The golden age of Backyard Business

When I was 14, my Mum asked me to collect some groceries for our next door Neighbour, Mrs Butterworth, who was crook at the time. Despite being halfway through a particularly difficult level on Super Mario 3, I found the time to do my neighbourly duty. As I unpacked some essential items into her pantry, she handed me a $2 coin for my trouble which I took directly back to the milk bar and used to buy a packet of Rolos.

It never struck me a franchise opportunity but you can be sure by now somebody will have turned this service into a profitable business model.

Last week, I heard about two young entrepreneurs who have created a business out of returning peoples wheelie bins to their backyards from the kerb, after the bin truck has emptied them. They’re making a killing from old ladies like Mrs Butterworth. The idea is either genius or ridiculous, I honestly can’t figure out which one it is. I mean, it’s a short walk in the park from bringing in bins to selling lemonade from a stand fashioned out of a cardboard box in your front yard isn’t it?

Last year I played golf with a guy who had scaled back his respectable job as an accountant to devote more time to his backyard business – delivering firewood to people with fireplaces who are incapable of (or more likely, can’t be pfaffed) collecting it themselves. I haven’t seen him lately but no doubt he is a millionaire by now.

And what about the story in the paper the other day about the girl who charges neighbours a fee to walk their dogs for them? Again, this sounds like the kind of business I could have run when I was 14, while clocking Super Mario 3 but it’s a raging success.

Why is this happening? Why is everyone scaling back their work hours to concentrate on starting their own ‘backyard business’?

I suspect it is because nobody is interested in working full time anymore. Companies have become too efficient at utilising their employees time. At the end of the week, full timers don’t have any energy left to walk the dog or bring in their own garbage bins so they have to outsource it. They just aren’t receiving their rightful allocation of ‘goofing off’ time in the workplace anymore.

My impression of full time work in my Dad’s era (which is loosely based on events from Mad Men) is that the hours may have been longer but the work wasn’t as draining. There weren’t as many things to juggle. Time wasn’t managed as vigilantly by bosses. Employees operated at one speed.

Mum used to make reference to Dad’s ‘liquid lunches’ with his stock broking mates – lunch at noon and then stumble back to the office at around 3pm for a very unproductive couple of hours before home time. I don’t think liquid lunches happen much anymore. Ah the good old days, apart from the sexual harrassment, it sounds idyllic.

So, don’t be last poor sucker working 5 days a week. It’s time to formulate your own backyard business. The only limit is your imagination… as long as you have the imagination of a 14 year old child.

What do you think of the Backyard Business phenomenon? Leave a comment below.


  1. Kate
  2. Jeff

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