One of my goals as a working professional had always been to eventually leave the traditional workforce and operate my own business. I did just that in September of last year, and let me tell you as enjoyable as it has been, I’ve worn many hats up until that day that has completely transformed my vision in life. It’s been like an ongoing balancing hat trick while travelling down the different avenues of tradition employment, attempting one self-employment opportunity after another, maintain some sort of social life, finding time to write, trying to nurture myself spiritually, leisure time, paying the bills, and finding a way to balance it all out without going completely insane.
Building a business requires you to wear many hats to produce that all important stream of cash flow to pay the bills and save for the future. It requires a ton of hard work and a lot of trial and error. Working through those challenges has been part of the fun I’ve had working for myself, and I don’t regret my decision to leave my traditional full-time job in the rear view mirror. Living as an entrepreneur is something that has been a part of my DNA ever since I was a kid. However, daydreaming about what it would be like to be my own boss is one thing; making it happen and being successful at it is another. There is a lot of planning, research, and patience that goes with the territory. You also have to consider the fact that being self-employed often means working 12- to 16-hour days without depositing a dime in the bank account. A positive attitude and a strong vision is what makes a difference between keeping the momentum and pushing forward and feeling sorry for yourself and giving up. I’ve learned very quickly that you have to persevere, have faith and take it one day at a time in order to start seeing the fruits of your labor. And before you know it, those 12- to 16-hour penniless days will start to produce that all important revenue stream.
The Birth of an Entrepreneur
I was born to be an entrepreneur. I don’t expect to be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, but I’ve always had that entrepreneurial itch. Just ask anyone I’ve worked with over the years. Ever since I was a kid selling lemonade in front of my home in the suburbs up until my recent career in the newspaper industry, I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. And I have made quite a few attempts in my life, some more promising than others, but they all eventually failed. The important fact is that I have never given up on that professional goal.
My first business venture involved a program developed for kids to learn business skills and personal responsibility. I can’t remember exactly what the name of this program was, but I do remember there was some sort of Captain America type motif in the marketing material. Anyway, my job was to sell stationary door-to-door to my neighbors. It was basically very similar to a school fundraiser, but instead of trying to raise money for a school function, my sales pitch involved the fact that I was learning how to run my own business and trying to sell enough to earn prizes. My “profits” were the prizes offered by this company, just like a fundraiser. I had a lot of fun doing it and sold a lot of overpriced stationary. I did that for about a year before I felt the prizes just weren’t worth the work; I wanted cold hard cash!
Make Me an Offer I Can’t Refuse
When I was a freshman in high school I started a “candy redistribution business” that was very successful while it lasted. My high school in Austin was located on the corner of a busy intersection in the middle of a business district. There was a grocery store across the street, so during my lunch breaks and after school I would go to the grocery store and stock up on multi-packs of Jolly Ranchers, bubble gum, and other candy that was available in bulk. I would then resell my merchandise as individual pieces of candy and made a big profit! Then a “friend” of mine took notice of my growing enterprise and decided to start up a “candy redistribution business” of his own, but he sold his merchandise a nickel less than me, thus stealing my customers. I now had competition that resulted in a nasty little price war, which cut into my profits and my relationship with this so-called friend. My solution? We formed a partnership, brought prices back up, covered more school territory and split the profits… that is until the school authorities found out about our little “illegal” operation. They shut us down and even seized our candy! Damn bureaucrats! So much for playing video games at the arcade across the street after school! That didn’t stop us, though. We just got stealthier in our sales and distribution techniques. That’s right folks! I was a rebellious candy-selling little mobster nerd! I wasn’t going to let “The Man” cut into my video game budget!
I probably would have had a whole underground network of candy-pushing mobsters with a couple of teachers on my payroll (maybe bribes with a chocolate bar or two would do the trick). But alas! At the end of my first semester as a freshman, my parents decided to open up a restaurant in my home town two hours away. Imagine the possibilities if I could have stayed in that school in Austin to continue my underground candy resell business! I could have had a global network by now with the Sharky Bar™ in every supermarket (that’s candy, not booze… although).
The Traditional Employment Bandwagon
Moving to the South Texas Crossroads away from my candy toting mob in Austin was just a bump in the road to small business ownership. It was only a matter of time before I put on another hat in search of the American dream. I was determined to never give up and keep trying until I found something that would keep me out of the status quo. I hadn’t even started my first “real” job yet and already knew that I didn’t want to be a worker drone, but I eventually got on the traditional employment bandwagon and did just what many of you reading probably did… I took a part-time job working at a fast-food restaurant. That lasted six months until money mysteriously disappeared out of my register and I was terminated. I later found out that the owner’s granddaughter and one of the crew leaders was stealing money, but I and a few others were fired for it. That was my first impression of the traditional workplace which took a bit of a toll on my self-esteem. The franchise closed later that year. That put a huge smile on my face. Justice! 🙂
During my junior year in high school I signed up for a business co-op program in high school, landed my first office job as an office clerk (gopher) at a chemical plant and was quickly transformed into an office drone. I worked in various industries and eventually made my way back to Austin to work for a birding tour company and travel agency. It was while living in Austin that the entrepreneurial bug bit me again. My best friend back home encouraged me to check into this awesome small business opportunity that was a surefire way to make good money working for ourselves. After explaining a little bit about how this business worked, he invited me to a meeting with his business sponsor. I did a little bit of research and discovered it was a legitimate business opportunity and I took the bait.
Next stop… Amway!