By Dave Stancliff
The other day, two of my grandsons, nine-year-old Haydin, and seven-year-old Roanin, started a business.
Their mom, Jassmine, told me the boys sat down one afternoon - with real eye-to-eye contact - and drew up a partnership to sell some colored glass they had dug up. Apparently a local business, Fire & Light, sends their scrap chunks of glass to a local company that sells an aggregate mix speckled through with the colorful stuff.
After sifting through a pile of this material (location kept secret) for hours, the boys had collected enough pieces - most of which are about size of small beads - to set up shop. They put up a little stand and offered them to customers for 25 cents. (I’m not clear as to how many pieces the buyer got for his/her quarter.)
In no time they were also selling and bartering some of their toys (ones mom approved of), to expand their little enterprise. Alas, as good business starts often find, competition sprang up in the neighborhood! Other little entrepreneurs soon offered toys as well.
Haydin and Roanin then came up with “friend coupons.” The coupons offered two dollars off any item over three dollars. Eventually all of these venturesome children got together and held swap meets in the neighborhood. I’m still waiting for further reports of their business acumen.
I have some great memories of other family members who jumped into the business world at tender ages. One of my favorites concerned my cousins in Michigan about forty years ago.
My Dad had a mining claim in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. It was located in the Lytle Creek area of the San Bernardino mountains, just north of Mt. Baldy. The area had once been the site of a short-lived placer gold frenzy.
To keep the claim active, my Dad had to show signs of improvement every year, so he hired heavy equipment every so often to move things around. He also got regular assay reports on the ore that showed a small amount of gold per ton.
The gold content was never high enough to interest a big organization in the claim. The price of gold on the market during the 1980s went from $589 an ounce (1980-1981), down to $327 an ounce by the end of the decade.
Still, Dad’s grandchildren and my brother Steve helped over the years in their spare time. I was too lazy for that kind of hard work, but did go up there now and then and share a small bottle of Irish single-malt with Dad, as I watched the others expand the latest hole in the mountain. My two oldest sons, Richard and Nathan, spent time there, too.
Some of those tunnels went straight down. There was always the risk of running across rattle snakes, scorpions, and other nasty little critters. As far as I can remember, no one ever got bitten by a snake while working there.
During this period, my cousins (who were about the ages Haydin and Roanin are now) came up with their business enterprise in school. They sold stock to their classmates, offering shares in grandpa’s mine!
When my uncle Harold told me, I thought it was pretty funny, but apparently the school didn’t. The boys got suspended for a week. I was amazed that they knew what stocks were. Of course, I don’t compare their larceny to my grandsons’ business venture. They at least gave people something for their money.
I’ve kinda lost touch with those cousins but wouldn’t be surprised if they became stock traders. They weren’t afraid to take risks with other people’s money! Surely a must for anyone playing on Wall Street.
I wish I could tell you I was a great little entrepreneur in my youth. My approach was to gamble. We’d flip coins and call odd or even. Sometimes we threw coins up against a wall, and the coin that fell closest to the wall won.
There was even a period during junior high when I carried dice in my pocket and gambled with my buddies in the school bathroom. I lost interest in gambling when I was in the military, after watching near deadly encounters during card games. Recently my interest in gambling has returned and I play those quarter slot machines, while on a strict monthly allowance.
To be an entrepreneur, you can’t be afraid to gamble sometimes. Gambling, however, is a sure way to lose money. Starting your own business, provided you have a good plan and plenty of seed money, offers better odds for success.
As It Stands, I enjoy stories of successful entrepreneurs of all ages, especially in this down economy.