When you think of a “business empire,” you probably think of Mark Cuban, Warren Buffett, or Bill Gates, right? I’m going to tell you about an entirely different sort of empire — one run many years ago by a rosy-cheeked little girl: me.
Although I may not have contributed as much to the GDP as the big business moguls, I still learned a lot. My “baby steps” into the world of business taught me skills that I’m still using today to better my financial life. Here are some early startups that I launched!
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My first business involved selling handpicked blueberries. We lived in the middle of a giant forest, and I was a free-roam child. I spent most of my days wandering around the woods Mowgli-style, and I noticed that there was an abundance of wild blueberries.
One day, a light bulb went off in my head: My parents used money to buy the things they wanted, and I had things that I wanted, but I needed money. Clearly, the way to get money was to sell the excess blueberries that I wouldn’t eat myself.
I dutifully picked a small basketful of blueberries, flipped a laundry hamper upside down for a table, and set up shop on my front porch. After a less-than-stellar opening day with no sales, I decided to quit and shift my focus.
Lindsay’s Snow Slushies
I realized that my target market (my parents) was too small to be profitable. So, I decided to venture out into the world. The only problem was that I lived in northern Michigan, where it’s winter 90 percent of the year (only a slight exaggeration), so the traditional option of a lemonade stand just wouldn’t cut it. Instead, I ran a snow slushie stand.
I donned my warmest snowsuit, grabbed a stack of plastic cups and a pitcher of Kool-Aid, and set out down our long driveway with my sled and all my gear in tow. At the end of the road, I filled a few cups up with snow and poured the Kool-Aid in them, set up a sign, and opened the “store.” Now all I had to do was wait for my customers to come rolling in.
Not surprisingly, this business venture was equally unsuccessful. I’m not sure if it was the sign (my advertising budget was pitifully low) or the location (a deserted rural roadside), but this venture also closed on the day it opened. Back to the drawing board.
Lindsay’s … Crafts?
I realized the major flaw in my plans thus far was that I was still aiming at an extremely small target market.
So, if people wouldn’t come to me, I’d go to them.
My next idea was selling small craft items. But I had to have a story, a reason for people to want to buy them.
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Enter the “Mother’s Rose.”
Admittedly, the name could have benefited from some further research rather than just something I came up with after making one for my mom. Unfortunately, focus groups were also out of my budget.
What the “Mother’s Rose” consisted of was a Dixie cup with a Kleenex stuffed inside (because, you know, art and aesthetics and all that), and a small construction-paper rose taped to the interior.
I somehow managed to persuade my babysitter to take me out around the sparse neighborhood. I went door-to-door, greeting the (admittedly confused) homeowners, and trying to sell them a Mother’s Rose for 25 cents a pop.
Believe it or not, my approach worked this time — I hadn’t counted on the cute factor of a little cherub-faced vendor trying to make her way in the big world. By the end of the day, I actually pocketed around $7 — the first money I ever made!
Where on Earth Were Your Parents?!
You might be wondering where my parents were during these early attempts at creating my business empire. They were right behind me the whole time, and my mother in particular actively supported me in my efforts.
It would have been easy to just quit, but thanks to my parents’ support I kept on going. Over time, my “businesses” evolved and became more and more complicated. I tried out all sorts of schemes, from selling homemade dog biscuits, lucky bamboo, homemade soaps, and even breeding and selling aquarium fish like guppies and bettas.
Now, as an adult, I’m using those same skills I learned as a kid to earn extra income through side hustling. I have knitting and personal finance blogs, I design and sell my own knitting patterns online, and I also work as a freelance writer.
With the extra money I make, I’m helping to put my husband through college, save up for an emergency fund and a house, and pay off debt — all things that wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t learned from a young age how to be persistent and resourceful in making money.
And unlike Gates, who began building his fortune from a basement, mine (not there yet!) began with a walk in the woods!