Looking back on the construction company I run now that I started 15 years ago, it’s kind of funny to think back on how and when I actually got started in business. I had lots of odd jobs in my teens: I worked weekends at a flea market; I worked at the college cafeteria in Humboldt when I was a student there; I cleaned catering trucks; I did some landscaping for a while; I was a pool cleaner in San Diego; I tutored English in Hawaii when I went to college there… and I could probably name a few more. But my first job ever was actually two jobs: first, I had a golf ball business, and second, I washed and waxed cars.
In the summers, from ages 9-14, I had my own “business” fishing golf balls out of the ponds for the local Country Club in Bakersfield. I went out in the evenings, and I’d retrieve about 100 balls per day from the water hazards. By the end of the summer, we would then clean the golf balls and sort them into four categories based on condition: “rejects,” “range worthy,” “pretty good” and “primo.” We threw out the rejects, but the Country Clubs would give us about 15 cents for the range balls, 25 cents for the pretty good balls, and 50 cents for the ones that looked brand new. This little business of mine started growing so much I had to “hire” some friends of mine to help me handle the volume, and we ended up adding about 3 more golf courses to our route. We made thousands of dollars each summer doing this and we’d divvy up the proceeds between us.
At the same time, I knew I could do a good job washing and waxing cars and I figured out that I could charge my neighbors $40 to do a complete cleaning detail. So I’d get a buddy to help me and I’d pay him $15 and I’d pocket the remaining $25. So, in a way, I hired my first employees when I was still in grade school! It was a good business model: we would just hit up everybody on our street, and all I’d need is my bucket and rags. I had my “regulars” so it was a pretty steady job. When you can go out for a weekend and do 5-6 hours worth of work and make $40 per car, I started to see how the money could really add up.
So from a young age, I guess I was always fairly entrepreneurial. Being a 10 year old and learning to knock on a stranger’s front door and pitch my services with confidence… that was a valuable experience that certainly helped me build the skills I needed for the job I have today.
As I recall at least one customer down the road just tossed you the car keys and said drive it to your detail area (driveway/garage) and bring it back when finished. Nice little perk when you are 14.