I Was a Grade-School Entrepreneur

My father was an entrepreneur. He was always starting businesses. Most failed. Some succeeded in a wild fashion. (The inheritance he left the family is in the form of his most successful business, the source of my day job.)

It's no surprise that as a child, I wanted to make money too.

I made my first business venture when I was in the second grade. I sold lemonade by the side of the road. It was miserable failure. I was trying to sell lemonade in March, on an infrequently-traveled stretch of country road, in rural Oregon. I didn't sell any lemonade.

But in fourth grade, I started a little business that actually made money. Star Wars was huge in 1978, and like all the other boys, I collected Star Wars cards. Whatever change I could scrounge went to these cards. (We used to walk the sides of the roads collecting pop bottles. We'd cash in the deposits and immediately buy more Star Wars cards.) Collecting was frustrating. Sometimes I would have six of one card, and none of another. This bugged me until I realized that I could turn the surplus to my advantage.

  

I took all of my doubles (and triples and quadruples, etc.) and sorted them into random piles of about twenty card each. I wrapped each stack in a piece of typing paper and wrote 10¢ on the package in black felt pen. I made as many packages as I could, took them to school, and sold them to the other boys. I took that money to the local variety store and converted it into new cards. It was brilliant!

I did the same thing with Hardy Boys books. I loved the Hardy Boys — my aunts and uncles knew this, so I often got books as gifts. After I finished them, I'd take them to school and sell them for fifty cents. (They cost two dollars new.)

I was learning practical business lessons, and I was only ten years old.

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prlinkbiz
prlinkbiz
13 years ago

And how about now?

J.D.
J.D.
13 years ago

Now this site is my primary entrepreneurial focus. It’s more work than selling books and cards to friends, though. But I also have other things going, too. I have an entry in progress called something like “five ways I make money” that describes how I profit from: * working the day job at the business my father started * maintaining web sites * operating a small computer consulting business on the side * selling stuff on eBay * etc. For a long time, I wasn’t interested in business. The bug left me when I left for college, and it didn’t… Read more »

Tony D. Clark
Tony D. Clark
13 years ago

I loved this post. I did the same kind of thing as a kid. I remember finding out that I could buy a box of 12 of the small packs of Now-n-Later’s for about a buck, then sell each pack for 25 cents. Later I made and sold my own comics.

It’s funny how that entrepreneur sprit seems to spark at an early age. A lot of the self employed folks I talk with have similar stories – and many stem from looking at things differently and following their own path.

Nate BW
Nate BW
13 years ago

I did this, too. I used to by candy bars in middle school for a dollar and then break them into eights and sell them to kids for a quarter each. Earlier, I used to go door to door shovel sidewalks for change.

Once I was in college, however, I was too idealistic to work for money. It wasn’t until I bought my own business that I starting thinking and reading about it again.

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