There was the year of “The Carnival.”
I was nine years old and living in an apartment complex in North Orange County. The place was super saturated with kids and there was never any shortage of friends. We didn’t need formally arranged playdates; we just rushed outside each day and met in the stuccoed halls where the laundry rooms were, or in the black tarred alleys where our skateboards and rollerskates would glide over the smooth surface. It was the ice cream man’s paradise. Our neighborhood surely provided him with enough sales each day to live a life of luxury.
And I wanted a piece of that pie. So the wheels began to turn and soon I came up with a way to fill our summer days with fun and my pockets with big shiny quarters. I was the child of immigrant parents after all, and we came to this country for a better life. It was my turn to taste the American Dream.
I began to put my plan into motion. I secured a large section of lawn and began to strategically build my summer “Carnival.” There was a dilapitated pool, filled partially with water and partially with the leaves from the tree it was placed under. I had a balance beam, and hula hoops. There were jump ropes and obstacle courses. Baton twirling lessons. A boom box playing Whitney Houston. Roller skating races. It was, by all accounts and purposes….my first small business and I was making some serious cash. Kids were flocking to my homemade spectacle by the dozens and I was on my way to a Kmart Shopping Spree. Until someone’s dad showed up and complained that I was “stealing” money from the children and demanded a refund. I was shut down before lunchtime and my dream was shattered. But something inside of me had been awakened and an Entreupenur was born.
My next endeavor was selling homemade purses at school. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. VanDyke, had a huge cabinet filled with construction paper and I had a huge backpack to put it all in. I lugged my loot home each day, and after scribbling through homework (who needed school when I was going to make millions soon) I began to construct purses in various sizes and hues. I made tiny notebooks and borrowed pens from my parents’ junk drawer, and since I had no overhead, I was looking at a 100% profit margin. I sold my goods at Morse Elementary School black-market-style; there was no doubt that I was the product of a communist country. My business blossomed quickly and soon I was considering the prospect of hiring some help; until Mrs. VanDyke caught on to my underground operation when she went looking for pink construction paper and found only sad little sheets of yellow and brown (who wants a yellow and brown purse, anyway?). I was subsequently shut down.
My spirit would not be shaken though, and by sixth grade I was back in the game, in a new neighborhood, with new friends. I convinced them to begin a resteraunt with me, and we named it “Kid’s Diner.” We spent afternoons working on the menu, and the logo, and we even planned for live entertainment, choreographing dances to our beloved Paula Abdul’s greatest hits. My mom worked for Hunt Wesson at the time, and our garage was stocked full of pudding and popcorn and sloppy joe sauce. Again, very little overhead. We raised money through club dues and solicited our business through colorful fliers made on my girlfriend’s tiny Mac computer. We used bubble font and felt powerful and industrious. Our operating hours were “after mom and dad leave for work until mom and dad come home.” Opening day finally arrived and our customers showed up and began to order from the menu. Steak? We’re out. Hamburgers? Not today. Fries? That’s tomorrow’s special. A sad little wilted chef salad and five dollars later and we were high fiving all the way to the bank. Until a parent called and complained that we were “ripping off” her kids and demanded the five dollars back. Again, my hopes and dreams were dashed by “the man.” Or the woman in this case.
So of course, as an adult, I feel that had I not been bulldozed by overconcerned citizens, parents, and teachers, I could be a rather wealthy businesswoman by now. Living the high life. Taking shiny quarters from customers in exchange for….something. I could have been the next Wild Rivers, or Louis Vuitton, or….Chuck E. Cheese.
Which brings me to my next point. I have this great idea for a line of vending machines for pregnant ladies and their pets.
Come on. Whose with me?