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How a college student turned a 50 cent ad into a $1,000.00 a DAY business.

By Gordon Alexander


You have to BEGIN where you are at, with what you have and move toward where you want to be.

Resources. Let's call this post, resources OR the VALUE of APPLIED INFORMATION.

Let me tell you a true story. It has been many years since I paid 500 bucks for 5 sheets of paper. TRUE, I paid that much for a special report written by a friend.

Knowing what I know today, I'd have paid 10 times that. So what kind of a five page report is worth 500 bucks? Well, here's the story:

I had moved back from California to get married since my honey didn't want to be away from her family. We gave up the fun and surf of Southern California for some good old rotten Northeast Ohio weather.

I started classes at the University of Akron. Studying Real Estate. A real subject. Not like my studies at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, "PARTYING 101 DUDE".

Anyhow. A navy buddy called me up and told me about the hottest thing happening in San Francisco. He was going to check it out for me, cause he knew I had an Entrepreneurial bent.

So he performed a "Chase Revel" type of operation. Chase was the founder of ENTREPRENEUR MAGAZINE, and he published little INSIDER REPORTS on businesses. This was before the magazine. Chase would investigate by spying on and using the services of the business to get the 'inside scoop' on how much money it was REALLY making.

So my friend became a spy. On a little business that was receiving REMARKABLE press. Free publicity across the land. It was called WESTERN ONION, a revival of the singing telegram business that Western Union had dis-continued some years earlier.

He ordered their service, hung out at their offices, talked to all the delivery people, mostly college kids in voice or theater in the bay area. And he wrote a little 5 page report, detailing the operation and giving a pretty accurate projection of the profit potential.

And the PROFITS were huge. When I got the report, I sent him a check for 500 bucks. For his time, and to cover his expenses. It was the best money I’ve ever spent for information.

Now, I was excited. But I had a couple of problems.

The move back to Ohio, getting settled in, the wedding, school, setting up a household; all those things depleted the old bank account, and I didn't have time to flip much chattel.

So I DIDN'T HAVE ANY MONEY TO START THIS BUSINESS. See, Western Onion was going to franchise. But I figured I'd just set up my own, since no one was doing it here in Northeast Ohio.

In the 100 dollar a page report, my friend said that college kids actually delivered the grams. But I couldn't afford to hire them. Not in the beginning. Oh, maybe I could collect the money, and pay them after that? A possibility. OR, I could deliver them myself, and KEEP ALL THE PROFITS. YEA, that's the ticket, I thought to myself.

ONLY one more small problem: I CAN'T SING. In fact I was thrown out of music class as a kid for ruining the chorus. (A story to be told at a later time).

Friend, I can't carry a tune in a shower. So, I asked
my wife, since she liked to sing, and she LAUGHED IN MY FACE. Surprised the marriage lasted so long. Anyhow, there I was. I had a great idea. BUT NO RESOURCES.

I knew that someone was going to open up the Northeast Ohio market, and make a small fortune. But I didn't think it was going to be me.

So I was telling my best friend all this, and he LAUGHED IN MY FACE also. He said: "Every time you'd sing, the people would roll down laughing, you'd be so OFF KEY."

And he was right. BUT. WAIT. What's the point of a singing telegram? A little mirth? A little embarrassing joy? HEY. I'd start the OFF KEY SINGING TELEGRAM SERVICE.

And I did. The very next day.

After morning classes, I went to the Buchtelite, the school paper and placed the following ad:


That ad, the ONLY one I ever ran, cost me 50 cents.

The guy taking the ad looked at me. Looked at the ad. Looked at me. Then said. "You serious?"

"Of course", I replied.

He continued, "Today's our faculty advisor's birthday. We're having a meeting at 3 this afternoon. How much do you charge?"

I had no idea. Expected a few days to think about it.
I said, "If you have a camera there, one of your photographer's, and if it is worthy of your paper, you can just use that, and there will be no charge."

We had a deal. And I had less than 3 hours to figure something out.

I drove to Goodwill store, which is right next to the college. And I found an old hat, a cheap vest that looked like something from a barbershop quartet thing, and some really ugly red plaid pants, the ones that golfers STILL wear.

I had my costume. It cost 2 bucks.

Then I stopped at the thrift bakery across the street and bought a cupcake.

A trip downtown yielded some really cheap birthday cards and a candle. And then the final part of the ACT, I discovered walking by the music store. A kazoo.

I had about an hour left. I was nervous, had NO idea what I was going to do. So I decided to wing it, but to do whatever came out of my mouth as seriously as an opera singer at the Met.

I may have LOOKED like a clown, but I was playing it straight. And friends, 3 PM rolled around. I burst through the door, asked for the professor, played a few warm up bars on the old Kazoo, and then burst into the most awful rendition of YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE, mostly making it up because I couldn't remember the words.

He was stunned. There was utter silence. His eyes were as wide as saucers, and I thought I was going to die. But all of a sudden, he realized what was happening and the guy almost peed his pants with laughter.

Then I lit a candle on the cupcake and we ALL sang Happy Birthday to him. I led the chorus. We were all off key.

Pictures were taken, I made my escape, and waited.

Two days later I was front page on the University of Akron paper. The day the paper came out I was swamped with calls.

And one of the very first ones I delivered was to a radio personality ON AIR, sent by his wife, who was a writer for the Akron Beacon Journal.

She met me at the studio, so I could gain entrance, and then we surprised this guy LIVE and I belted an awful song, made the sound engineer go nuts.

That Sunday in the Beacon Journal was an article about me.

And the rest they say is history. I was interviewed on radio and by almost every paper in Northeast Ohio. And it culminated with an appearance on St. Patrick's Day on a Cleveland TV morning program.

The host was Fred Griffith, and we (Oh, my wife decided to join the act once she saw the first few hundred come pouring in) did such a lousy (great?) job, he asked for and got an encore.

We were booked solid for the next couple of months,
and were taking in over 1000 bucks a day. I had to drop out of college too. l trained a few students, and within a few months, they formed their own companies, and shortly the franchises invaded and there was lots of competition.

And I sold the business for a very nice profit, but kept the name, NO ONE but me was ever going to be the OFF KEY SINGING TELGRAM SERVICE.

And no one ever was.

A couple of closing points. It taught me the value of information. IF IT IS APPLIED. If I had not done anything with my friend's report then 5 bucks would have felt like money down the drain. But it contained everything I needed to start from scratch, and quickly build a profitable cash flow.

I started where I was at. With what I had (a lousy singing voice) and converted this liability into an asset. I used only the resources I had available, limited funds, and BEGAN to go to where I wanted to get. And when you're still in your 20's, no kids, and making a 1000 bucks a day, life was pretty grand indeed. It was a great ride.

So. Resources. Got any?

Money. Got any?


Start TODAY, with what you have, where you are at, and BEGIN to work your way toward a place you want to be.

Now then, let me sing you a song....

Gordon Alexander


Copyright 2000 Gordon J. Alexander and Seeds of Wisdom Publishing, All Rights Reserved