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My First Business Involved Brooke Shields [I'm an Entrepreneur]

booke_shields.jpgI 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!

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. My first entreprenurial experience had to be when me and my brothers got the idea that we could make some money if we went around collecting bottles.

    We got our little red wagon and started going around the neighborhood picking up refundable bottles to cash in.

    We even started knocking on people doors to ask them if they had any bottles they wanted to get rid of and before we knew it we had a nice little route going as people began to save their bottles for us.

    It got so big we had to get another wagon and put side boards on them to increase load capacity in order to service our customers.

    Wow that really took me back in time.

  2. Sanjay says:

    Really enjoyed reading about your school life and your childhood entrepreneurship skills. But unfortunately I had never done things like that. If I had done that before, I would be making much more money right now.

  3. Darren,

    Like Simon and Josh, my first foray into entrepreneurialism was flipping candy. I have to add it wasn’t my idea…I saw another older kid reselling candy at inflated prices, and decided I wanted in on that action…of course this was back in the days when schools provided very little in the way of sweets, so there was a great closed market.

    Like Drew however, this slowly evolved into the sales of drugs. I went to an expensive private school, and was only there due to my very high test scores – we weren’t a rich family – so having access to something that the other kids didn’t have, made me feel I could hang out at their level….pity about teenage justification…hindsight is 20/20.

    Now, I’m flogging my recent book about personal development…it feels good to promote something I’ve created instead of buying low and selling high…it’s a totally different feeling!

    Write On!

  4. I grew up where everything I experience is entrepreneurship because my parents and relatives are all business people. Maybe that is the reason why I took everything for granted and diverted to employment. But since entrepreneurship is in my blood I never enjoyed being employed. There was a fire kindling inside of me and a voice that is telling me only entrepreneurship will make me happy. Even though I’m employed I was trying hard to get out of the rat race and now, thanks to my bully manager I hated my job (and of course him) and I was retrenched. This gave me an opportunity to become an entrepreneur again.

    By the way, I was crazy on Brooke Shields too in my teenage years and I have a big poster in my room back then.

  5. Allan Ward says:

    Great story Darren. Two observations:
    1. I want to hear about your life as a primary school marriage celebrant.
    2. So I’m thinking this whole story is a parable and Mr Woods is really Google? Am I right?

  6. Stephanie says:

    Darren, this is the first time I posted here, but my first entrepreneurial experience is strikingly similar to yours.

    Well, I started earlier, in grade 1, when I cut out the photos of Jesus and Mary from the picture books (I went to a Catholic School) and sold them to fellow students in the playground. Price ranged from 5-10 cents and It was a great sale.

    Needless to say I was promptly stopped by the nun (one of the teachers) a couple of days later…

    Thanks for your post — it brings back fond memories!

    Stephanie

  7. Darren, I loved your story. It got me thinking on my first entrepreneurial experience. I wanted a go cart and my parents wouldn’t buy it for me. So I needed to find a way to make some scratch. Not easy at 10 years old. But, in three months I did the following:

    1. Partnered with a friend – first biz partnership
    2. Pooled allowance money and bought lawnmower-first capital investment
    3. Went door to door of people with poorly cut lawns-identified market and first sales experience
    4. In three months had 15 accounts making $200 weekly-first profitable business venture
    5. Reinvested in second mower to accommodate more business-first expansion
    6. Sold my half of business to friend for profit to have time to play on baseball team-first business sale
    7. Used all profits to buy go cart and attached lawnmower engine in hopes of becoming a race car driver

    Lot’s of business lessons to be learned. Your story above is so much like life. When people in authority find you successful they want to squash you with tariffs, taxes and other b.s. fee’s to extort money from you.

  8. Great to hear about how you were wired a certain way even from an early age! Also, great post as an example of how to teach a lesson while telling a story. Very cool, very engaging!

  9. Darren,
    I loved reading your story about you first opportunity to discover the world of supply and demand. After reading other bloggers comments; I see we’re not alone in starting early in life with sales.

    I remember when Blow Pops, you know, the suckers with the gum inside, were popular. I would bring a couple each day with me to school. One time a fellow student wanted my last Blow Pop, but I didn’t want to give it up so he said he would pay be a quarter for it.

    That one event made me think I could actually bring more Blow Pops to school and sell them. My mom bought me a couple of bags and I promptly filled a pillow case up with the new Blow Pops to sell for a quarter each.

    I was making about $10 a day in school selling these suckers with gum in the middle. I was hooked on entrepreneurial ideas after discovering I could make money on my own.

    Amber

  10. Jack says:

    My sister and I want to start our first business bur we need the things for it and we can’t find anything on the web.

  11. This article has so much truth in it! As an educator, I also strongly believe that small children will learn better through fun and games. They are children after all and cannot be expected to be taught like adults. Remember that a child, if taught correctly, can assimilate more information than adults because they are still in the process of training their little brain, whereas adults subconsciously limit their thinking skills to that which they have already learned. I am surprised to see you haven’t written any articles about the importance and effectiveness of teaching a foreign language to small children using this same process. Maybe you should think about it!