I was thinking very hard about what I was going to be when I grew up. I knew I was different from the other girls in my class, and I also knew that I couldn't wait until the day I was free to make my own choices and live away from home. The other girls in my class wanted to be ballerinas and doctors and princesses. But I wanted to be an entrepreneur. And I wanted to provide a product that everybody needed because, if everybody needed it, I could maximize profits.
This ambition came partly from the fact that entrepreneurship was truly a part of my DNA, but it also grew out of the reality that we didn't have a lot of money. I always knew that I would have to make money to buy the things I wanted to have and do. I also knew that my parents weren't living that kind of life. I felt our financial struggles at an early age. And I just figured that finding something everyone needed was the best way to make money on a product.
As I walked through the store, scanning the shelves for the products that could perhaps fit into my "everybody needs this" category, we happened to turn down the paper goods aisle.
That's it! I thought. Everybody needs toilet paper. ***
My elementary school brain led me to believe that one person owned each company that produced toilet paper and that I would be one of them one day. I just knew I was going to figure out a way to disrupt the toilet paper game. You guys. Bless my heart. I wish this was a lie.
As I grew, I got a better sense of how the toilet paper game really went, and I also realized that producing butt-wiping tools wasn't for me. Don't get me wrong; toilet paper is good to have. It's just not my life calling, but it put me on the right track. Even though my business ideas changed as I matured, that desire to own my own business and make money with it remained an integral part of me.
Knowing what she did about entrepreneurship and the difficulties that come along with it, my mom convinced me to get a degree in business and communication. That wasn't really a request, but more of a requirement. She almost convinced me to go into pharmaceutical sales after college at Arizona State because, to her, that was a safe job that would provide a great salary, advancement opportunity, and challenge without all the risk that comes along with business ownership. The problem with that was I had no desire to drive around Arizona in the summer, when the temps reach 374 degrees, and schlep medical equipment all over the place. So I made a case for going to work for my mom in her office. That way I could earn a paycheck while I figured out what I really wanted to do.
During that time, I picked up photography and some design skills. I used them to help my mom market the homes she listed and help her clients get a better picture of what she could do for them. I started creating marketing pieces for other agents in my mom's office as well-my very first side hustle, at age twenty-three. Then one day I happened to walk into a scrapbook store, and my whole world changed.
Scrapbooking was the hobby that brought together all of the things I was good at and loved to do. I loved to use my hands and my computer to make pretty things full of color, and I loved to write out my stories. So I got into scrapbooking big-time. And my very first business-the kind where you form a Limited Liability Company and make it legit-was a freelance scrapbooking and photography business. Now, I know what you're thinking: But Lindsay, all the coolest twenty-five-year-olds are scrapbooking on the weekends. How did you pull that off with so much competition? (Commence eye roll.) Well, I'm here to tell you, again, that I'm not cool by normal standards. I like weird things.
Eventually I left the comfort of my mom's office and took hourly jobs at a few scrapbook stores in Arizona because I just fell in love with the industry so much, I could no longer think about the real-estate market. Despite my mom's not-so-subtle urging, real estate just wasn't what I loved. I knew it wasn't the career path for me. Scrapbooking was what I loved. So I spent my days working at scrapbook stores and my nights creating projects for magazines and product manufacturers to help them sell their product.
I was just learning how to run a business, of course, so I made a lot of mistakes. The number-one mistake I made in my first freelance business was not making any money. Try to contain your shock and awe. It's not enough to just want to love what you do and have a product that works. The other part of that formula involves getting paid for your work. You need to make money doing what you're doing so that you can, you know, pay your bills. My early failures, though, were necessary lessons to prepare me for my future business ownership opportunities.
I failed to think through the part of the business-building formula that required me to bring in a profit. I had plenty of people who would pay me. They just paid me next to nothing because I wasn't valuing my time or understanding the market and charging accordingly. I was having a great time, I was young, and I ate boxed macaroni and cheese like it was a gourmet meal. What did I care about making tons of money? I was having too much fun. And I wasn't entirely sure that having fun and making money could coexist.