09/18th It’s National Cheeseburger Day. This is just an arbitrary act by whoever issues the “National Day” calendar. But did you know that the 18thth is there a real historical hamburger fact connected with this?
Sometime in the late morning of Friday 18th SeptemberthIn 1885, after the warm rains had stopped, two young brothers from Canton, Ohio sold the very first hamburger. Charles and Frank Menches later became wealthy owners of various businesses. But it’s the story of their first “side hustle” as carnival concessionaires that begins our series on how you too can become a Side Hustle MVP.
Charles Edward Menches was born on June 10, 1859. Six years later, on July 16, 1865, his brother Frank A. Menches was born. Her Franco-Prussian parents emigrated to Canton to start a new life in America. They embraced their adopted homeland and taught their boys everything they needed to know to excel. Both boys showed athletic ability, agility and ability.
In 1880, at the age of 21, Charles had a “successful season” with the Stickney Circus. A year later, he “performed a fine trapeze act” during a “big picnic” for the Germinia Parenting Club at the Stark County Fairgrounds. In addition to his circus acrobatics seasonal performance, Charles ran a cigar shop.
While Charles used his body for entertainment, Frank chose a more competitive path. In July 1885, the younger Menches brother won first prize in the Canton Bicycle Race Sweepstakes. A year later he won the gold badge in the bike race at the fire brigade tournament in Salem.
Despite his retail business, Charles’ first love was the circus. He loved performing and he was good at it. But his tightrope and flying trapeze antics had two downsides: poor pay and dangerous conditions. None suggested the job had what it took to build a sustainable career or long-term business. The cigar shop might have been boring (and dangerous considering how often it was robbed), but at least it offered a steady and reliable (if modest) income.
The small shop that Frank would later work in gave the brothers valuable counter sales experience. Charles used this knowledge when he was looking for a way to transition to a safer and more lucrative side business in the circus. He learned a lot from his fellow showmen. Most importantly, he found out where the money was.
Actors didn’t earn the money. Charles found that two groups of people made the money: the people who ran the circus and the concessionaires. Charles wasn’t ready to run his own show yet (that would come later), but he was able to go where the money was. He started selling concessions and brought his brother Frank on board.
If there’s a moral to this story, it’s “look before you jump”. Before you create a product, before you start selling anything, make sure there’s a market with an ocean of money, filled with people willing to spend money.
That’s how the Menches brothers earned the “M” for their Side Hustle MVP.
M stands for “money”. What do you have to do to earn your “M”?
Although a misquote, the adage attributed to Willie Sutton—“I rob banks because that’s where the money is.”—offers a lesson to anyone who wants to start a successful business: go where the money is. If you want to quickly build a thriving side business, you need to go where the money is.
First, understand this common mistake that budding entrepreneurs make (also, and sometimes especially, when they have significant business experience). It’s so tempting to see the “M” meaning “market”. They make the mistake of assuming that “market” and “money” mean the same thing.
These two terms are not synonyms. Assuming that “market” means the same as “money” can be a costly lesson for entrepreneurs. It’s a lesson the Menches brothers thankfully learned very early on.
Charles already knew the market: circus and exhibition visitors. It represented a large market, a tied market, and a market that flowed with ready money. But while bringing his performance product to this market, he found that he wasn’t making the money that others were making. Instead of focusing on the market, he really focused on where and how the market was spending the money. Tracking the flow of money revealed the profitable advantage the food concession business had over the acrobatic artists.
Yes, finding a market is important, but it’s only the first step. Your real goal is to find out how this market spends its money.
Which brings you to another mistake that is often made. The size of the market does not matter. The size of the sale does.
For example, if you need to make $100,000, you have several ways to achieve it. You can make a sale for $100,000. You can make a hundred sales for $1,000 each. You can make a thousand sales for $100 each. You can make ten thousand sales for $10 each. Or you can make hundreds of thousands of sales for $1 each.
See how ticket price affects market size requirements?
If you look at the “money” analysis template used by Charles Menches, you will notice one thing that may seem odd to you. He already had a full-time operating business. Why did he choose the “circus” market and not the “cigar” market? Obviously he had a passion for showmanship. This gave “circus” an edge. But this was an entirely new business; So a certain risk that was not present with the alternative “cigar”. Just expanding his cigar shop had an advantage as he was already in that market.
What probably broke the tie? Well, it might have been his passion (which isn’t a bad reason). Consistent with the “money” imperative and because it is a more objective measure, it could very well have been market availability. Intuitively, Charles may already have known that the price point of every product he sold in both markets would be similar, so it became a matter of determining which market had more money (by volume) and which market had the strongest audience. “Circus” has prevailed here.
Ironically, this process was reversed decades later. When the Menches brothers wound up their Carny business, they looked for a way to continue selling concessions (by this time they had opened other novel food manufacturing businesses). They discovered another captivating audience that was poised to become a national trend: moviegoers. Just as Hollywood was about to explode, they built a luxury cinema in Akron during World War I. Once again they had a market within walls that had no choice when it came to buying their goodies.
Coming back to passion for a moment, here’s a crucial lesson. When looking for your ideal part-time job, you may not want to start from a completely blank slate. You could, but that makes the process a lot longer. It’s better to start with a “hint”. Like the Menches brothers, you don’t need to have a specific product in mind (and you probably shouldn’t). However, you would benefit from having a rough idea of which direction you want to go. It could be an industry. It could be a demographic. It could be a technology platform. It could be physical geography. Choose a broad area to start searching for the money.
But there is more.
Another mistake that is often made, especially by inventors looking to start their own business, is to start with a product. Well, this can be a successful strategy and there are many examples where this works, especially for novel ideas and inventions. In general, however, most people only see side hustles as an opportunity to raise extra money and not to create new markets.
But this problem also occurs in the full-scale business.
“When we started our company, we first tested a handful of different service offerings, all with the end goal of increasing sales for customers,” said Ryan Turner, founder of EcommerceIntelligence.com in Austin, Texas. “Initially the reception was very poor as we weren’t focused and didn’t have a clear area of expertise in the eyes of potential customers. Because of this, the first six months went slowly and I felt very frustrated, like we were going in circles with no progress. We could not clearly articulate the benefits of working with us.”
This launch morphed into a market research effort to identify the source of spend in the market.
“After speaking to a number of successful brands as potential customers, we finally figured out where the money really is in this market,” says Turner. “We found that the largest e-commerce brands all generated a large percentage of their total sales through the email marketing channel. It’s often been their #1 or #2 revenue driver. We’ve seen that when it comes to servicing ecommerce brands, the real money is made by taking away all the headaches they experience in their most profitable digital channel: Email Marketing. So we just focused on that. For the past four years we have specialized in email marketing for ecommerce brands as our primary service and have never looked back.”
When introducing a product or service, the cart is often put before the horse. If you go in search of the low-hanging fruits without restricting the type of fruit, you will find the way much faster. The Menches brothers weren’t just looking for a point-of-sale solution. They checked all options. Just having retail experience gave them confidence that they could handle the operational aspects of food franchises. And if you’ve ever tasted a delicious burger, you should be forever grateful for your choice.
But don’t overdo it on the story. At this point, Charles has only decided on the form of his company. He has not yet defined his product. That’s next. (Spoiler alert: It wasn’t the hamburger.)
In the meantime, can you benefit from a checklist to help you find “the money” for your part-time job? Click this link to get one for free.