Entrepreneurship Lessons from the Early Days

Entrepreneurship has always ran strong in my family. I suppose it started in my Dad’s family. My Great Grandpa started a bank for teachers, which turned into a credit union. My Grandpa and my Dad started a bicycle business that’s been in business for 40 years. And my Aunt is running a bake shop in town. At heart, I’d say that our family has some pretty strong ties to being in business for ourselves.

So it’s no surprise that I’ve had always loved to work. I started at a young age. When I was about 8 or 9, I wanted to have money of my own. Of course I could just beg my parents to start paying me an allowance, but my Dad thought it would be better if I found another way to make money.

With this month being dedicated so much to writing, I thought I’d start to share my journey as an entrepreneur. I’ll share a story a day for the next several days as I begin to think about this journey in greater detail. My hope is that you will learn something along the way as I reveal more and more about where I’ve come from and where I’m going.

My First Business

I went to school one day in search of finding a job an 8 year old could do. After visiting the library, I managed to come up with something good. I found a magazine company where I could sell magazine subscriptions door to door and for each subscription I got points. The points could then be traded in various items in their catalog. The items ranged from fishing poles, tents, camping gear, to bicycles, roller blades and so on. Basically it was like any kids dream. I thought it was the perfect job and I had a told of “old” neighbors that loved to help the kids out — this was back in the early 90s — so I thought my parents would love it. They agreed to let me give it a try and so away I was.

A couple of weeks later, I was ready to start selling magazine subscriptions to anyone that was willing to buy. I went up and down the street, door to door, asking my neighbors to if they would like to buy any magazine subscriptions. A few of our close neighbors did — I think out of pity — but the rest didn’t.

My sales pitch went something like this. “Hi, <insert name>! I’m selling magazines so that I can make money and purchase something out of this book. Would you help me out? Here’s the list of magazine subscriptions you can choose from.” I know what you’re thinking. Really? That’s the best you could come up with? I was 8. Remember that.

At the time I was at least excited because I got to pick out some items I wanted out of the prize catalog.

Looking back at the job now, I think it taught me a couple of important lessons. The first was that any company can pick on people in need of something — me in need of “prizes” as what I should really call them. And that most people aren’t going to simply buy something from you because they know you. They need to know you believe in the product. They need to know that the reason your selling something isn’t because you “want some prizes.”

What did this teach me?

Well at the time I got tired of doing this. I got tired of people telling me “No.” I got tired of having to collect money, make sure I had all their information and make sure I sent everything in so that my customers would get their product. I decided that it wasn’t worth all the time I had to put in just to make a few bucks for some things I didn’t really need. So I gave it up. I gave up building something until I could really value what I did.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about my second job. What was your first job? What did you learn from it?

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