When I was 8 years old I started my first company. I wish I had some cute story around how it all came about but unfortunately, I do not. It just seemed like the most natural next step. I hadn’t seen anyone else in my short life start a business before so I’m not sure how I even got the idea. Although years later, my dad would go on to start a few ventures so maybe I was just born with it. All I remember was 1. I liked to create. 2. I liked including people. 3. I wanted to buy myself a trampoline. And thus, my first company was born: Parkridge Kid’s Paper, "PKP" for short.
My family had a built a nice house with a white front porch that sat on a high hill in a suburban neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. From the outside, our house fit right in with the other red brick houses lining the streets. The only difference was that ours was the bare minimum square footage required to be able to build in that neighborhood. But hey, we made the cut. Directly next door were 3 siblings, John, Blake and Drew. They had a trampoline. Directly across the street was the house where Heather lived. She had a trampoline. Directly behind my house, was Todd and he also had a trampoline. Everyone had a trampoline it seemed but me. Day after day, I would ring John, Blake, and Drew’s doorbell and ask if I could jump on their trampoline. If they weren’t home, I’d go across the street and ask Heather. And if she wasn't home then on to Todd's. If no one was home I'd just climb the fence and jump my heart out anyways. I was determined.
You see, I had to have a trampoline. It was not only annoying for me to not have one but I was becoming annoying towards everyone in my neighborhood as well. I remember asking my mom if I could have one for Christmas a few times one year. The answer was no. I never totally knew why but looking back, trampolines are not cheap and they can definitely be dangerous. For whatever reason, it was something I never really pushed her on and just accepted I wasn't going to change her mind. So, I decided I’d make my own money and buy it myself. No one could say no to that.
Parkride Kid’s Paper was a weekly “newspaper” I put together and included my two neighborhood friends Justin and Kacy, neither of whom had a trampoline. We united our efforts and imagined how we would not only secure a trampoline but share its use, even though I insisted it would be best located in my backyard. Weekly, Justin reported on Sports.Kacy wrote a segment on weather. And I wrote an on going short story that would pick up in each new paper where it had left off in the previous.
We went door to door selling our weekly paper for fifty cents. We were even successful in convincing a few to sign up for a "subscription".
As you could imagine, revenue on a fifty cent paper was slim. We were going to need a second source of income. To expedite the trampoline fund, I created my second business, the trusty old "Lemonade Stand". This proved to be quite profitable. Margins were low, especially considering all of our Country Time Lemonade, Dixie cups, and ice cubes were donated by my mom. One summer I earned $78 selling lemonade to construction workers building new homes in my neighborhood.
In spite of our economic success, it still took several summers to earn $350, the cost of a trampoline. By the time we reached the goal I was more interested in sun tans and highlights in my hair. I ended up spending the earnings on a small hammock and several bottles of SunIn.
I’m not sure if it was living with a family who always had just enough to get by or if by nature I was quickly bored, but I became someone who loved to create work. Which likely explains my slight obsession throughout my adult life with the creation and operation of my own businesses. Soon after turning 28, however, I had a momentary lapse of judgement and took a corporate job. Chasing a variety of dreams, free-lancing here and there as a photographer, developing a photography mobile App, or inventing a photo booth had all become exhausting and I wanted just one job. Just one thing I could excel at. After all, I was finding it more and more embarrassing to try to explain to people, some of whom insisted I should just settle down and find a good paying "job", what I actually did. It was a question I would dread from people. My response was a jumbled, "well, I'm sort of a photographer, sort of an owner of a start up, sort of an amateur floral designer...." I was just a lot of “sort of’s.”
Luckily, that judgement call did not last too long and I quit the corporate job. Everyday I'm growing more and more comfortable in my own skin and accepting who I am, really, who I have always been. And even if none of my “million dollar ideas” ever actually make me anything close to it, at least I know, it was my idea and I made it with my own hands. It's all the meaning I need.