Updated: August 16, 2021
New Ways to Earn Money from Your Home
The inverse of a “Money Pit” is a “Gold Mine” and many homeowners are discovering ways to turn their homes into revenue generators. As technology continues to offer a multitude of new ways for homeowners to create supplemental income streams using their properties, it’s timely that we start sharing profiles of entrepreneurial homeowners to give you real world examples of inspiration.
Homeowners have been discovering disruptive businesses that are enabling them to easily earn money from their homes, such as: Vacation Rentals (Airbnb), Storage Rentals (Neighbor), Leasable ADU’s (United Dwelling), and even Swimming Pool Rentals (Swimply). Home-based businesses also allow you to write off property taxes, insurance, mortgage payments, renovation costs, in addition to a host of other advantages.
First Step: Start Dreaming
If the idea of someday walking away from the corporate life to a home-based life is alluring, here is a motivating example to help you envision your dream and start planning your own self-sustaining, home-centric business.
We recently came across an affable, avocado farmer on YouTube, by the name of Tom Siddons, after having vigorously searched for various answers to growing avocado plants. Besides answering our emailed questions, he also graciously gave us time on the phone to ask him a myriad of questions on our garden challenges. Though he didn’t know us, he could tell from our emails that we were sincerely passionate about avocados, which was all that mattered to him.
In fact, Tom makes the following affirmation in his video below: “Seems like a lot of people are growing avocado trees these days. I think that’s fantastic! Because avocados make people happy, and happy people make the world a better place!”
As we found him to be highly knowledgeable, personable and passionate about his family and farm — the same on-camera as in-person — we were curious to learn more about how he created this charming life for himself. Here’s what we learned.
The Story of Sleepy Lizard Avocado Farm
In short, Tom is a former corporate sales executive turned avocado farmer and emerging YouTube star, who is pursuing his dream life on his own terms. His 6-year old company is called Sleepy Lizard Avocado Farm, and is based in Homestead, Florida, in the Everglades .
Tom left his corporate career as VP of Sales for Siemens Healthineers, having been with the firm for over 22 years. As the manager for the southeast region he was responsible for $160 million in annual sales. Although he enjoyed his corporate career, he always had a 5-year plan of someday leaving corporate America to become his own boss.
Fortunately for him, a corporate buyout presented itself earlier than expected, which put him ahead of schedule. Enthusiastically taking the deal, he abruptly found himself in the execution phase of his plan to launch and run his own home enterprise. He was more than prepared.
Choosing a Business Type
Prior to leaving his corporate gig, Siddons had studied and developed a financial plan that would enable him to leave corporate life to start his own business. His initial financial goals were for his business to cover his home mortgage, property taxes and insurance.
At the early stages of his research, he knew that he would choose one of two business types, either an agricultural business or an “innkeeper” business. For example, Florida allows residential land to have cottages, duplexes, and Airbnb units.
Our initial impression was that a rental business would have been more appealing, as at first glance, it would involve less physical labor and risk, while offering more free time. So we were a bit surprised at what we learned about the advantages of an agricultural business.
When we asked why he chose an agricultural business, which requires more labor, knowledge and money than an Airbnb setup, Siddons gave us three succinct reasons:
- Huge Tax Benefits
- Trees Don’t Complain
- Lower Cost Basis
While performing his due diligence, Tom learned that the state of Florida rewarded agricultural businesses with substantial tax incentives and that such breaks would not be available with other home-based businesses like an Airbnb property. A key part of Siddons’ financial plan was to focus on adequate after-tax profit no matter the business type.
Tax incentive programs are also a signal that a state government actively wants your type of business to be successful. Agricultural businesses, in particular, generate a large percentage of their revenues from out-of-state markets.
Conversely, other business types that lack state encouragement may face challenging obstacles in the form of: licenses & fees; regulation; restrictions; competition; and less favorable tax treatment.
Trees Don’t Complain
The amount of actual continuous labor that one must invest on a daily basis was a crucial variable for Tom in choosing his business. Counterintuitively, agriculture can actually be a passive way to make money that does not require working 24/7, as being an innkeeper would.
The trees are “ghost workers” as they do their thing morning, noon and night, without needing a 24/7 on-call staff. Trees also offer risk diversification as only a little work is required per tree, but combined they represent many revenue streams.
Siddons explained that an Airbnb set up would require dealing with all types of people as they passed through his property: different personalities, different tastes, and different needs. He knew that a good innkeeper would be required to satisfy all of these unrelenting demands.
As he looked back at that approach, he realized that being an innkeeper can be pretty exhausting and subject to more unknowns. Agriculture, on the other hand, has more controllable and predictable variables, and most importantly: “Trees don’t complain or talk back”, Siddons said laughingly.
Lower Cost Basis
Compared to starting an innkeeper business, his startup costs for an avocado farm were significantly lower. By purchasing an existing agricultural business, Tom would be able to generate revenue in his first year of operation. For an innkeeper business, he would need to make outlays for renovations, home décor items & supplies, plus marketing. He also knew that an avocado farm could be financially sufficient to meet his core financial goals.
Starting a Business vs. Buying a Business
Through detailed research on finances, agriculture and real-estate, Siddons was able to parlay his knowledge into the purchase of a multi-acre, working, avocado farm. He found his future home that came with a farm in similar fashion as most homebuyers do: he drove around a desirable area and inquired about properties that looked promising.
Interestingly, Siddons admits that he knew nothing about agriculture prior to purchasing the land and the farm. However, he knew of others in the Redlands that had invested in properties and were able to outsource the operations for hired hands to work the land. Basically he was confident that it was possible to make a living on a business that was 100% agriculture.
Another critical variable in Siddons’ decision was his choice of crop. Avocados tend to have more seasonal stability than other fruits and vegetables that can have variable and unpredictable outcomes depending on the weather patterns for the region. Additionally, competition from foreign growers is less for avocados than say, mangoes or bananas. Wearing his corporate hat, Siddons remarked “Avocados are like holding a low risk mutual fund, very stable and predictable“.
Plan for Setbacks
Siddons does however warn that entering into an agricultural business is not without risk. He cautions potential farmers to “expect setbacks and set aside reserve funds for fixes. Know the possible things that can go wrong and their possible costs”.
He gives an example of a $50 per tree repair cost, plus the opportunity cost of loss sales over the first and second years as the tree rebounds to full output. Expanding on his warning, he states “You need to have the right and realistic expectations”.
Having watched videos of his experience dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, we can attest that Tom believes in himself and can handle whatever comes his way.
Be Entrepreneurial & Always Be Learning
Siddons has learned that farmers are naturally resourceful, as the need to get the most yield out one’s land fuels ingenuity. For example, many farmers in his area invest in beehives to improve pollination. What is left are the bees in their hives that can now be used to produce honey for additional sales and revenue. This is a by-product of the primary investment. Other example of this type of resourcefulness is purchasing chickens, goats and cows, and selling excess eggs and milk as a “side hustle”.
Though avocados represent the bulk of Siddons’ business, his farm also produces a variety of tropical fruits that are available for harvest throughout the year. Additionally they have dabbled in agrotourism and guided Everglades day tours, including: bass fishing, cycling, hiking, and kayaking.
South Florida has a bustling agriculture community that works in conjunction with the University of Florida Tropical Research and Education Center (IFAS) in Homestead. This meeting of “like minds” fosters entrepreneurism to learn improved practices and collective problem-solving when grappling with problematic issues such as invasive pests harmful to local crops.
When asked what his most memorable or proudest moment was in pursuing his dream, Siddons responded seeing one of his Sleepy Lizard stickers on someone’s car “out in the wild”. He assured us that it was not his mother’s car, which made it all the more fulfilling. He also gets a thrill when he is recognized in public as “that avocado guy on YouTube”.
Parting Words of Advice
Siddons’ parting words of wisdom for home based entrepreneurs is simple: “At different points in your life be sure to come up for air and set a direction. You don’t just wake up and do it. You have to dream and plan. Sit down and think about it. What would be your ideal scenario? What would you do if you won the lottery? Write it down on paper, plan and execute”.
When Tom asks himself what he would do differently if he won the lottery today, he wouldn’t change anything, except maybe buy a nicer car. He is currently twelve years into his journey.
Summary of Tips
- Come Up for Air & Start Dreaming
- Make Financial Plans & Goals
- Choose Wisely
- Plan for Setbacks
- Be Resourceful
- Always Learn & Innovate
More Information on Sleepy Lizard Avocado Farm
Sleepy Lizard cultivates eight varieties of Florida avocado. Four varieties mature in November: Monroe, Choquette, Hall, and Lula. Their early season cultivar is also their largest. The Simmonds avocado matures in late spring and some can exceed six pounds!
They also grow rare varieties of mango and banana, as well as exotic tropical fruit such as Jobaticaba, Monstera Deliciousa, Loquat, Longan, Mamey and Sapodilla. Trees from their nursery can be purchased by those who prefer to grow fruit on their own at home. Sleepy Lizard products are found in supermarkets across America under the Fresh King and Slimcado labels.
To make purchases from Sleepy Lizard, such as avocados, tee shirts, stickers or guacamole maker kits, go to Sleepy Lizard’s website.
Siddons’ YouTube channel has been creating a lot of buzz owing to his onscreen, avuncular personality and his double entendre wit. Viewers can learn the History of Avocados or learn how to grown various fruits from seed in his short but highly informative videos.
Sleepy Lizard Avocado Farm Website
Sleepy Lizard YouTube Channel
About Sleepy Lizard
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I know this guy, he’s my nephew! He’s an inspiration!
Here is a photo — https://realestatephotographyla.com/hass-avacado-house — of the Haas house where the original hass tree grew. I was hired to photograph the house about 15 years ago when it was for sale.
Kirt, thanks for sharing this part of Hass avocado history!