What is the very first thing that you need to do to start your own business?

It’s simpler and easier than you think. For some, it might be doable in a matter of moments.

It’s not the lack of time, it’s not the lack of money, it’s not the lack of a business plan.

Ultimately the lack of understanding of this step is what causes people to get hung up and NOT start their own businesses.

flower business

Farming doesn’t have to be veggies!

It’s knowing WHAT to do for your business. But how do you really know, even if you think you know?

I want to give you a simple process to determine what your best business idea is and if you already have some ideas to validate which is the best one.

But before we can dive into that, we need to lay some groundwork to ensure that the business is started for the right reasons.

This not only ensures your success but the success of everyone involved, including our home, Mother Earth.

I have yet to uncover the ideal word to preface business though for the moment I’ll use a couple terms such as sustainable or earth-centered business.

This is simply meant as a distinction to help break down the resistance or negative thought patterns that some may have against the idea of business and commerce.

Why Are You Wanting To Start A Business?

Before even deciding what to do for your business, there needs to be an evaluation of your intentions for starting one. 

Sustainable business includes education & writing

So ask yourself  – WHY do you want to do it? Get very clear on this. 

  • It might be so you can have the freedom to make your own schedule, or work as little as you want, or only work when you are inspired. Many people are starting to recognize that working crazy hours for years on end is not the way to a healthy and balanced life. 
  • It might be that you want to have a work environment that you enjoy. Where there is fun, laughter, flexibility to be a person and maybe even be surrounded by nature. 
  • Maybe you have a vision for a better world and see how you can do it better than those that are currently in charge. This is part of the natural evolution of humans, in order for our species to survive we need to focus on sustainability and social cause immediately, and this can be done with a new model of earth-centered or people-centered business.
  • It might be to open up possibilities outside of what has already been in your life. By being in control of your own income, you have the flexibility to start the hobby homestead in the country that you and your family have desired.

Are you wondering where the money comes into play? Well, it doesn’t, yet.

Because it should not be the REASON you are starting a business. If it is the reason, in my experience, the business is more likely doomed to fail.


Because once the fulfillment of making the money wears off you are left with a business you (likely) won’t care for. 

At that point, it’s ultimately the same feeling as grinding away at the 9-5 desk job you hated.

Ultimately, the more reasons why we’re interested in our desire for said business, the more efficient it will be (here’s the permaculture-tie in folks – stacking functions).

You won’t have to cram in everything you love on the weekends – instead it can integrate with your business, so now work is not really work.

For example, if the business allows you to live where you want to live, do what you want to do, support you financially and so on you have less of a dualistic life. You’re living your life AS you’re working. Win-win, if you ask me.

The first Step To Start Your Sustainable Business

The absolute first step is to identify a passion that aligns with a holistic life or your homestead goals. Not what you think will make you money.

It looks something like this:

  1. Make a list of earth-centered or people-centered business ideas, but be sure it is a focus of things you enjoy doing OR want to try for enjoyment. 
  2. If there are truly fulfilling hobbies, skills, activities on your list pick those out as your top choices. If there are none, but just ideas of things that MIGHT be fulfilling, then your next step is to TRY them out and see how you enjoy it (and revisit starting a business AFTER you have explored the ides as a passionate business).
  3. For those who have two or more ideas to try that you are equally excited about, then you need to whittle it down to one.

Some earth-centered business support others such as herbs grown for herbalists to create healing products

I tend to suggest trying one thing at a time, as your chances of success are more likely than trying 2 or 3 businesses at once (trust me I know this from personal experience). 

How do you choose? Go with your gut – it’s not going to be wrong. It might not be the most logical choice, BUT if you ask most entrepreneurs they will tell you they make most decisions from the gut.

Now, you should have your business idea chose. 

You’ll know that you have found your IDEA once you can identify that it is something that you would do even IF YOU WEREN’T GETTING PAID TO DO IT.

That’s the key.

In other words, if money was no object in your life, this is the thing you would still be doing.

This is where aligned business and life purpose come together. 

This is where you will be backed by the power of the universe – where mountains will move in order to HELP you achieve your goals. 

My “Failed” Business Ideas

But I never built another one – why? Because I was only trying to do it for the money.

My one and only reclaimed iPod stereo

Another time I wanted to have a recurring income, so I started to design a digital product that I thought I could sell over and over again and be rich. 

I put about 100 hours into creating it and just as it was about done I never finished it. Again the drive for money was not enough to keep my interest or passion!

Now, there have been times where money was TIGHT and I actually had to see through a business idea enough to pay some bills.

At one point I started a sustainable landscaping company. Bought an old beater truck, some gardening tools I needed and set out to not only pay our bills but also make enough to afford our homestead (that was the goal at the time).

Guess how that turned out? One year later I dropped it and I doubt I hardly made a profit after the initial investment and lost revenue due to inexperience and the learning curve from tackling difficult jobs such as building farm scale irrigation systems.

Oh and the time I worked doing pond restoration? That lasted 6 months.

I’m going to spare you the other 3 or 4 examples from just the past 5 years because I think you get the pattern and my points.

You want to trust me when I say align your business with your passion, it will increase its chance of success.

Lastly, I want to point out that any business attempt that doesn’t work out, is not a failure. It is a learning experience and every time it happens you are further informed as to what direction to head. 

Every time I tried something I learned something about business and myself. Just starting a garden there might be some trial and error combined with experimenting.

Until I found all things permaculture. Until I started living my homestead live and being able to share it with others.

I knew I had found IT because I was doing it for a long while without getting paid.

Without out this component, it’s just another business. There won’t be a fire in you about it and because of that, the idea might not make it off the ground. Just like my 101 previous attempts at running my own business.

How To Develop Your Passion

Here we were restoring ponds that were lost to ecological succession.

Maybe you’re not sure if you have found your passion?

If you ask the question “what would I do if money was no object” and if there is no clear answer, then you need to develop some meaningful and fulfilling interests in your life that could possibly become something you turn into a business someday.

Don’t worry or get down on yourself if this is the case, because it’s something that many need to develop! 

Again, I spent years dabbling in many hobbies or interests before finding “my thing.”

This is not an article about developing a fulfilling life with passion, but I do want to mention this real quick:

Ultimately it comes down to going out and doing something – anything. It can be whitewater kayaking, reading tarot cards, jewelry making, gardening etc.

Once you start something and enjoy it, you have to not get discouraged through the learning phase, this can cause some people to stop doing the activity. 

You have to keep doing it until you have mastered it.

Left Brain Reality Check

While most of this so far has spoken the right side of your brain, there is part of all of us that is checked by the left brain.

Things like “what if no one wants to pay for my passion?” come up.

This image comes from the Elephant Journal and illustrates a balance of logic and emotion to find a purpose, passion or in this case a fulfilling business idea.

Source: Elephant Journal

In this modern world, the lines here are blending more and more – people make a living surf, people make a living as artists and so on.

So, you too can make a living doing any kind of conscious, positive and eco-aware business that you desire.

Start Now, Not Later

So, the first step to starting your business is to identify the passion or desire that you want to get paid to do.

Hopefully, you have a clear idea of the thing you want to explore further as a business – and we’ll be doing this further in upcoming articles. 

If you don’t have that thing nailed down, take your list of business ideas that are things you have never done, or have no knowledge at, and start trying them. Only after you have actually done them to some degree should you consider starting a business.

Want to be a market gardener but have never gardened? Don’t worry about starting a business worry about gardening and IF it is something you truly enjoy THEN consider taking it one step further and turning it into a business.

I feel it’s an important note to wrap up on that you do not need to be the world’s expert on a topic to start a business – you only need to know more than others to do so. As long as you can provide value and service to someone who knows less than you, then you have a potential to develop a business. 

About Bret James

Hi, I’m Bret James. My family and I have created a recession-proof, sh*t-storm proof self-sustainable life. We grow a low-work garden, have an abundant food forest, raise animals holistically, have a stocked pantry of home grown-foods, harvest fresh rainwater, and live in an energy-efficient passive solar straw bale home - all in alignment with nature. And it doesn’t take all of your time, in fact, we run a business and even homeschool our son - all while living a life as outside of the system as possible.


  • Scott Davis says:

    Hi Bret , what’s your thoughts of growing lavender.
    We live in the Lehigh Valeey of Pennsylvania and what I’ve learn the soil and weather conditions seem to be inline for growing it.
    What’s your thoughts ?

  • Once again Bret, a great read. I am excited every time a see an email from High Sierra. That is saying a lot in today’s world. You have been a solid source of inspiration for this Coloradoan. I particularly appreciate the bit about failures. Failure is, in many ways, the essence of business. To fail is to learn.

    Rock on!


    • Bret James says:

      Thanks Ben! Oh man, failure is a bitch isn’t it? You’re right it is part of being successful at anything really. So the challenge is to learn to embrace the failure, because it will come and it will teach. Cheers my friend! Hope all is well back home in CO.

  • Kathleen Johnson says:

    Thank you, Bret. All my life, I’ve never known what I wanted to do. I was asked what I wanted to major in, in school. I had to say something – anything. I have adopted the passions of others while I looked for mine, but they were always “theirs”. Now I am 70 and beginning to see that my prime is fleeting. I have tried many, many things, but I got the most enjoyment out of gardening. Now we have been married 50 years and have 11 grandchildren. We moved to a remote town and live in a beautiful Victorian home on 2 1/2 acres. Your photo of lavender is inspiring to me. Our soil is heavy clay and rocks; the most awful dirt I have ever had to work. But, on a small scale maybe I can do it! Thank you for helping me put things in perspective.

    • Bret James says:

      Hey Kathleen,

      Glad you are getting the opportunity to spend some to creating a garden, doing your passion. Something to consider, if I had to start with any kind of “not great” soil it would be clay. Clay holds lots of minerals and holds water better (less nutrient leaching). The secret is just compost, lots of compost. Now the rocks, yes those are a pain, we have lots too in our clay based soil. We use a tiller to turn them up and clean up our garden beds. You could also consider building raised beds, which are nice because you don’t have to bend over as much. Raised beds are ideal for water climates. Just some thoughts!

  • Wendy says:

    Have really enjoyed relearning such valuable info. So glad to have found a more positive outcome. Thank you very much.

  • Kelly Correia says:

    Thx Bret for the info and the stories and showing that we can do what we love and earn from it if we choose. You always have some great stuff to share, looking forward to following more and joining the FB group as well thx again and best of the best to you and your family always …keep smilin’

Post Your Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.