I started my first business in grade 4 at primary school… and it all revolved around Brooke Shields.
Sure I’d sold random pieces of craft (finger knitting, match stick creations and wool wound around icy-pole sticks) to the neighbors before that time…. but that was small time in comparison to the gold mine that I discovered in grade five when I noticed all of the boys in my class were plastering their books with pictures of Brooke Shields.
My Brooke Shields Picture Business
It must have been the year after Brooke starred in Blue Lagoon because suddenly I noticed her picture stuck to the front covers of all the books and binders on guys books in the classroom. Boys would gather around the new pictures that they found at recess and all the talk at lunch times revolved around Brooke.
One afternoon after school I was wondering around the house looking for something to do when I opened a cupboard in my hallway where our family kept all the games. Next to the games was a pile of my mums old women’s magazines. She would buy one or two a week and when finished with them piled them up in the cupboard. I’d never really given them much thought until I spied a picture of Brooke Shields on the cover of one.
A light bulb went on. The boys in my class were crazy for pictures of Brooke…. and here was one of the best I’d seen. I grabbed the magazine and flipped through it to see if there were more and to my surprise found a full article on her, with 7-8 accompanying pictures.
I began to make my way through the rest of mum’s old magazines and was over the moon to discover quite a few more Brooke pictures. Not only that – there were pictures of many other female movie stars, some of whom I’d also seen displayed on the covers of my class mates books.
The next day at recess I opened my first business. 5 cents for a small Brooke Shields picture – 10 cents for a large one. I only took 10 pictures the first day and they sold within a few minutes.
The following day I took another 10 Brooke Shields pictures and sold them for 10 cents for small ones and 20 cents for larger ones. Again, I sold out.
As the week progressed my stock of Brooke pictures began to dwindle so I began to introduce other models and film stars. I also began to offer pictures of male movie stars for the girls in my class to buy.
I also began to eye off some of the magazines in the local newsagent and realised that there were magazines for teenagers there that were literally FILLED with pictures that I could sell. None of my classmates could afford these magazines on their own, but if I cut them up and sold the pictures in them I could definitely turn a profit. A $1.50 magazine cut up and sold purely for its pictures could make me up to $5.
My next challenge was that my classmates began to run out of money. I’d been focussing purely upon class 4a (my class) as my target market but as they began to run out of money I started to look further afield, both at class 4b but also where I found the big money… grades 5-6.
I set up shop each recess behind the big tree in the corner of the school (the same place I later started to sell my services as a celebrant in playground weddings) and for a number of weeks did a brisk trade. At the peak of the business I was buying up to 3 magazines a week and making up to $15…. that was until Mr Woods discovered what I was doing.
On a warm Spring day I was opening up my store and customers were beginning to gather (quite a few of them by this stage).
Two grade 5 boys began to fight over who would get my latest big picture of Brooke when my class teacher, Mr Woods, happened to stroll by. Within a few minutes he’d uncovered all my pictures, my money and had put two and two together to work out what the business was.
I was busted and quickly banned from bringing any more pictures into the school for sale.
In fact in the coming week pictures of movie stars and models were banned from being stuck to the covers of books altogether. Not only was I not allowed to sell pictures in school time to class mates, but demand diminished as classmates were not allowed to display my product.
I learned a lot about business in those weeks as a Brooke Shields picture sales-boy.
- I discovered the power of watching trends and fulfilling demand
- I learned about the power of scarcity (selling 10 pictures a day enabled me to put the price up)
- I stumbled upon the idea that sometimes you need to spend money (on magazines) to make more money
- I discovered that I was an entrepreneur
Other Early Businesses Followed
Over the years I developed other businesses. Some worked, some did not.
My most successful was the store I opened out of a spare locker in my 2nd year of high school. I sold my classmates who’d forgotten their pencil cases pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, exercise books and other assorted stationary.
I bought in bulk and charged a premium price knowing that classmates would get in trouble if they showed up to class without something to write with and on. That business lasted a year (I kept it much quieter) and made me several hundred dollars.
What was your first entrepreneurial experience?
I’ve been thinking about these early experiences of entrepreneurship a lot lately.
Someone recently asked me whether I see myself more as a blogger, journalist or publisher. I answered that of the three I’d probably see myself more as a publisher, however that above that I think I’m probably more of an entrepreneur.
I use blogging and publishing as part of my business (and I love doing so) – however I think entrepreneurship is more how I’m wired.
While I love writing and communicating on my blogs and really enjoy building communities around them – I think the challenge of creating a business, dreaming up how to grow it and working to see it expand and reach its potential is more what energises me.
I’m wondering if I’m alone? I’m sure there are some who read this blog who are more wired as communicators, or as community focused people – but are their other entrepreneurs out there also? I’d love to hear the story of your first entrepreneurial experiences too if you have a moment in comments below!