After working for seven years as a data support engineer for WorldCom, Janie Foydl was laid off in May. Now she scoops up dog poop for a living.
Instead of returning to the once safe and secure path of corporate America, Foydl has decided to start her own business — Doodie Duty, a service where she scoops up and disposes of dog doo for clients in the Sacramento area.
James Phillips has not been so lucky. Let go from his job at AT&T last January, Phillips has since been unable to find full-time work.
So now he's trying to sell advertising space — on his forehead. Phillips has been unsuccessfully posting auctions on eBay offering to tattoo a message or logo on his forehead to the highest bidder. One potential buyer put in a bid for $75,000, but later reneged. Undaunted, Phillips is still looking for a buyer.
"I'm still willing to do it for the right price," he says.
With so many people losing their jobs amid a slumping economy and few companies hiring, some intrepid souls have resorted to unique ways to try to make a living — or simply just to pay off the bills.
"Most of us would leave one job and go to a more traditional job, but other people look at it as an opportunity to do something different," says Bill Coleman, senior vice president of compensation for salary research Web site salary.com.
Tough Times Tempt Entrepreneurs
Small business experts say as the economy slumps, more people typically decide to strike out on their own as opportunities among existing companies that are scaling back are simply limited.
Through the first six months of this year, 11.4 percent of jobless managers and executives started their own businesses, a 44 percent increase from the same period last year, according to Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. That also represents the highest percentage since 1996.
By contrast, at the time of the most recent economic boom, the number of small business starts dropped to 4 million in 1999 from 4.5 million in 1995 as would-be entrepreneurs got sidetracked by the robust job market, according to William Dennis, senior research fellow of the Washington, D.C.-based National Federation of Independent Business, a small business advocacy group.
"Now that things have gotten tougher, it should start rising again," Dennis predicts.
But it's not just new businesses that are popping up — some people down on their luck have employed unusual strategies to get themselves out of the financial hole. Besides Phillips, a number of other people are auctioning off their body parts on eBay to bidders willing to pay for the tattoo of their choice. Like Phillips, many have been unsuccessful.
"Anecdotally, we have certainly seen an increase in our users coming to eBay for the express purpose of supplementing their income," says eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove. One user, for example, has been buying used restaurant and equipment, fixing it up and reselling it around the country, he says.
"Most of them have been fairly legitimate efforts to expand their income beyond a one shot opportunity," he notes.
$10,000 and Counting
One of the more successful money-making stunts comes from Karyn Bosnak, a woman in her late 20s who moved to New York City from Chicago two years ago, only to find herself mesmerized by the temple of consumption that is the streets of New York.