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VOLUME 1 • ISSUE 5   |   Release date: October 15, 2003

In This Issue
Manna Appearing Again
Baseball Curses
Harvest Party Tips
Where are the Christians?
Amish Radio Station Folds
European Christian Confused
Motion-Activated Sprinkler System
Survey Results
October Church Sign of the Month

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Amish Radio Station Folds After Just Six Months
Owner Blames Poor Economy
James VanHouten
James VanHouten

LANCASTER, PA – When James VanHouten decided to start the world's first ever all-Amish radio station here just eight months ago, he thought he had come up with the perfect business opportunity.

"Here we had a captive audience and a virtually untapped market," VanHouten said of Lancaster County's estimated Amish population of 18,000. "Let's face it, when you walk through Amish country, you don't exactly see a lot of consumer goods."

VanHouten, a 25-year old independent marketing consultant, came up with the call letters WTHY and slogan, "Inspiration for thy workday." He took out a small business loan, bought up billboard space along local highways and signed on for a hefty flight of local TV advertising to promote the innovative, new station.

"I thought this was the one idea of my lifetime that was going to make me rich," VanHouten said.

But the business venture of VanHouten's dreams quickly became a nightmare. He spent two months getting the station off the ground by pouring tens of thousands of dollars into acquiring licensing from the FCC, purchasing equipment, buying advertising and paying staff, but the station made precious little of that money back. After six months of broadcasting and losing money hand over fist, VanHouten ran out of cash and had to call it quits.

Amish Teens with a Boombox
Amish teens walking with a boombox while
VanHouten was in business

"I really don't know what wrong," said Program Director Ronnie Drew. "We put together some terrific programming. We placed experienced radio personalities in the morning and afternoon drive times; we were playing traditional Amish music, much of it even in German."

But VanHouten said convincing potential advertisers to give WTHY a try was an uphill battle from the beginning.

"Our sales staff was just encountering an unbelievable amount of resistance," he said. "People were convinced that the Amish don't listen to the radio. We did our best to convince them that the reason for that was that until now there was really no station for them, but it was just really a tough sell."

VanHouten's staff, which targeted mostly power tool companies with hopes to appeal to the Amish craftsmen, was able to procure a few sponsorships, but they didn't last.

"It got to the point where we were afraid to talk to the clients that we did have on the air," VanHouten said. "They were getting absolutely no response, and the only thing I can point to is the lousy economy. When money's tight, people aren't going out and buying Amish furniture. When that happens, money becomes tight for the Amish and they don't have the money to go out and buy things like new tools. I really believe that if it weren't for this lagging economy, we'd really have had a chance."

While VanHouten says he learned some tough lessons from this venture, he hopes that his failures won't discourage other media outlets from catering to this often-overlooked group of people.

"I still believe that the Amish people of Lancaster County need a radio station," he said. "As soon as I get out of bankruptcy court, I plan to start making presentations to a whole new group of investors about it."

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