Our First Annual “Shareholders Meeting”

September 2nd, 2010 - filed under: Furthermore » Feedback

It could be the turning of yet another season, or maybe it’s because my entire world has changed this year. Maybe it’s just this summer bug I’m fighting, but lately I’ve found myself especially reflective. And since it’s officially Get Out The Bonzai month, I figured it was the perfect time to share some of my thoughts. Afterall, I’ve always said that my role here is just to facilitate discussion. My goal is to create community and a safe space for growth. And the way to accomplish that is to be as honest and forthright as possible, yes?

It’s sometimes difficult to balance this blog, which is my passion, with other aspects of my life – namely earning income. It goes without saying that my family comes first, and mothering/partnering will be my number one priority. If only this blog could always be number two!

In the past I’ve been open about my ambition to monetize BA. It’s not my driving purpose here (of course), but I sure wouldn’t shy away from it. Every dollar required to live my life is time taken away from this space. If BA could do a bit to earn its keep, that would change a lot. And becoming a mommy has made my time more precious than ever. Sometimes I find myself asking a very difficult question: is blogging like this really sustainable for me?

I firmly believe in NPR (National Public Radio), PBS (the Public Broadcasting Service), and CSAs (community supported agrigulture), which is why I’ve been operating under a model I call USB – User Supported Blogging. That means that I’ve eschewed advertising dollars and instead relied on contributions from my readers (via my wishlist and the tip jar → ). I am so incredibly grateful for every gift I’ve received, but the undeniable truth is that donations won’t really bridge that financial gap.

Right now I work for my $crilla and I blog for love, and those two investments become competing factions in the ”War On Sayward’s Time”. And since family always come first, and since the sad truth is I do *need* to make money, in the end it’s the blog that suffers.

My ultimate dream is to someday marry my income obligations to that which brings me true joy. In other words, I’d love Bonzai Aphrodite to become lucrative, so that I could channel all of my extra energy right here. I have such Big Dreams and Grand Plans (yes capitals!) for this project, if only I could devote the time!

I’m not trying to get rich. I don’t make much money right now and I don’t need that much to maintain my lifestyle. But, well, a girl’s gotta eat. (And this girl’s gotta eat organic!) Life costs money, and I do need some.

So here’s where I would love some input. I’m decidedly disinterested in hosting advertisements, but I have been considering ‘sponsorship’. Essentially, featuring a company whose product and ethics I can completely get behind.

Do you see a distinction between advertisers and sponsors? Do you think allowing sponsorship would compromise the integrity of the site? (Or conversely, would you appreciate being exposed to responsible, green businesses?)

I’ve also considered other avenues of income via BA, such as selling quality merchandise like tees and totes. (Which, personally, I think could be so fun!) How would you feel if I offered BA-inspired garments and goodies? Would you be interested in buying them, or do you feel like our relationship would change if I were “selling something”?

My integrity is more important to me than anything. I always want you to trust that I’m operating above board and in honor of the principles I advocate. So I put it to you, my readers, my community, my ‘shareholders’ – what do you think?

This meeting is now called to order . . .

  • Melisa

    I’m for nifty green/veg*n sponsorships, and I’ve thought for a while that I would buy Bonzai merch.

  • Melisa

    Also, have you considered an NPR style pledge drive? I would be willing to chuck in $5 a month, but have been hesitant to do so because it seems like such a paltry amount.

  • Kate

    To be honest, I’ve wondered why you haven’t cashed in yet. You’re super fun, obviously passionate, and REALLY GOOD at being pretty consistent. A book that inspired me (although, I’m still trying to figure out my ‘niche’) is “Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuck. You can ‘sell out’, but not in a bad way. Really, this guy is pumped and it’s hard not to feed off his excitement about living your passion. I would GLADLY send you this book if you can provide me your address! :)

    As for you ‘selling something’ – it’s not your soul you’re selling. Quite frankly, you could probably sell photos of your most adorable baby who always knows to look at the camera and sustain an income, but I’m sure that is an entirely different ethical discussion :) You could sell stuff you love to make, and ad revenue to places like funk off wouldn’t bother me one bit. It’s actually easier for consumers who’d like to make smarter choices have those at their fingertips (Sayward likes it, Sayward’s smart, I trust Sayward…shoot, I’d buy it!)

    Anywho…Gary Vaynerchuck, and also, Jess LC (makeundermylife.com) are my peeps that make me think ‘Ima do what I love one day!’ I personally just haven’t figured out what I love yet, so I haven’t taken the jump :)

    Bottom line, I think this is still a small enough community that we all adore you, your family, and want you to do what is right for you. Just stay true to your values and we don’t care. :)

  • Tenise Rae

    I would have no problem what-so-ever with a little sponsorship (or advertising for that matter) on your site. I completely trust your choices on brand or company to help support you in your task to provide the most excellent blog evar! Hehehe…in fact, I would love to be introduced to more companies in the “green” community.
    Being a SAHM myself with hubby workin’ hard to keep us afloat I completely understand the need for the moolah. I just think you’re the shit for even asking us first before making a serious decision about the whole thing. You’re truly awesome and I see this blog goin’ BIG….brace yourself girl. I can just feel it. ;)
    And as for merchandise: HELL YEAH I WOULD BUY YOUR STUFF GIRL! O.M.G. And NO I don’t think it would change our relationship AT ALL!! A girl’s gotta eat!
    Having a t-shirt or a sticker on my car would only help me to brag about you and get your name out there even MORE! I think you’d just be silly to NOT make your own merchandise. Jeez. DO IT! :D *hugs*
    You’ve got my full support on what ever you do! I totally trust you.

  • Tenise Rae

    And for the record…I enjoy being called a “shareholder.” Wheeee!!!

  • Annie

    I’ve only been reading your blog for a little while but I would have no abjections to advertising or suggesting products/companies that are great. You could do a review of something and then have a link and picture up under the ‘about’ picture. BA merch could be good, and you can have a minimum price on things – I’d probably chuck in a few extra dollars here or there when I could. By the way, merch by the way of reusables for shopping would be awesome, i.e. canvas bags or something helpful and decorative for storing bulk buys. You could also make an e-book of your recipes or a RAW how to etc etc and sell that.
    I think it’s a good idea. There’s nothing ethically wrong with financial support to keep a good thing going.

  • http://alternativehousewife.com Janine

    I don’t think that even advertising would be bad or out of line so long as the ads are for things you actually support, or at the very least are not opposed to.

    I agree that ebooks would be another great way to bring in revenue without compromising values.

    I’m right there with you wishing I could monetize the blog better and keep it my priority – I love that you’re so forward about this mission.

  • Squiggle

    I’m going to echo the statements above. In all honesty Sayward I believe that in the time you have been running BA you have more than shown that you are a smart, mindful and committed person and I can say without a shred of doubt that I would whole heartedly approve of any advertising that you saw fit. I trust your choice, simple as that.

    I think I’d be lovely to have some form of advertisement for brands that BA users would appreciate and be able to support. The same with BA merchandise…I’m more than a little excited about the prospect of being able to walk around with that lovely logo of yours emblazoned across my chest!

    I don’t tend to comment as much as I’d like as it’s usually all been said by the time I get round to it (damn you time zones!) but I feel this is an important enough message that it should be reiterated.

    You always talk of BA as our community and as a community member I’d relish the opportunity to give a little something back :)

    I have a little plan up my sleeve…we’ll see if it works :)

    To summarise though…go for it. I trust your judgement and damn – you deserve it!

    B x

  • Minna

    I completely agree with what everyone else is saying here. I wouldn’t mind any green and ethical advertisements (especially if you have personally picked out some of your favourite companies) and I would love to buy Bonzai Aphrodite stuff (I just hope it doesn’t turn out to be very expensive to buy things online from overseas). You could sell self-made products or even some cool second hand clothes :)

  • http://twitter.com/erosan erosan

    I think it is so brave of you to post this. Not because thinking of monetizing is bad, but because talking about how you plan on monetizing with your potential customers (and shareholders) is usually taboo.

    That said, I wouldn’t mind the ads, or the sponsorship or the merchandise. As a matter of fact, I would grovel in the fact that I know I would be helping a friend earn some cash.

    My opinion? I like the idea of sponsorship more than the ads, but it has to be someone whose product you get behind 100% (though I’m sure you wouldn’t have it any other way). BUT… I love LOVE the clean look of the page, so you better make sure the sponsoring doesn’t mess the looks of your gorgeous blog too bad ;)

    Also, you might consider selling ‘kits’ for some of the homemade stuff you make (deodorant, detergent, etc) or compile some posts and create an mini-ebook (i’m thinking something like ‘vegan recipes’ or ‘best DIY of the year or something) that you could sell for a buck or two. Small transactions would add up and keep the money rolling in.

    I love to be part of this community as its growing. As Tenise mentioned, I love being called a ‘shareholder’. Can I buy stock options? I’m joking, but I’d love to have something so when BA makes it big –and I know it will– I can brag ‘hey, I was there from the start’ ^_^

    (and sorry for the huge comment, you know I can get verbose.)

  • Kathryn

    I’m kind of a newcomer here, so I don’t have the history with this blog/community that some have. I LOVE erosan’s idea of the “kits” – how cool! I also think merchandise would be great. I agree with several here that sponsorship would be totally fine. It can be tough to find anything you can get behind 100%, but I think if you took the approach of being completely upfront (which in my limited experience with this blog, you always are), about who your sponsors are and why, that would be great. It would be cool to hear about the businesses you’ve found.

  • Richard

    Oh this might be interesting to read,http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090719/2246525598.shtml, I was part of a group trying to promote local music commercially at my Uni, this site has a bit of info about how people with talent or niche markets can make money from it. But its more of an open way of doing things like it would promote giving away your music/news content/movies for free (like you give your blog info) however capitalising (dirty word :P ) on your fanbase by offering select products that would appeal to them.
    Very interesting even though its not anywere near what I do.

    I think adds or sponsership from ethical companies would be a great thing, as you’d promote business that deserve recognition and you’d make some money, sponser ships etc would be good as well.

    I think a shareholder idea might be good as well, I checked out the food for thought website and they had a shareholder system thing were people would donate each month a set amount, however those were fixed and very expensive.

    If you were going to go down that root you could always expand the site and have a forum on here as well, that way the community feels a bit more involved and discussion can be more easily tracked etc

    Anyway good luck

  • Eden

    I’ve not had a problem with something like what Amanda Soule has on http://www.soulemama.com where she has interviews with sponsors and sometimes giveaways.

    I agree with Kathryn and Erosan about kits. It has worked well for Jenny of Sublime Stitching!

  • http://sara-and-compant.tumblr.com Sara

    Good for you for telling the truth! I was sort of wondering how you kept up the blog myself. And you know, I don’t think there’s any shame in advertising, especially if it’s stuff like Food Fight or Herbivore clothing. But I also think sponsorship is a great idea.

    I love the idea of merchandise, and personally, I think Damian should also start selling some of his prints, because I think he has a lot of talent. Have you thought about creating zines? Or maybe a book? Because I would buy both of those in a heartbeat. Or even if you made a user contribution zine, where you wrote the main articles, and people from all over the BA community submitted tips and tricks and recipes. Hell, I bet you could even find readers who would be cool with putting it together using InDesign, or maybe people to submit pictures to the zine as well. My point is, BA is a community and I think it would be best to really exploit it in order to keep BA true and put some cash in your pocket. And honestly, I think some people (like me) are really itching to contribute.

    And hey, it’s not AT ALL that you’re making cash off people’s contributions, it’s that everyone is helping out to keep BA alive. Because this is an awesome blog and I really want to keep reading all of your musings.

  • Neko

    I’d totally buy BA stuff (you know, when *I* have the money ;D), and I definitely see a distinction between sponsorship and advertisements, and am in favor of the former. I think it would be win-win… you get support from/for the site, and like you said, we get exposed to green and vegan companies and websites. You gotta do what you gotta do, and I think your readers trust you to maintain the integrity of Bonza Aphrodite no matter what path you choose.

  • http://www.windycityvegan.wordpress.com windycityvegan

    Ditto to what everyone says; erosan’s comments most closely echo what I was going to say. Keep up the good work and let us ‘shareholders’ know what we can do to help you out!

  • http://www.oregonweddingofficiants.com Maureen Thomson

    There’s no shame in getting paid what you’re worth for the work that you do. In my business, I tell my staff that if we don’t value our efforts, then neither will our clients.

    If your mission is to promulgate the world of “green” to the masses, then it’s certainly appropriate to have high-quality green sponsors of integrity on your blog. Also, I agree that a nominal NPR-like membership fee would be appropriate and successful. You might consider structuring part of the website to give away things for free, with a more in depth Members Only version for paid members.

    And I’d buy BA stuff for sure!

  • Laura O

    I would buy a BA shirt and wear it with pride. Plus, you could give some work to a graphic designer friend!

  • http://www.windycityvegan.wordpress.com windycityvegan

    I meant to add that I would be happy to buy quality BA merch, and it would be pretty sweet if you promoted other independent artists/authors/etc by giving them exposure on your site as well. For instance if you promoted self-published e-books for a small cut from the author. If I knew I was helping out both you AND another artist/writer/blogger/whatever, I would definitely make an effort to check on BA first when in the mood (and the means) to spend money!

    Also, Maureen’s idea about how to structure BA with Members Only items is really interesting.

  • http://vegantasticness.blogspot.com Felicity

    I, for one, really like it when blogs are sponsored by vegan and eco-friendly businesses! Find a business you can really get behind and let them give you money! I’d be interested to read all about it!

  • http://flightsofthevalkyrie.blogspot.com/ Valerie

    ~Sponsorship: great idea as I know you have strict standards and will choose the right companies.

    ~Ads: Yes, as long as you can choose companies/products that you agree with.

    ~Merchandise: I have been waiting since day 1 for you to sell t-shirts, bags, hats, mugs, bumper stickers, magnets, bookmarks, ebooks & paper books you recommend, blank labels with your cute logo on it that we can feed into our printers & make labels for our homemade products, containers for keeping our homemade products in, found the perfect leftover container? or a line of paper products made from recycled materials? add it! etc etc etc Also, everything being organic, renewable, recycled, recyclable,or sustainable in some way would be awesome!

    ~Kits: with instructions yes!

    ~Pledge week: yes as long as we can choose a monthly commitment, or a one time donation, have it once every 6 months or at some interval that works for you.

    ~Remember we talked awhile back about having profiles with pics & names, & locations to make this site much more of a community? Charge a one time fee for those cover the costs to pay someone to code it if you can’t then charge extra to make a little $$$ for yourself. but be sure to add a free trail period so we know what we are getting into, longer than a week, not more than a month in my opinion.

    ~Other ideas: maybe some sort of e-book or self published book. One with food recipes, another with homemade cleaning products, a little book of MMM’s & Itty Bitty Bonzai’s so we can continually be reminded of how far we’ve come & to keep up the good work.

  • Sarah

    I agree that sponsorship>ads. I don’t mind featured sponsors either-like a giveaway/interview blog post every now and then like a lot of blogs do.
    I would also consider putting companies out there part of the service of your blog because I would think you would thoroughly vet the sponsor before we saw it, and therefore, it would be more worth looking into!

    I do agree with erosan about the clean look of your site, though, but I’m sure you could play with that :)

    I’m not big on tshirt/sticker merchandise really-I’m more a reuse it kind of girl no matter what the cool logo is, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I could envision you putting together make-your-own toothpaste/deodorant/laundry soap type kits (so you could be a central but it in bulk source maybe), though, or ebooks/zines like erosan other people were mentioning.

    Either way, good luck figuring it all out! Sounds exciting or fun for you trying to get the monetizing part moving-working for yourself is awesome :)

  • Gerry

    Just do what you have to do, and be true to who you are. No one can ever fault you for that (and if they do–screw em!). I think getting some income doing what you love (like this blog) is awesome! I know you will figure this out, and end up with the best possible conclusions!

  • Kelly H.

    Great ideas above and I whole-heartedly concur with the sentiments. We need more people like you spreading the word and your integrity is just too solid to “sell out” completely or get “too big for your britches.” We <3 U!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    Oh my god you guys! Seriously, I’m tearing up reading through these comments. Thank you all so much for taking the time to express yourselves so articulately and most of all for such incredible support. You’ve made it clear that you truly trust me and that means the world to me. I won’t let you down!

    Reading through these comments is sure lighting a fire under my butt, too! Ha! I’m so filled with inspiration today, I’ve been scheming and scrambling and scratching down notes like crazy in my little journal. So many great suggestions here, and so many ideas that are already part of my intentions – which is great! It means we’re on the same page! First eBook is already in the works (muahaha) with many more already planned. DIY cleaning and cosmetic kits are on hold while I work out sourcing ethical supplies (dang animal testing! it’s everywhere! anyone got any leads on cruelty free washing soda/soda ash or borax???) Merchandise, well, maybe I just needed to hear that you all were really interested in it. I’ve already made some awesome designs and have a great textile company in mind. I’ll get on it!

    Other ideas in this thread are new to me, and I love them! Recycled paper products! (BA stationary??) Canning Jar/storage labels! And I never would have thought to sell photography prints. Is there enough interest in those? Like, fine art food/garden photography?

    I do hear you guys on the ‘clean’ look of the site as it is. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t really taken the plunge into sponsorship yet! But don’t worry, I refuse to let this page get cluttered and ugly. I trust Damian’s design skills to add an attractive sponsor badge without ruining the overall aesthetic of the site. I’m actually really excited by all the interest in having sponsorship – I really love the idea of teaming up with companies that are doing great things. I’ve always said that PROcott is just as important as boycott, so this seems like a logical extension of that. Thanks for helping me see that, and for reassuring me that I wouldn’t be seen as a ‘sell-out’. I should have trusted you all more!

    So, if anyone knows of/is part of an awesome ethical company, send ‘em my way!

    I like the idea of an annual or bi-annual pledge drive. I’ve considered it before (a la the NPR model) but again, wasn’t sure how people would react. I’m really glad to hear that you guys aren’t opposed to it.

    I’ve thought about how to do a ‘members only’ paid area. It seems like something I may add in the long term, tied into the forums where paid users could have entire profiles with pictures, their own blog, their ‘page’, etc. I see it as part of the Big Dream of an entire on-line co-op . . .

    About a user-sponsor (as opposed to a product-sponsor) – I’ve considered this, maybe as part of the pledge drive? Like, pledge $5 per month (or more if you want) for one year, and maybe in return I’d do a monthly newsletter or something like that. Would you guys be interested in something like that?

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much again for all the thoughtful comments. Keep them coming! And thank you for making me believe that this dream could really manifest. I’m going to do everything in power to make it happen! THANK YOU!!!

  • http://www.creativeanomalie.com sarah

    Lot of great ideas… I will second all the people who said thanks for putting this out there and being honest – it says a lot about you ;)

    Sponsorship – Yes, but ONLY if you are 100% behind the company (you would purchase, use with no reservation, etc.) which will probably weed out a lot of people. This means you can charge more for advertising because it’s exclusive (ie quality over quantity). If a company gets to advertise here it’s a big deal because they had to pass through the strict requirements of Sayward ;) Advertising can go up as you get bigger (and you will).

    Merch – Absolutely. But here is my idea; I totally agree with the other Sarah on the reuse it aspect. And printing new shiny stuff doesn’t really fit you anyhow (we all know from The Fashion that you have mad style). So rather than, say, printing 200 identical t-shirts with your logo, why not grab thrifted shirts and have a local screen printing company print your logo and/or artwork over them (same concept as make-ready in printing) and they are all unique. Or you could upcycle them yourself? The downside to upcycling is that it would take lots of time, so another idea on that note would be to produce material friendly logo/artwork (iron-on, logo embroidered on fabric scraps etc.) and encourage readers to purchase the logo and upcycle something they find themselves. I’m thinking in terms of a big community art project with a flickr group and all. Just an idea. It has more to do with my thoughts on the Pledge Drive below…

    (That’s on shirts – I think if anything the first product you need to get is a reusable grocery bag; like a super duty recycled canvas. I would buy a couple of those in a heartbeat. Not sure how to incorporate the reuseable thing on those besides purchasing from a printer who uses recycled materials.)

    Pledge Drive – I personally despise pledge drives. It makes you sound like you are asking for money all the time without meaning too… If anything I would think go more of a “donate an item” to support the blog. Like the upcycle shirt thing – readers could upcycle something (BA themed) and send it to you to sell on an Etsy store. It could be like a monthly mission type deal, different items every month or every other month (“this month the BA merch store is a handmade, uh, jar by our readers, for your homemade deoderant”. You could include ingredients and instructions for homemade deoderant – just an example – and make it like the aforementioned kits). I’m thinking a divide and conquer, readers involved, we all spend, what, $5 bucks? finding thrifted items to upcycle and send to you to sell to support BA. You aren’t spending money on anything but ingredients but you still get the handmade, unique touch without sacrificing your time, and we all can get involved.

    As for this whole venture… you know I work full time AND run a business… so I completely understand where you are coming from. I sometimes wonder how you are able to post so much in an average week – it’s rather impressive ;) You are definitely headed in the right direction, and I think eventually you will be able to do what you love most and be able to make make a living off of it as well. I trust your judgment and am definitely available if you ever have questions on anything or need to bounce ideas off someone. Also, it’s awesome than you have Damian to help out with all of this… it is wonderful to have an artistic husband to give relevant perspective to things. That he’s a web designer too is probably not a coincidence ;) (On that note – the “Member’s Only” idea – anything requiring account creation – is probably not something you want to think about yet. Unfortunately I have an idea of what goes into that and I don’t see it being beneficial enough to offset all the massive amounts of work – and money – required.)

    Best of luck on sorting through all this madness… we’re with you and excited to see where it goes!

  • http://www.creativeanomalie.com sarah

    Ooh I forgot – the zine is an awesome idea (great call guys!) Book too, but zines you could do quarterly, and again, reader involvement as a method of support. I’ve done a couple one-time zines and I have all the resources necessary, so I will say right now I would volunteer to do layout for everything (although I’m sure Damian is more than capable of tackling this as well).

  • Tenise Rae

    What awesome suggestions everyone has! I love it! :D

    I would definitely be interested in some of your photos. You guys are GOOOOD! I am looking for larger prints than 8x10s though.

    I also had an idea about your logo(s)/merchandise. I was thinking about the “reusing” suggestions a few have had. I’m currently working on a project to put up on Etsy that will make t-shirt designs more customizable for some customers. It’s still kind of a secret since I haven’t perfected it yet. However, I thought maybe if you printed out iron-on BA logos we could put your logo where ever the hell we wanted to put them. I have a few very plain t-shirts that need some help and I’m damn good at making reusable shopping bags (or towel bags ;D ). I think your little spoon, knife and fork logo would be absolutely AWESOME on one of my bags….for groceries. Hell to the yeah…perfect! Hehehe.

    Note: I had serious doubts about the printable iron on stuff but my husband informed me that he used it several times back in college and it worked great. Then my mother just recently used some for a t-shirt project and the stuff didn’t fade or peel after several washings. I’m sure there will be some wear and tear after several years though……*shrug.

    Just an idea from my seriously over crowded creative brain….

  • Tenise Rae

    Correction: Fork, spoon and FLOWER logo….doh!

    Oh yeah, and forums would be another fabulous idea because sometimes I feel like commenting more than I actually do (like NOW). I just don’t want to overdo it. “Oh gawd, her AGAIN?!?” :D

  • Melissa

    As long as your advertisers are from companies that you would buy from go for it, others do.

  • http://flickr.com/nineminutes ber (Melissa K) ;)

    my first thought was forums too, but I’m a forums addict :)

    Sponsorship – awesome. I like to do my own research, but I also LOVE the convenience of knowing that something is vegan/ethical/green/whatever without having to put too much thought into it sometimes. I think you have some very clear styles/preferences (diet-wise, fashion-wise, etc) that would really be conducive to something like sponsorships. I’ve seen sites like The Pioneer Woman’s that seem to have a good balance, and I can also think of another site that I really wanted to like but couldn’t because her entries are almost constantly give-aways and product reviews of all the free stuff she’s getting.

    I keep coming back here because I dig your approach to many facets of life, and I don’t doubt that you’ll make the best decision possible (and that I’ll keep coming back!) I would love to be part of your internet community, in whatever capacity that may be :)

  • http://www.zestysurprises.blogspot.com Sunnie

    From reading other posts I mainly just would say “Ditto!”, but I also got a couple other ideas as I went along.
    I definitely see a difference between ads and sponsors. Ads, to me, are generated to target consumers expected to see them on a particular site and aren’t necessarily specifically chosen and/or supported by the blogholder.
    Sponsorships are more symbiotic in implication, I think. It gives the impression of a distributor in need of publicity teaming up with a blogholder who specifically choses to promote and agrees with the product involved.
    That being said, I’d be more apt to explore businesses promoted as a sponsorship. There could be the standard link/button/banner thing, but since these things often rotate, a sponsor-of-the-month or whatever is viable could be really interesting. A post that introduces the sponsor and a couple products or whatever with the BA flava’.
    Also, selling clothing can be a really popular and easy (though labor-intensive if you ship by yourself!) venture. Especially if you work through a pre-order system. This could incorporate secondhand clothes as well, if you have a knack for finding interesting things in thrift stores or finding them yourself. Think etsy-style shop with a mix of handmade, discovered, and veg*n designs of your own.
    Pledge drives would be awesome, especially if pledgers recieve token merch in response. BA Stickers, BA buttons… Which could have a purpose all their own if the recent 2xMonday Monthy Mission were incorporated and there were a line of random happiness stickers for happy-bombing the public.
    Books would be a good resource as well. Re-vamped articles worked into a best-of topical product would be easy to produce once you felt you had enough material I think. And including things in each book in addition to what is on the site would also help give us that extra push to buy buy buy.
    As far as community goes, I’d be more likely to pledge $5 for a year than I would to pay for access to a forum. It’s easier to feel like an appreciative beneficiary than it is to pay for a resource that is similar to ones out there for free.
    Things I wish were more well-documented in general, or that maybe exist but I haven’t found myself: Fruitmapping for large cities, city-specific green-oriented directories (that are UP TO DATE)
    Maybe that’s not relevant… But I hope that’s helpful!

  • Melissa F.

    I have to say, you are the ONLY blog i read consistantly. I hit this site up at least weekly. You are informative, inspirational and not to mention very personable. I’d Love Love Love merch and I am supportive of ad’s of your choosing. You deserve to do what you love and get paid girl =)

  • http://www.zestysurprises.blogspot.com Sunnie

    Just remembered something. At one point I think you mentioned forums specific to each Monthly Mission, so people could join anytime or go back to do old missions and generally get support from everyone. I loved loved that idea. It’s not monetary per se (though it could easily be incorporated as Monthly Mission-specific sections of an online store, selling starter kits or related books) but it could be a big step in branching out the site.
    And of course, I LOVE your blog. Take some time to bask in the squishy love-fest that is this comment board! Then, you know, take over the world or whatever. :)

  • Tenise Rae

    Okay now I feel like a completely dumb ass….it’s not even a SPOON…it’s a MIRROR! Jeez, Tenise…way to freaking pay attention. ;)

  • jenny B.

    Hey:) Go for it to all…and ps : make some cute BA chonies :) I will buy some for sure and I LOVE THIS SPACE SO MUCH I WOULD REALLY SUBSCRIBE TO IT WITH A MONTHLY FEE xoxoxoxoxxoo you amazing!

  • Melissa L.

    I would be very interested in buying merchandise with the BA logo.

    Sayward, I think that you have a wealth of information in that brain of yours and I would love to hear much, much, much more from you on veganism – recipes, products you support, and other resources. I am not a vegan (yet ;-) ) and I would love all the help that I can get in educating myself on veganism. I would be very happy to pay for an ebook or some other type of tutorial on newbies to veganism – like a Vegan 101 (I hope that this makes sense). There is a lot of information out there on the web, but honestly, I do not have time to hunt and peck, and sort through ALL the information. I LOVE your site because you obviously put tons of time into research and experimenting and you present your findings in an honest, organized, and visually appealing format. I would gladly sponsor or subscribe to your site so that you could have more time to “share your passion”.

    Just as an aside, have you ever considered doing some podcasts? I would love to see how you make your meals and healthy products. I have passed along your website information so many times to family and friends who wanted to learn how to make your cleaning products.

  • Julie

    Podcasts – Awesome idea.

    Merch? – Yep

    Pledge Drive- Yep. I’d invest here. I’ve gotten so much from BA and I’ve got the feeling that you’re just getting started Sayward.

    Can’t wait to see what’s coming.

  • http://gliving.com V Blak

    Here is the thing about advertising, to really be able to charge enough for the ads you need to have a high volume / traffic site. Otherwise, the advertisers will see little benefit.

    The best way to earn revenue would be via paid subscribers. Everyone here loves the blog. We all want to support the blog, so setup a paypal subscription button and everyone could chip in $5 to $10 a month. Thats less than going out to a single lunch. 300 or so people giving $10 would bring in far more than any ads at this stage of the blogs life. You could always add other things such as the ads and products, but a consistent subscriber base is the way to go in my opinion and experience.

  • http://radicalturtle.com/ Leslie Cao

    I think making ebooks for recipes or an how-to introduction into a conscious lifestyle are good ideas.

  • http://www.creativeanomalie.com sarah

    @V Black – yes on paid subscribers… if necessary I think that is a viable option. I was thinking more in guerrilla terms I think. But yes, I would pay a $5 monthly subscription fee… it would be hard because we are completely broke but I would do it. Now that I think about it, I guess the only difference between paid membership and a pledge drive is that one is voluntary… those of us with no money right now benefit from the generosity of those who have and give.

    I agree with Melissa F. – you are the only blog I read religiously. I get a lot of RSS feed stuff to keep up on the design industry but this is the only BLOG I take time to actively be involved in. You’re my favorite! ;)

    @Tenise – you totally know what I’m talking about – yes!

  • Tenise Rae

    Ha! @Sarah…I didn’t even realize you suggested the iron-ons already. Well, at least we’re on the same page. Hint, hint Sayward….hee hee….

  • Kate

    @Sarah – HOLY COW I AM TOTALLY WITH YOU ON THE UPCYCLED SHIRTS! I am not a ‘buy it new’ gal (unless I have to…like bras (sorry, these girls are big and need brand spankin’ new spandex!), some work clothes, and underwear. Everything else is fair game for second hand.) but I would love some (hopefully inexpensive) BA upcycled shirts. Love. LOVE!

    I personally despise sites that offer more to folks who pay, and less to those who don’t. I want to support your site, but what if I’m in a bind and can’t? As some one who’s been reading you since early 2009, I’d feel shafted if suddenly there was a ‘members only’ section and I couldn’t get in on the goods.

    Photography – oh yes, I am an art whore. I would love to purchase some of your prints. If it’s economical to do so through Etsy, I would recommend it.

    Kits – You know what I don’t have? Reusable stuff for buying food. You know who I bet has some? You. I bet you made it yourself ;) I’d love to buy products from you. Think “Hygiene”, “Grocer/Shopping”, “Baby”, etc…

    Pledge drive – on the fence, but I love your stuff, so I’d likely donate. You know what would help? Understanding how my contribution helps. I mean, I can speculate, but if you have a specific goal I feel I am contributing to, then I can feel like “yes, I want Sayward to [move to a bigger hosting site] [be able to pay her dues for this year] [feed Waits]” etc. Does that make sense?

    But basically, do what you need to do to make you happy :)

  • http://twitter.com/erosan erosan

    @Kate: +1 vote for the I hate membership fees motion. I think information should be made free whenever possible, and I know there are other viable options. A lot of good ideas have already been mentioned! (ones more time-cost-effective than others, but good ideas nonetheless)

    and ZOMG buying photos from the site is such a great idea! I think there is not ONE person out there that has visited your blog and not thought about how beautiful the pics are! And some could look awesome hanging on the wall (I’m thinking farmer’s market escapade’s photos for example)

    And if in a pinch, you could create a calendar with Wait’s pictures and I bet it would sell like pancakes! :P

  • Pat

    I too love the idea of zines, and agree with nearly everything I have read above. while reading i had another idea, why not start some sort of secon- hand-online-market, where u sell “second-hand-donations” by your readers, and make cash of them. I am sure esp baby clothes would go extremely well, as our little bugs grow so fast. on the same “market” (Etsy or here on page) you could sell your photos (they r awesome”) and kits and zines and …… just make sure that u not just ship within US/Canada but worldwide, as you have readers in Australia, Europe, South America etc.

  • http://flickr.com/nineminutes ber (Melissa K) ;)

    @Kate/the specific goal thing: I want Sayward to get a VitaMix because I’ve been having fun experimenting with mine and would love to hear what she comes up with ;)

  • Meghan

    I would prefer having a semi-annual or annual pledge drive sort of thing to a membership fee… I can/would donate at a pledge drive, but I am aware that there are people that wouldn’t be able to afford a monthly subscription fee, and I think one of the wonderful things about the internet is the free exchange of information. I don’t think that YOU should have to do all of the work for free, of course, but I dunno, the idea of a membership fee kind of squicks me out, even though I would/could pay a monthly fee if I needed to. I especially like Kate’s idea of transparency as to what exactly the money is going to (not that I don’t trust you, it is just easier to get behind a concrete goal than a general one).

    I am also not opposed to sponsorship (or really straight up ads for that matter) as long as you are comfortable with the companies involved.

    I don’t want some crappy-ass cafe press shirt, but I am generally in favor of merchandise. (oooh, I liked the stationary idea, I’m considering getting back into writing letters!) I liked someone’s idea of Bonzaificating thrifted clothes, although that could be complicated/time consuming. Whatdoyado, head to Red Light and buy a bunch of shirts in difference sizes and attach a logo to ‘em? I dunno.

  • Melisa

    Sarah’s idea about readers sending in handmade stuff for you to sell is AWESOME! And I had the exact same thought about printing something on thrifted shirts. That way, everyone’s is an original, even if the logo is the same! And lastly, HURRY! There is a blank spot on my little car CRYING for a BA bumper sticker. I can’t stand it!!!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    I’m LOVING the discussion going on here! So much to think about, so many different perspectives and amazing ideas! I can’t respond to everything individually but I promise I’m reading it all, taking it all in (writing it all down!)

    A few thoughts –

    Guys! Get out of my head, that’s creepy! =D Just kidding, but seriously, you all are *really* on the same wavelength as me. For example, I’m totally planning 2 lines of tees. One = printed on new, organic cotton shirts, for those who want “to know exactly what they’re getting”. And then a second line = one-of-a-kind ultimate DIY high quality hand selected secondhand tees with hand printed logos, made by me and Damian. So yeah, I’m on it guys! Also doing canvas totes! And chonies! (such a fun idea!)

    Seems like there’s some mixed feelings re: pledge drives and paid memberships.

    Kate and Ero San and Meghan (and everyone!), I’d love to hear more on your aversion to a paid portion of the site. I may be thinking about it differently than you guys, but this is one of the ideas that excites me the most. In fact, Damian and I had a great conversation about it yesterday, before I read all the comments about it (mind readers! ha!) But I may be missing something from your perspective, so I’d love to hear more.

    Here’s a few things that we talked about that may or may not influence how you feel:

    - Nothing that is currently free would become restricted. Only new features would require membership.

    - Membership would work on a sliding scale. Nobody would be excluded. Those who really couldn’t afford it, wouldn’t have to pay. Those who could afford to pay more would be allowed that option. The majority of people would pay a nominal fee. It would all be honor system, but *nobody would be excluded* (based on money)

    I’d love to hear everybody’s thoughts on this. I do understand the idea of free information. But I also understand the flip side – Information should be free, but creating/compiling/organizing/presenting information takes time. My own time does have financial value, and there is some imaginary line, somewhere, where purely donated time becomes unrealistic. For example, eBooks are collections of information, but I don’t think anyone would argue that I should offer my eBooks for free (well except in an ideal world! I wish!) Or would you?

    A zine – This is something I hadn’t considered! You guys are thinking of a tangible print zine, as opposed to something online, yes?

    I’ve considered podcasts but would be more likely to do short videos. I’ve thought about it! (what do you think?)

    Basically, I am totally overwhelmed by the support and the incredible thoughtfulness in this thread. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU so much guys! You always always amaze me.

    Much love!

  • Tenise Rae

    I would be down with ANY kind of podcast you put out, no matter the content or length. :D