Tell Me About Your First Time

Firsts are always memorable, aren't they?  The newness, the fresh perspective of an experience, it's great.  One question that I always like to ask people I interview is:

Tell me about the first time you can remember earning money?

The reason I ask them that is to see how entrepreneurially wired they are.  A lot of people tell me they are entrepreneurs.  They want the perks of being your own boss but they really aren't ready to handle the responsibilities of it.  Usually when someone tells me they started earning money when they were kids by mowing lawns or babysitting or even better setting up that lemonade stand, that tells me they have the entrepreneurial gift.  They just have a burning yearning for freedom and they are the type of people who will work their hiney off to get it.

Does this mean there are no exceptions?  Absolutely not.  There are those folks who never had a job until after college and they turn out to be quite motivated also, but let the record show that is definitely an exception.  There's no right or wrong or good or bad, it just is.  We need both independently motivated business owners as well as employees, that's how the world turns. 

The first time I remember making my own money was when I was 7 years old.  I have always been a reader and had accumulated a lot of books.  I probably had about a hundred or so sitting in boxes in our basement.  My friends and I were hanging out down there to get out of the hot, sticky New Jersey summer weather and I spotted those books just sitting there collecting dust.  A light bulb went on and I grabbed my friends and put them to work.

I instructed them to load the books onto a cart with wheels and we carried that loaded cart out onto our street.  I lived on a dead end and I told these girls to knock on the door and ask the people if they wanted to buy a book.  I ended up with close to $20 from visiting the neighbors on my street.  I think I sold each of the books for one dollar a piece (and yes I knocked a door or two myself).  When we made our way back to the house we carried the cart with the remaining books inside and I handed each girl ONE dollar for their efforts. 

They were fired up and went on their way while I counted up my earnings.  Not only did I want to go make money, not only did I take on the inventory risk, I knew the power of leverage!  I knew that I could pay two people one dollar each and enjoy my time, rather than sweating a task I really didn't enjoy and only get paid that one dollar.

Is it fair?  Of course it's fair.  It's business.  If you're an employee you don't take any risks.  You show up, you do your work and you get paid.  That's how it works, that's what employees sign up for.  If you're the business owner you take on all the risk.  Inventory, overhead, insurances, etc.  You then train all the people to run a system you spent the time designing and rent their time.  All the profits from those efforts are yours.

So it's in you or it's not.  If it's not in you, remember that's okay, there's nothing wrong with that.  But if it is in you, make sure you're doing everything you can to let it come out.  Your greatest potential is yet to be unfolded.


  1. I sure wish it was in me...but I don't think that it is. Great post! You have me thinking about that now. Thanks so much for stopping by to see me today. I hope you have a great weekend and remember....Keep singing it loud and proud!


  2. Good for you! You're one of the few people I know who understands economics! :-) It's amazing how many people think the owner of a business is just raking in all the dough. They never consider things like all the federal and state taxes, workman's compensation insurance, liability insurance, all the other overhead involved. In fact, a good owner pays his or her employees first and sometimes there's not enough left over for the owner to get paid. Employees usually don't think about that - and all the risks involved, as you mentioned.

    I got SUCH a kick out of your early-entrepreneurial spirit!! This is the greatest post. Made me laugh, thinking of your spunk and drive - when you were only 7!

    P.S. I did resist those puppies at the farmers' market, but it wasn't easy! :-(

  3. The first money I earned was when my brother and I biked around the neighborhood (where a lot of new homes were being constructed) with a trailer containing a cooler full of pop/soda to sell to construction workers. Buying the pop at the grocery store is a lot cheaper, so we could mark it up at sales time, and re-invest the profits in buying more inventory. Later it was babysitting and paper routes.

    Your story and mine also illustrate another important entrepreneurial principle: it's a lot easier to make money if your parents front the money for the initial inventory.

  4. I did the lemonade stall as a kid, but I don't think we made much.
    My first proper job was waitressing at 15.

  5. The first time I remember earning money was when I started babysitting in middle school. It felt great to actually earn money and be able to spend it however I wanted:)