The warm weather a week ago, here in Ohio, had me ready to start digging in the garden dirt with thoughts of a big juicy tomato, later sliced and put on a grilled hamburger. Then came some snow and 25 degrees! All winter the seed catalogs came one after another. I chuckle each time I get a catalog remembering my “seed selling business” of my entrepreneurial youth. But this winter, I now have a new incite on that business and about myself.
To bring you up to speed on the story, Mom and Dad had a subscription to the old fashioned, black and white newspaper printed Grit magazine—totally unlike the glossy photo magazine of today. I subscribe to it today. Back then, about 1969, I saw many ads that intrigued me not only in Grit but in Western Horseman Magazine, too. For the cost of a stamp, which Mom always gave me, I would write a letter, address the envelope and send for free information on a topic of my interest. I loved getting mail addressed to me. It became quite exhilarating to see Mr. Meeker our mailman pull up to our oversized galvanized mailbox. I often was waiting at the end of the sidewalk at delivery time to fetch the mail, in anticipation of receiving “my mail.”
Reflecting back, this week, I saw I had a tendency to be drawn to and order things on training horses, gardening, stamp collecting, and organic, heirloom, and all natural things even then. I realized this week, my list still describes me today, but replace the word stamp with the word antiques! I gave up stamp collecting years ago, but I did love getting the mail from the stamp exchange I was in!
So here’s how I became a child entrepreneur, even before the word was popular. From the Grit magazine I sent off for a garden seed-selling package, selling packets of garden and flower seeds to make money. It seems, if memory serves me, that I would make a ten-cent commission per packet. Maybe it was a quarter. Not worth it you say—but remember stamps were only a nickel back then and it was better than no money at all.
Maybe you, like me, have been a fledgling entrepreneur back in your day and had to figure your business plan. I first had to finance the operation. I worked a verbal contract with Mom pledging to pay her back with money, or at the very least with seeds. Next, I had to find transportation to and from my prospects, which became my bicycle and the neighbors up and down our road as well as family, too. I rehearsed my sales pitch that was enclosed in my seed packet kit ensuring me of success. But I learned much more. This was only the beginning.
At Mrs. Malott’s, my first stop, I learned you should have change to make change for your customers. I was horrible at my sales pitch, very shy, but better by my last stop. As you might guess, I had leftover, unpopular seed packets that no one wanted. My customers liked zinnia, tomato and green beans, but no one wanted morning glory or okra. Go figure. So, sales dwindled, even with my better than before pitch. But I kept my part of the bargain to mother. For what would I have learned if she had not made me stick to the bargain?
So Here’s the Thing: Looking out the window on the snow-covered earth, seed catalogs on the table, I reflected back on this time in my life’s journey. Was it a success or a failure? Well that depends on how you look at it, doesn’t it? Is your glass half full or half empty? Monetary success? Not so much. But the entire operation taught me many of life lessons still used today. How to make a business plan, prepare a speech, never forget change, and to learn from each of life’s endeavors. I smiled realizing I’m an entrepreneur still to this day and suddenly realizing I was a child entrepreneur even before the word was so very popular!