It was the first time I was unwittingly doing something entrepreneurial. But let me back up and explain...
The local paper gave me a job delivering newspapers on the weekend. Every Saturday and Sunday, a palette of freshly printed papers would show up in our driveway ready to be dropped off one by one to the local patrons who were depending on me for their news.
I knew that people paid for the paper. I had seen a price on the front cover of them. But what I latter realized what that papers - and media - made their money off of advertising.
Waking up at 5am, putting on my winter coat, and going door to door delivering papers soon took its toll on me. I was getting paid peanuts, and early morning wake up was never my thing (it's 4am as I'm writing this).
I had to find a better way to sleep more and make more...
I grabbed one of the extra papers from that morning and began looking at the ads. Landscaping, snow removal, computer repair, restaurants. All these people were paying good money to be here. Maybe I can help promote them too, I thought.
I concocted the idea that I could design flyers for these businesses and then my friends and I would canvas and hand them out to people around town. It was street marketing 101. And I was ready to reap the rewards.
My dad is a career salesman, and he was elated to see my entrepreneurial wheels spinning. I presented him with my idea. I asked him what to do next. "Their phone numbers are listed on the ads aren't they? Why don't you call them," he suggested.
"I can do that? Will they get mad at me for calling," I ignorantly asked him.
"What do you think will happen if you call them? Either they will want your help and say yes, or they won't and they will say no. If they say no, move on to the next one."
I started calling the numbers listed for a handful of the businesses. "Hi, I saw you were advertising in the local paper. I'd like to help you get even more customers..."
To my shock and awe, they said no. So did the next one. I was ready to give up. My dad, a man who had been told no a thousand times, chuckled with a big grin. "Did you think they would all just say yes," he exclaimed. "Try a few more. You're closer to someone saying yes now that you've gotten a few "no's" out of the way."
Cautiously, I called another, a small landscaping company. I explained to them that I had a team of people - I was the team - who could help promote their business and get them a few more customers.
"We're interested, how much will it cost?"
A Yes! I couldn't believe it. Of course, I had no idea what to charge. I hadn't even thought about it. I tossed out a number. $300 for us to design a flyer, print it, and canvas to a handful of neighborhoods in the area. He agreed and I had a business.
My parents had bought a Gateway PC back when they still existed. I used Microsoft Word to build the flyer. It looked like shit but it got the job done. My new client didn't seem to mind it (at the time I had no appreciation for what a great client they were), so we went to production.
I had asked my mom to use the printer for a project. She probably assumed it was for school. I looked in the drawer underneath. A fresh pack of 500 sheets. Game on.
Things actually went pretty well from there. My cost of production was zero as I had drained all the ink from my parents' printer and used all of their paper. I would later learn an important lesson about cost of goods sold when my mother found out I printed 500 copies of a flyer and she couldn't print something she needed for work. Truthfully, I kind of knew my parents would be annoyed with me, but I was a maverick, damnit. I would beg for forgiveness later...
While exciting, my new entrepreneurial venture was really hard - harder than delivering papers - but it was mine (this has been constant in every startup I've worked on). I had found a loop in the space time continuum. I was somehow making money, but I didn't have a "job" like my other friends that summer. Even cooler, I was able to pull in some friends to help me and pay them some of the proceeds so we could move faster. Above all else, I was totally hooked...
Eighteen years later, I've had lots of side projects, startups, and "real jobs" along the way. Each one as formative, challenging, and rewarding as the next.
I've built products people loved and products no one wanted. I worked with MIT to build courseware for the future. I've raised millions of dollars in venture capital. I've acquired companies and I've been acquired by other bigger companies. I've had near misses, high high's, and low low's. I've made a lot of mistakes and recovered enough along the way to more than make up for them.
I've tried to take all of these experiences and resources and bring them together to help you find your entrepreneurial success, however you define it. For some that's a side business that helps to save for a house or cover a car payment. For others, it's total financial freedom. For a few it may be a venture scale startup.
I want to share all of this with you to help you on your journey while I continue on mine.
Whichever path you take, there are no short cuts. The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately. It comes down to how badly you want it, and how far you're willing to go to get it. The good news is that there are tricks of the trade that can help you avoid detours along the way. That's where this website and community can help you.