by Bea Dorsett
Many people choose to go off grid because of their interactions with power companies, to save money, or just to be independent. Beatrice Dorsett went off the grid for all of these reasons and because she was starting her own micro-businesses. Survival in the remote areas of the world including the United States relies on one’s ability to be a multi-talented entrepreneur. Most often this means working with your hands and diversifying your income with animals. To be successful, this business model also includes energy conservation, and renewable energy systems, in order to keep costs down.
“A typical day for me begins when the roosters wake me up crowing. The first thing after getting dressed to go outside is morning feeding and watering chores since I am essentially a chicken farmer (with 100+ chickens) who just happens to sew and do other crafts for additional income to my meager Social Security income. By the time I finish morning chores, the sun is coming up over the eastern mountain ridge and so since I have very short cables on my solar panels, I have to turn it to face the sun and then turn it several times per day. Right now, I generally am able to begin sewing around 11 a.m. and can sew for about 2 to 3 hours after the sun goes down before my inverter begins beeping to let me know that I need to get ready for shut down. I have changed my daily routine so that I do the bulk of my sewing business during the day when my system is replenishing my battery. I find when I do that, I do not have to run my generator in the evening.”
Bea’s solar powered sewing business is really starting to take off. She takes custom orders from folks who contact her on her Facebook page which she monitors from her computer which is being powered by the same two 90 Watt panels that also power her point-of-service internet, her sewing machine, a serger, and task light. “I like to think of all this like the story of “The Little Engine That Could”, Bea says. Busy Bea's Custom Sewing, Crafts & Instruction started small and mostly by word of mouth while she brought income in from her egg and chicken sales. Recently, she was commissioned to make several western style shirts out of Pendleton wool for a man who works for the Idaho Fish and Game. “He drove all the way from Troy to Orofino to see me!” she says excitedly. Now that things have picked up Bea is already planning to triple her energy production and do the same with her energy storage capability. “Some of my customers know that I am now a solar powered business, but not all of them.”
“The guys at Backwoods, Shawn, Brian and John helped me get my current system and then get it hooked up correctly. I owe Brian a lot of thanks and credit for turning me onto PayPal Pay Later after I was turned down on financing for my system by American West Bank despite a 661 credit score. If it had not been for him telling me about PayPal, I would not have my system now. John was a tremendous help in my being able to get the system hooked up so that it is working as good as it is now. When I first received it, I was totally overwhelmed and thought to myself, what the heck am I to do with this small box of pieces? He turned things around for me from ‘I have no idea what the heck to do with this stuff to make it work’ to ’I DID IT’! I now have a working system.”
In reflection, Bea has some words of advice to would-be remote off-grid entrepreneurs starting with conservation. “Cut your energy consumption first and start with lighting because it’s the easiest and least expensive place to start. When I did that it cut my consumption by 60% immediately. Then read as many articles you can that deal with saving energy or solar powering your home etc. Attend workshops, seminars, and energy fairs to learn all that you can about conserving energy and alternative forms of energy. In fact, that is where I first met Backwoods folks-at the Mother Earth News Fair in Oregon.”
Bea Dorsett is a shining example of the independent off grid spirit that we want others to know about. Through trial and tribulations, her inspiring example of making a living by building and steadily growing a solar powered sewing business, quite literally from scratch, is something we can all hope to learn from. It takes a strong will to survive in the backwoods and Bea has got what it takes. You can find her on Facebook if you search for Bea Dorsett.