On a recent weekend, my husband, my children and I were riding near the neighborhood where I grew up, so I decided to show my family the house where I was raised. Once in the neighborhood, many memories came back to me.
I recalled my first business, A&A Balloons, that I started in fifth grade. I made flyers advertising that I would dress as a clown and deliver balloons to people within walking distance. When I got an order, I would walk to the mall, buy the balloons (plus extras if it was hot, as some would pop from the heat), go home and dress, and head out to deliver.
I also sold bracelets, taking advantage of the fact that my best friend was a good friendship bracelet maker. After she made the goods, I would sell them door-to-door. I would sell cakes I made in my Easy-Bake Oven. I had a gumball machine and figured out that even if I sold the gum for one cent a piece, I was making a profit, so I always had it setup and ready for business when friends came over.
One time I wanted to make some extra money for Christmas, so I loaded up a lot of my brother’s toys in our little red wagon and headed out into the neighborhood to sell them. That day I got in trouble. As I was conducting business at a neighbor’s house, my family pulled up into the driveway. They’d been looking for me to go cut down a Christmas tree. My brother recognized some of his toys in the wagon, abruptly ending that particular money-making venture.
Up until 10 years ago, I always ran my own businesses. In fact, I put myself through college that way. I justified the hard work and long hours of being a business owner as the way for me to pay for school, knowing that one day I’d work for a company with vacation days, insurance and benefits — luxuries I had to pay for myself at the time. I dreamed of being on a payroll and not being responsible for other people. I longed to be able to shut off work and not have to handle everything myself. A vacation? A night without having to be available to anyone who might have an issue? I couldn’t wait!
At the three jobs I have had since selling my last business, it turns out that I have been available to people even in “time off,” I try to do it all myself, I have an opinion on everything and make it known what that opinion is, and I want everything to be the best it can be. Now I just have the added frustration of not being the ultimate boss and not having all of the control.
So I have found, for me, being “just an employee” has been a tradeoff. Turns out, I’m not basking in the sun and eating bonbons while working for “the man” like I thought I may be.
But I think a lot of that is my personality type. If I am the type who can be an entrepreneur, can those traits just disappear when I am collecting a paycheck from someone other than myself? I found out they can’t. I see other people who can do their job and stop at that. I have to have a passion for what I am doing, and once that is gone I find another position. I have a vision for how I want things to be. I have a strong belief in myself that I can do anything. Hearing “that can’t be done because that is not the way we do things” is something that irritates me and fuels me to make changes for the better — even if it means creating new paths.
Are there certain traits entrepreneurs have? After reading up on entrepreneurship, I found many common traits this type of person possesses:
- Clear vision
- Problem-solving ability
- Ability to communicate
- Self awareness
These are traits that I have no matter where I work. I think you can have entrepreneurial traits and work for someone else; it just poses challenges — just as owning your own business has challenges. In both cases, you just have to manage those challenges.
The experience of running my own small business taught me marketing, sales, hiring, bookkeeping, management and other skills that I have used in my career working for others. I do not regret all of the stress and trial and error I experienced, as all that has allowed me to appreciate it when someone other than me steps up and takes responsibility.
I still think of money-making ideas on the side, and one day I think I will branch out and start another business, as I can feel the itch. For now, since I have two small children and feel like I need security to provide for them, I will stick out the corporate life. When I decide I need to be my own boss again, I will be back to business ownership — this time with even more lessons learned. I have to do it. It is who I am!