When I reflect on my history, it seems obvious and inevitable that I came to start my own business working with small business owners.
My dad is an OG programmer (like, worked on the first iterations of the ATM kind of OG). When I was in elementary school he went to school at night to get his masters, eventually landing in a very fancy consulting company. And then he got laid off. I was 11 when I watched my dad found his own company.
Meanwhile, my mom worked in ad sales for a local parenting newspaper. This was the 80s, which meant that she visited businesses in person to sell the ads. And a lot of the time, she took me and my sister with her (I think we were very good props for what she was selling – very smart on her part.) So I literally grew up visiting the small businesses of Baltimore. She also got a lot of freebies. Which is how I found myself at entrepreneur camp in the 4th grade.
Let’s be clear – I did not *ask* to go to entrepreneur camp. I suspect that my mom needed childcare and/or the magazine wanted to write a review based on a real kid’s experience? Either way, there I was. The sessions were in a windowless room, and it was mostly miserable. Our task for the two weeks was to design a business plan. The steps were something like (1) identify a problem that you would like to solve (2) design a business around solving that problem (3) spend the remaining 9 days designing a logo on a fancy Macintosh computer. The problem I identified was that my parents complained about driving me to all of my activities. My business solution was an on-call car service to shuttle kids to their practices, lessons, and play dates. I think I called it Kiddie Kabs. When it came time for me to present my business plan to the group, the feedback I got from the adult counselors was that I was THINKING TOO BIG. You see, I had designed my fleet to start with 50 cars. They said, how about one? They did not get me. I still think that was terrible feedback.
Fast forward to me in my first full time job working at an off-Broadway theater. I was 22 and put everything I had into that job. I stayed late, I got there early. I walked over 100 blocks to work during the transit strike (and then got a ride from my coworker the next day). And then the company went bankrupt. Everyone else on staff had seen the writing on the wall and had sought gainful employment elsewhere. While I suppose I saw it coming too, I stayed out of a sense of loyalty. I wrote my own layoff memo so that I could file for unemployment.
I am grateful for that experience for two reasons (1) watching a company go through the painful and laborious process of shutting its doors was the best crash course in financial recordkeeping that I possibly could have received and (2) much like my dad had learned many years before, I learned that my employer does not owe me anything. What I put into and get out of a job is entirely up to me. Fast forward a few years to learning that lesson a few more times in various forms and finally I decided to take what I liked most about the work I was doing – finance and project management – and build a company around it.
That was almost 14 years and 200+ clients ago. Technology and a global pandemic have changed so much about how we work in those years, but I am still as enamored with this work and with the entrepreneurs that I have the pleasure of collaborating with every day.