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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