Once Bitten: How the Entrepreneurial Bug Attacked Me In First Grade

There’s an adage that says once you’re bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, that itch never leaves.

<===My brother Andrew, Mama, me, and our friend Catrin–about the time when I started my art business. I’m the one with the BRAIDS!

I started my first business when I about six or seven  in Germany. My friend “Lisa,” who was 11, and I drew mini-pictures on Post-It-sized papers, then walked door-to-door in our apartment complex selling them. We were living in an international community for academics and scientists, so all the residents were from all over the world including Indonesia, Japan, Germany, Iran, the United States, and India (those are the countries that I can remember offhand).

Lisa and I had a seamless system set up. We would draw the pictures, put them in a box, and then knock on doors. When people answered their door, we announced to them that we had art for sale. We then marched into their residence, laid our pictures out on the people’s coffee table and waited. The people would ask us how much each picture was, and we would tell them. Usually they bought one or two pictures for 10 or 50 pfennig (cents). We would put it in our little box and go to the next apartment. After a round or so, we counted up our money, put it in a closet in Lisa’s apartment. We took a portion of it and trudged off to the neighborhood Bäckerei (bakery) or the Tankstelle (gas station) to buy sweets or ice cream.

I felt NO FEAR. I was confident that somebody would buy the pictures, and that we would make money. I knew the system worked. (As an adult I now wonder if Lisa took advantage of the fact that I was four years younger, completely trusted her, and she probably could do basic arithmetic better. She insisted we keep the box at her house).

Back in the USA

After we returned to the States, the entrepreneurial bug struck again. My brother Andrew and I decided to sell lemons on the street corner in front of our house.  I just saw all those acres and acres of lemon trees we had and thought it would be fun to monetize it.  We lived at the edge of town, with few neighbors and sporadic traffic, so we needed some aggressive marketing to bring in customers. First, of course, we gathered up a wheelbarrow full of lemons. Then we set up a sun umbrella and some lounge chairs to sit at our stand.  I don’t know why we didn’t actually make lemonade, but decided to sell plain lemons instead.

We had big grocery bags ready to bag up the lemons for customers, we had made big signs with LEMONS FOR SALE on them. My brother and I and some of our friends would take turns running out to the street yelling, “LEMONS! LEMONS! Lemons for sale!”

Again, I had no fear running out into the street shouting about citrus.  However, after an hour or two, I decided to leverage myself by creating a tape recording of my voice yapping, “LEMONS! LEMONS! Lemons for sale!”  I put the tape in our red boom box, and cranked the volume up,  and placed the it on a stool facing the street.   The tape player didn’t project my little voice over to drivers on Mountain Avenue, and it felt kind of weird listening to my voice repeating “LEMONS! LEMONS! Lemons for sale!” over and over again.

<===Andrew and I sold lemons in front of this house.

In an attempt to bring in more customers, we then opted for a jumping-and-waving-our-arms-about marketing approach. A handful of customers stopped by, including two teenage girls who couldn’t believe we were selling a bag of lemons for a dollar.  They thought they were getting a huge bargain, which they did. Perhaps they thought that we were stupid little kids who didn’t know how much lemons really cost ….what they didn’t know was that my family owned acres and acres of lemon trees behind the ranch.

It didn’t matter how much they bought the lemons for–what mattered was that I saw that marketing and selling a product worked. Andrew and I continued the lemon stand periodically as children, mostly for fun.  I knew that we were in a difficult location, but I didn’t care. I knew eventually someone would stop on the days we sold and buy something!

Whether it was the art or the lemon business, my belief and conviction as a mini-entrepreneur empowered me to test out new ventures  without doubt or shame.

If we wanted to, we could have set up a stand in a busier part of town. I think we lost interest and went on to play something else (we didn’t have a television so we spent most days outside playing, creating games, and climbing trees. (Andrew had also started throwing pine cones at passing cars, which probably wasn’t good for business).

Meanwhile, twenty-nine years later…

Despite bust and spurts of dippy entrepreneurial ventures, I didn’t truly reawaken the entrepreneur within until I was an adult.  I had been looking for a way to make extra money outside of teaching when my friend Joyce Anne told me about network marketing. She showed me the video presentation, and I thought, “Wow! Why didn’t anyone tell me about this before?” I enrolled the next day and got to work, achieving the first promotion within three weeks.

Then…fear and self-doubt crept in, and my production slowed. I didn’t possess an unbridled, clear mindset like I did like when I was a little kid entrepreneur.   As an adult, even though I had done some personal development work, I had accumulated more emotional junk in the trunk  As adults, we replay old tapes collected over a cornucopia of experiences over decades– public shaming by the likes of mental abuser Sister Virginia , snide comments by toxic ex-boyfriends, societal pressures to be cellulite-free, berating by bad bosses, etc.  No wonder adults often have a hard time getting out of a rut, and stay stuck for years in procrastination and wavering personal belief.

That’s why personal development and continuous personal growth are so important. If you don’t work on yourself, you’re going to stay stuck in denial, fear, anger, resentment, and a pool of toxic emotions. It doesn’t matter if you came from the happiest family on the planet- when you’re green you’re growing, when you’re ripe, you’re rotten.


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