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Summary

Paul, with others (on zoom) continue to brainstorm on the subject of how to spend $500,000 so that it effects a positive change and also earns back the money.  

Paul continues with his list: among his favored suggestions are advertising via affiliate marketing, more virtual assistants and making more videos.  He feels there are a lot of things going on at the labs which are worthy of videos.  Other suggestions include improvements to boot camp to maybe make it more attractive and possibly advertising boot camp to universities.

The theme of reaching a wider audience re-surfaces.  Amy suggests doing (another, they already did one) Ted talk.

Paul suggests a new permaculture voices event in Missoula, the original was one of the best permaculture events there has been.

There are a bunch of things which could improve permies.com and perhaps people could be paid to do that.

Paul mentions GAMCOD and how even offering $100,000 for 10 months, he couldn't attract 5 people to do it.  It would still be good to do that though, and make videos of it.

He could also possibly hire people to finish some projects like WOFATIs and make videos of them.

Finally Paul has a list of things that need replacing or repairing or increasing at the labs - vehicles, tractors, trailers, batteries for solar panels and another well at the lab so there's more water among others.

The conclusion is that it's not as easy as it sounds spending $500,000 in a way that positively changes the world and also returns the investment in a reasonable time.  It's also apparent that part of the problem is how many ways you can find to spend half a million bucks!

Relevant Threads

hiring 6 GAMCOD gardeners: earn $100k for less than a year of work

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COMMENTS:
 
pollinator
Posts: 2927
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
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Yes, a matriarch, I think that's a very good idea! You need someone like Kate of 'The Last Homely House' *.
A mother-like type of woman who loves making videos. So she makes a meal for the boots ... and a video of cooking that meal and of the boots eating it. And she works in the garden  ... and makes a video of it. Etc.

But of course then you need to find such a woman who doesn't put those videos on her own youtube channel, but on your channel. And who likes living in a wofati, at least for some time.

* to show you what I mean:

 
pioneer
Posts: 116
Location: 6a; BSk; Colorado Springs, CO; Suburbia; 0.35 acres
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Inspired by the book Blueprint for Revolution by Srdja Popovic, use humor and publicity to fuel a movement. Not quite like what the Yes Men did (https://theyesmen.org/) but this kind of entertainment/marketing can draw more people to all of the work you're doing; I definitely agree that increasing your audience is the way to go. I just went to see Srdja speak on the topic of propaganda in the digital age. There are a number of corollaries to marketing. I think there could be global change but not sure about a return in funds.

Some additional marketing-related thoughts: Use the money to subsidize or cover all marketing material: Permies.com shirts and (bumper) stickers (not sure how to make this compatible with high environmental standards). I even wonder if Cindy's (??) memory of the 1in sheep in Ireland could be a wooden keychain with a permies.com symbol and a QR code on the back to the bootcamp info site - or some better combination that's more appropriate for your context. You could send batches to local permaculture societies everywhere and with shipments of your retail (cards, books,etc). My local Permaculture society just had an event and your marketing material could have been at any one of the tables. You could use the money to make connections with local permaculture societies everywhere that could market your boot camp and your events to their listserv. Do you market in Permaculture Design Magazine (I don't think I've seen anything)? Can you contact every PDC organizer to provide boot camp info fliers to their students (this demographic, I think, would be best suited to being future boots - they've got the education and now they want the experience... and some percentage of them don't have property). PINA partnerships? Send a Boot (if interested) to various events/gatherings: whiterockgathering.com, betweentheriversgathering.com, firetofire.com, saskatooncirclegathering.com, rabbitstick.com, fallcamp.net, to host a booth and meet permaculture-tangential folks (giveaway marketing material).

There are 3 kinds of people: those who are movers, those who move, and the unmoveable. The focus of marketing should be placed on those who move: the permaculture-tangential people. I don't think it was the best approach to focus this kickstarter on those who already move. Partner with likeminded environmentalists who are tangentially aligned with you: (these types: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/environmental-activists-to-follow-carbon-footprint/) to spread your vision and the opportunities that you're offering.

Perhaps equally important to increase your audience is growing the boot program. Although I think it would be more effective to target high schoolers than it is to college students. I say this because I just gave away my last skip book to a young 20s guy who's in college and he was really interested in it but can't divest from a career path to which he's already committed. Can you invest in the pipeline, go to high school career fairs - find the students who think the military is their only way out of their circumstances. Get involved in 4-H or boy scouts. Yes, I realize that this doesn't return any money or global attention but the best thing about the property can't be the willow feeders -- although they are pretty great!!

A Wheaton labs permaculture voices conference would be super cool... but housing for 1200 people? I suppose that would have to be in missoula?

For sure, on the matriarch. But don't stop there, children are missing from this equation. What thriving community doesn't have children?

Also, eco-tourism like what Mike Reynolds does in Taos.

FYI: I like listening to your podcasts. I have a lot of them to catch up on =)
 
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Interesting question - I always enjoy listening to the podcasts.
   I own the world domination gardening set.  I also own one of the rocket mass heater sets. I have not watched more than half an hour of either.
  Videos will resonate with a certain set of people (I'm not one of them; I like listening and reading, the video style just doesn't work for me).  If you spend a ton advertising to people who have not found your stuff organically, you might get a lot more people to buy it.  But how many of them will find it compelling?  
   Here is what I would do, were I in the position to, with Paul's stated interests (as I understand them from reading and listening); set a goal of 1000 RMH heaters built in the US as the metric for positive change.
    My opinion is that if you depend on DIYers or consumer driven demand, you are facing an enormous uphill battle, because the activation energy is just so much higher than it is for a standard wood stove.  It needs a catalyst, something to make it easy for a wider audience, that meets them halfway. Let's face it: we are a nation of consumers, and we expect to consume, not build - especially if we are playing with fire.
    Here would be my approach:
       1) Hire the best suited RMH designer (the Weisers, Uncle Mud, etc, whoever has the interest and temperament) to work with an engineer to create a couple of sets of engineer stamped plans, with configurations for various homes.  Rumor has it that code level plans already exist somewhere, so this should not be a huge task.  You'd have to find a decent engineer, but hopefully that would be doable if you had the money and a very well defined request.  I'd say the pebble style and maybe a brick version, cob is too specialized.  Definitely a version that hides or replaces the barrel, since that aesthetic would probably turn off a lot of people. We are thinking about mass appeal at this point.  One that uses a currently available shippable core would be good, although then you depend on that core being available, so a site built alternative would have to be included. A batchbox would be awesome, but I understand they have problems, and these plans need to be bullet proof, both in the building and the operation. The plans would include the weight requirements, chimney requirements, etc - everything a professional mason, builder, or contractor would expect to see, all in their language and in one place. Put these plans up for sale. No idea how well they would sell at this point, but might make back some of the investment right away. You would probably - and this is the part that gets messy, and that I would hate - need some kind of IP protection, so that a professional builder would have to pay you a fee for each one built. So a patent lawyer would eat up some of the money. I imagine you could patent a specific design, with specific features, so that you could sell the plans to commercial builders without messing up the larger RMH community. Obviously, if you didn't care about making your investment back, you wouldn't have to bother with this part.
       2) Reach out to the Masonry Heater Association of North America. All I know about them is that they have a really slick and easy to navigate website.  But according to that website, they have done a lot of well documented research, including work with the EPA to develop testing protocols so that masonry heaters can get EPA certifications.  They also have regular conferences.  Get a build of one of the engineer stamped plans tested so that it has the certifications from the EPA. Hopefully that relationship can also lead to getting a feature on their website and at their conference, so that their members know that this is an option for customers who want something more affordable.  Knowing how uncommon masonry heaters are in the US, I would imagine this as a way of increasing their market share as well. By getting RMH folded into the masonry heater category, you smooth the way for getting more of them actually built.
      4) Once all this is done, you have something that can be marketed to a wider audience - the recent infographic on RMH is awesome, and could be amended to say at the bottom "want one in your home?  Contact your local contractor/mason/masonry heater builder, and get a quote! for engineer stamped plans, got to www..."

I think, if you had builders doing this professionally, a licensing fee/plan cost of $500 would be well born by the market- if the build cost is 6-10k, upping it by 500 should keep it within an acceptable price range for the customer. Maybe it could be higher.  Depending on how initial arrangements were made, some of that might have to go to the RMH designer you worked with. Could you get to 1000 in the first year?  maybe not, but probably in the first 2-3 years, if the professional relationships went well. Some of the other marketing stuff in the podcast might work better at this point - hiring a celebrity to do a clip on firing up an attractive RMH, with a path to buying it the way most people are used to, could offer a better return on investment than getting them to talk about permaculture in general.  The best thing would be to get into the stove stores - when we decided to get a fireplace insert, I walked into 3 different stove stores in my area, and picked the one I liked from their offerings.  I can't think of a way to integrate that though - standard stove installation is too different.

I realize that both the goal and the approach are very different from the "infect more brains" ethos.  On the other hand - once people have an RMH, and it works well for them, would they be more receptive to other ideas?
   
 
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Alexandra,

My first thought on reading this, is that if I had $500,000 handed to me with the conditions listed, I think your suggestions are "ramp up the VA program".  And then the things you list are added to projects that the VA peeps will advance.  

(Further, I need to massage the VA program a bit so that I end up with six good VAs that have been at it for more than four years)

I like the idea of the printed flyer at the local event.  What about this idea:  The flyer mentions a dozen products, plus sepper stuff and the bootcamp and more.  Front and back.  And each item has a link like permies.com/s/boot7 which translates into "go to the primary bootcamp page and use f-code 7".  So a person can print out flyers, hand them out, and a week later get $900.  

So money is paid for a tiny bit of software development, and for VAs to create the document and to make the url arrangements.  And then the person with the flyers makes money, and the empire gets enough money to pay for more of that.  Perpetual motion.


Do you market in Permaculture Design Magazine



I have bought advertising there before.  Maybe I am overdue to advertise there again?

 
Posts: 33
Location: Northglenn, Colorado
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I want to respond out of an abundance of love for what Paul is doing and has done. Also,approach it from a sustainable business perspective. I look very much forward to Paul telling me my idea sucks. and it might.

I'd imagine a current issue is that Permaculture, especially as practiced at the Lab, attracts people at an arc of their life where they are looking to build a career and not pull in money from people who are established and have more capital. "Normies" that might pay for experiences rather than education. The people that could pay and fund the people Paul is training to do this at their already established homes. I'd describe it as building a pipeline from Normie to Full died in the wool Permie Warriors.

My idea I'd call PermiBNB. You mention the rural nature the property as a hindrance to people coming out, but there is already a market for that in short term rentals like AirBnB. So to make it economical that it would be building out a small section of property with cabin like structures for vacationing people to experience different levels of ecological buildings. Maybe they'd be interested in the events and activities at the Lab and maybe not, perhaps they'd just want a quiet place to enjoy time away.

To fund, and prevent the death by obligation, I'd say there would be structures demonstrating different levels on the Wheaton Eco Scale making initial investment possible at a lower level of eco scale. The funding would be a kick starter and the incentive for the kick starter would be actual credits to stay in the finished structure. So, like a gym membership the obligation is satisfied simply by the thing existing and basically being pre booked. Like gym memberships I imagine many people would never cash in their credit to stay or would hold onto them for coming years leaving plenty of room for other renters to stay there. The overhead of an AirBNB is lower than other activities, there is already business models for this to work and would allow people to experience Pauls genius without him actually having to add excessively to the workload. Each kickstarter could be filmed as stretch goal but no video provided to backers. A video about the build could then be produced as an additional kick starter that would be simply to fund the editing.  A class could be held about the build as an addition income stream but since it's funded outside of the kickstarter the lack of participation isn't going to kill the idea.

In the end you could end up with some good ongoing passive income for the Lab, showcase the ideas, upgrade and evolve and give people the opportunity to experience the ideas in a lower commitment level. A weekend of staying in a place with a RMH for example just to try it out.

Slots could be blocked to provide space for people to stay there at larger events. Small family friendly events could be planned, like pick and cook your own dinner night.

I'm not someone who would come out to be a boot, or even take a class, I have a great job, a side business, a family. But I'd love to support the work and experience the ideas you are coming up with. I'm sure there is a larger market in the ecological AirBnB than in the actual interest in spending money on videos, classes or other direct lines of revenue. I'm sure even someone without any idea what it is you are doing would enjoy a stay and likely get excited about it building out a pipeline to future classes, videos, books ect.

In a bit more crass way of putting it, Get rich people who like to pretend they are Paul's to pay for the actual Paul by trying out the paul way of doing it's finished products.
 
paul wheaton
author and steward
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Like the sepper program?  https://permies.com/sepper
 
Daniel Worth
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paul wheaton wrote:Like the sepper program?  https://permies.com/sepper



YES, YES,YES!!! but also, no :p.

What I see is that all the thought has been put in and all the work done and then not listing these on AirBNB and actually running them as a commercial business. I imagine, having experienced it, it's almost completely by chance that someone would find that page on the forum. The original though of getting 'Normies" in the pipeline to provide ongoing sustainable income I don't think is represented there. I know that the Duke has way more info than me, random internet guy. However, permaculture is a bit like a religion in that it needs new members to stay alive. It exists only in the people that practice it. Unlike religion it doesn't really require anything from anyone except to observe and learn. I see from the outside you are providing everything that is needed but not in the way people that aren't already on board would find it. At least with the SEPPERS program. To make an analogy, it's like planting something you think will attract all the bugs to eat so they don't eat your tomatoes. If the bugs still eat the tomatoes you can't blame the bugs you can only watch and learn and try something new. I believe very much the market for you is much larger and the impact much more. Just don't forget it's not the bugs fault for not seeing the brilliance in your design. Keep being awesome.
 
Uh oh. Gotta go. Here, you read this tiny ad. Bye!
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