My goal was simple.
I needed about $100 bucks for a church choir robe. I’d asked Mom for so much stuff recently that it shouldn’t have surprised me that she said “no” to my latest request. But still, what kinda Mom says no to singing for Jesus?
At the time, I had no idea Mom was giving me a gift with her “no”. But within a day I was in my room brainstorming ways I could raise the money for choir robe.
This was 1974, you see, and there was no Kickstarter. There was no PayPal donation button. If I was going to be singing to the Lord I was going to have to find the money myself.
After pouting and crying at my Mom’s rejection, I emerged from my room with my business plan and my best pitch.
“If you’ll help me buy the supplies, I can sell snow cones,” I told my Mom.
“Okaaaaay,” she answered. “When do you expect to repay the loan?”
“A month,” I blurted out confidently way faster than I probably should’ve. But ignorance is bliss sometimes.
Mom looked both impressed and dubious at my confidence. Nevertheless, she agreed to the deal. And that was all I needed.
It was showtime!
My first move was to create some fliers that I could put on every house in the neighborhood. At that time every single house within a 2 block radius had kids in it. Check.
Next, I needed to ask kids I played with every day what flavors they liked most. Market research? Check.
Next, I needed to know what the “ice cream truck” was selling snow cones for and what flavors he sold. Competitive Analysis. Check.
And finally, I needed to do a test run.
Mom and I went to get the shaved ice, syrup and cups, and then I stood in my front yard with my sign and my Dad’s big red cooler.
It was 100 degrees in Dallas, Texas yet most kids didn’t mind. This was waaaay before Playstations and Wii. We played OUTSIDE. So I knew I’d have customers.
So, I took my post around 2 pm, around the time we usually started games. And within an hour I had kids from the neighborhood lined up to buy my sugary treats.
Score! I had become an entrepreneur and didn’t even know it. My snow cone operation grew and grew.
That summer I made $1,500!
But beyond the money, here’s what I learned on that fateful day in the summer of ’74.
- A “no” can often be the best thing that ever happens to you.
- Business planning and market research don’t have to cause you to pull a muscle.
- Big success almost always starts with a little step.
I didn’t have an MBA. I didn’t have a trust fund for start-up capital. I didn’t have an elaborate product line. I was just a kid who didn’t know that my dreams couldn’t happen.
Imagine what you could do, if you didn’t know you couldn’t.