In talking to my mother the other day I realized I’ve been a hustler my entire life.
I was a bit shocked to be honest. I mean, who is a hustler at the age of 8? Also, who thinks of themselves as a hustler outside of rap singers?
When I think back to those long ago years of my youth, I remember always trying to win the prizes, usually money, for school fundraisers. I think this was more of my Type-A personality than anything else, but I wanted to sell the most candy bars, and I wanted to sell the most of anything and everything if it could make me stand out from my classmates, or win me something, even if it was garbage. There was the catalog company that I started working for during my Brooklyn days, where I’d send the catalog to my father’s office and have him help me sell things. If I made tons of sales, I’d win awesome prizes, including money.
I think though the best example of my hustling ways takes place in 1989 when my my brother, mother, cousin, aunt, and grandmother took a trip to the homeland, Honduras. I was seven going on eight and I wanted to get my hands on some lempiras. My idea, with the assistance of my cousin, was to sell mangoes on the street, outside of the house. My mother totally let me do this. She didn’t attempt to stop me. She didn’t tell me that in La Ceiba, Honduras, the idea of selling mangoes is ludicrous because almost everyone has a mango tree in their backyard. Nope. She let my cousin and I fill up a bucket of mangoes from the backyard and scream “mangoes for sale!” at the top of our lungs. A woman bought from us and it turns out she did only because she felt bad for us, so my mother says, but she still bought our bucket and my cousin and I made some fast cash. I don’t remember exactly how much we sold them for, or how much we made, but it was such a sweet, sweet victory.
This gave way to many more ideas as I grew older. When we moved to Cleveland Heights, Ohio, I loved selling things in garage sales and would scour the house looking for old things that we didn’t use any more to sell. I even sold my own jacket once by mistake. Then there was the summer that I visited my family in Brooklyn, NY and we decided to start a bag business. At the time, my Aunt owned a clothing store for women on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, and for a week, we stood outside of the store, my two cousins, myself, and a cousin of theirs from their Mother’s side selling old stuff they didn’t use or want anymore. We made a ton of money and split it four ways. As for that bag business, well, we made a few successful bags from a pattern, but then stopped after that summer. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t take off as we had planned. It might have been the distance – me being in Cleveland Heights and them being in Brooklyn. Who knows, but the seeds were planted at an early age!
As a teenager my father after working as a bus driver and a truck driver for other companies, went out on his own. He started “Stroman Trucking” and off he went, doing trips mostly between Ohio or NYC and Florida. I remember as a teenager sitting at the table with my Mom working on balancing his accounts and paying bills. I even remember voicing my opinion on how and where he could save money as a business owner. I was only 16 or 17 at this point.
I put all of that behind me after graduating college. I went out for a real job, and worked several real jobs as a matter of fact to earn money. In other words, even though I was on someone else’s payroll, I was figuring out ways to keep making money. Which leads me to believe I need to understand what money really means to me, but more importantly, years later, in 2009, when I had my dream to start this stationery business, it didn’t seem too far fetched. In fact, it made sense that I took business courses as an undergrad to get me to this point, or what I like to call full-circle, even though I know the circle is not yet complete.
See, every position I’ve held, whether it was as a receptionist at my first job, or collecting items to sell in a garage sale, or to helping a customer select a table at Pottery Barn, has led me to where I am. Even all of my work as a volunteer has brought me to this point. All of these experiences have shaped my business and personal direction.
When I hear the argument that being an entrepreneur can be taught, I disagree. Sure you can teach some of the key aspects of being an entrepreneur, but my experience has shown me that I’ve been piecing together my entrepreneur spirit since I was 8 years old on a family trip to Honduras. I believe when you really feel it, well you hustle your way into it, from an early age, whether it starts with a lemonade stand or a garage sale or raising money for a good cause. My entrepreneurship has been rooted deep in my bones and it is why now, I sit at jobs and realize that I won’t ever really be happy until my business is self-sufficient and making a positive impact. As I get ready to figure out where exactly I am headed (I just moved into an apartment, so I’m getting settled), I am assessing my thoughts on where my business can go, how much money I want to make, and more importantly, how I want/need to get my business into shape to make these things happen.
It’s easy to fall off the wagon. To question things that we do, or don’t do. But this is why the past is so relevant to me, regardless of what anyone else says, we learn from the past, even if we don’t want to. My past is a reminder of what I have to accept and appreciate because without it, I wouldn’t be where I am, bumps, bruises, and creative ideas. If you haven’t thanked your inner hustler/entrepreneur, do so now. He/she deserves the recognition and to be released from whatever negative stigma you associate it. It is, truly a good thing.