Slithering by a rough financial patch
Share Now on:
TEXT OF STORY
Scott Jagow: Last week, we had reporters driving cross country as part of Marketplace’s special coverage of the financial crisis. I was stuck here in LA, but there are stories here, too. They’re just a little . . . different.
I went looking for small business people to see how they’re adapting to the economic conditions. I visited Brett Wilson at his apartment. See if you guess what he does by my reaction:
Jagow: Oh, wow. Whoo!
I didn’t know what else to say, because Brett opened a duffle bag and pulled out a 10-foot, 60-pound Burmese Python. And then a 25-pound monitor lizard. They’re his business associates.
Brett Wilson: I’m the world famous Lizard Boy. Hahaha. Which means that I bring snakes and lizards and frogs, bugs — a tarantula of course — out to schools, or parties or pretty much anywhere they need a big bucket of reptiles.
Obviously, a lot of places do. Brett’s been making a living at this for six years. His girlfriend, Christy, also has her own business. She does voice-overs for commercials.
They live in a loft in downtown LA with the reptiles and bugs — and three cats.
Wilson: We were going along pretty good, we’d been putting money away specifically to buy this apartment if it goes condo. And I don’t think we put a dime in that savings account since.
Christy: Well, we sold my car. We had two cars, we sold my car, and we decided to buy a scooter.
They’re doing what a lot of people are doing — saving on gas, they hardly ever eat out or take a vacation, and they’re trying to keep two businesses alive in this economy. For Brett’s traveling show, gas is the biggest cost, followed by . . . rats.
Wilson: Rodent meat is probably the most expensive meat on the planet. They’re about $5 to $8 to a pop.
Jagow: I thought rats were everywhere.
Wilson: You can’t feed ’em the ones off the street, cause they’re might be full of pesticides, or you know. You want something that’s a clean, safe, food-grade rat.
Ugh, food prices. This year, Brett raised his rate from $200 an hour to $225. So far, so good. Christy actually benefited from the housing collapse.
Christy: So yes, I raised my prices this year and I lost a lot of clients. But then I got an audition from my agent for a home auction foreclosure company.
Wilson: I mean, it sounds horrible, but it’s worked out for us, but then what an awful thing.
Brett and Christy are lucky so far. They really haven’t been snake-bitten by this economy. But booking a reptile show might not be priority spending for a lot of people.
Wilson: Being self-employed, particularly in such oddball fields as we’ve chosen, it’s always a crapshoot. What makes me nervous is so much not my business but other people’s perception about what they can do with their money.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.