specialty, teach it to others. Offer your services to a local community center or college. That's what technology specialist Phyllis Caraway-Franklin of Grand Prairie, Texas, did. She teaches seniors to use computers and charges $20 each to ten students for a one-hour class, which she holds twice a week. "When I get off work, I go there for an hour," Caraway-Franklin, 47, says. "I give back to the community, and I can see this being a lucrative business when I retire." For details on teaching a class, check out learningannex.com.
5 SELL USED BOOKS Are you an avid reader? Recycle your collection on amazon.com. Amazon sells both new and old books. First set up an account at the amazon.com site, list your item, and be ready to ship it to the buyer. Experiment to find what kinds of books do well; some say fiction paperbacks on relationships are popular sellers. Scout local used-book stores for inexpensive finds to mark up online. To price your book, check the site to see what similar ones have sold for; Amazon also offers guidelines. You collect payment from Amazon, which is credited to your account, minus Amazon's service fee. See amazon.com.
6 BECOME A VIRTUAL-OFFICE ASSISTANT Thanks to her computer, the Internet and telephone call forwarding, Victoria Parham, 37, of Emporia, Virginia, creates presentations, takes messages or transfers calls for the owner of a small business--all from the comfort of her home, charging $27.50 an hour. The virtual-office assistant says, "I can do it totally online for people all around the world."
7 SELL ON CONSIGNMENT This is a great way to get rid of lightly used clothing and furnishings you no longer want. Consignment shops will sell your goods for you at a cost of about 40 to 60 percent of the selling price.
8 BECOME A MYSTERY SHOPPER Also called consumer evaluators or secret shoppers, mystery shoppers help gather information on stores, restaurants or other marketing clients. Ayodele Branch, 39, of Teaneck, New Jersey, became a secret shopper after responding to an ad in her local newspaper. "The assignments vary," Branch says, including getting paid to go to the movies, where she evaluated everything from the number of people waiting in the ticket line to how soon the previews start to the theater staff's appearance. Secret shoppers can earn from $10 to $800 a month, depending on the number of assignments they take. But beware of scams that ask you to pay a fee to become a shopper. Check out Mystery Shopping Made Simple by Ilisha Newhouse (McGraw-Hill), justshop.org, bluebook.org or mysteryshop.org.
9 BECOME A NOTARY PUBLIC A notary public is a state-appointed impartial witness to the signing of documents and the administering of oaths. Specific requirements vary from state to state, but in general you must pay a license fee of about $35 to $75. Other requirements may include taking an exam or providing a list of references. A notary can earn from 50 cents to $10 for each notarization. A notary-signing agent who specializes in real-estate documents can earn up to $125 per signing. Go to nationalnotary.org.
10 MARKET YOUR HANDICRAFTS If you have an artistic flair, use your skills to create handmade wedding cards, beaded jewelry, window treatments, throw pillows or costumes for plays or dance recitals.
11 BAKE CAKES Nanette Harris is known as the Cake Lady for the tasty wedding and other specialty cakes she makes when she's not working as an office manager in Cleveland. "I've always loved to bake," says Harris, who made her first wedding cake when she filled in for an aunt who became ill just before her sister's ceremony. "I looked around to see the average price of wedding cakes, $2 to $4 per person. I charged them $1.50 per person for a four-tier Amish butter cake with buttercream frosting, and calls started coming in. They saved money, and I made a little money." Harris still sells only by word of mouth. Her busiest times are Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
12 RENT OUT A SPARE BEDROOM With housing prices at an all-time high, there is a huge demand for affordable living space. Consider renting a room to a college student or senior citizen who otherwise could not afford to rent on her or his own. Make sure you check references and credit, and take into consideration the possible increase in gas, electricity and water usage, as well as whether the renter will share meals.
13 BRAID HAIR Because mothers have less free time than ever before, consider corn-rowing hair for children. Some braiders charge between $20 and $60 per child, depending on the design's complexity.
14 DO DIRECT SALES If you have a knack for sales, try selling Amway, Avon, Mary Kay, Warm Spirit, The Pampered Chef, Tupperware or Body Shop products. Janice Banyon, of Hyattsville, Maryland, took her Mary Kay business a step further when she began to present the products in decorative gift baskets. "Each year I got more creative," she says, "and people began to ask me to make baskets for other occasions." She sells the personalized baskets for from $35 to more than $100 and puts in ten to 15 hours a week to create up to ten a month, when she's not working as a department-store bridal consultant. Her busiest occasions are Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Christmas.
15 HELP OTHERS ORGANIZE Neatniks can find a sideline as a professional organizer, charging from $40 to $200 an hour to help others clear up their space.
by Ingrid Sturgis