At the age of 9, I was a typical kid. I had no formal training or skills at that point in my life but I did possess two qualities: a natural curiosity and a desire to make money. So it was not surprising to my mom and dad that I was always asking them for things to do that would earn more money than the standard weekly allowance I was receiving.
In those days, my friends and I spent lots of time playing outside. As I was engaged in some sort of unstructured play, I began noticing bundles of newspapers and magazines stacked up behind people’s homes. So after an afternoon of dodge ball in one friend’s back yard, I approached one of his neighbors and asked why she was saving her old newspapers and magazines and leaving them outside to get ruined.
The neighbor lady stared at me with a puzzled look on her face and replied, “I'm not saving my old newspapers! I’m storing them out here to get them out of the way. The trash pickup won’t take them and I don’t know what else to do with them”. Realizing that this was probably the case with all the other houses with bundles, I began thinking of how I could help.
Seizing the opportunity
Without thinking more deeply about what I was getting ready to do, I had entered the world of entrepreneurialism with my first business collecting and recycling old newspapers and magazines! I began visiting all the houses I had seen stacks of newspapers and magazines. Each time, I would knock on the front door, tell the person who I was and ask them if I could take their old newspaper bundles. Some were instantly glad and let me into the back yard to collect them. Others were curious and wanted to know what I was going to do with them. A few said no without any explanation and simply shut the door!
To the curious customers, I explained that I had found a local paper recycler that would pay me to bring them old newspaper and magazines. So I could remove the bundles for free since I was being paid by the recycler.
From the first month of making my rounds, I had already earned 15 to 20 times the money I was getting from allowance each week. My parents were surprised and happy but reminded me that I was still responsible for my weekly chores regardless of what they were giving me for an allowance!
What I learned from this experience
Lots of years have passed and I’ve traveled a long way from recycling neighbor’s newspapers to building a business coaching company that essentially helps others achieve their own entrepreneurial desires. The money is better but the feeling of knowing I can bring solutions to others is what keeps me doing what I do.
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About the Author
After a stellar 29 year career in the consumer products manufacturing industry, Steve Smith converted his knowledge and experience into a successful business and executive coaching company. In 2008, he opened GrowthSource Coaching in Orange County, CA