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I had a great opportunity a few evenings back to talk turkey with a fellow social media lover and entrepreneur. On my way to coffee, I was thinking about why I had decided to start my own business. There’s a hundred million reasons. Literally. Well…figuratively at least. But in any case, there are a lot of reasons. So I started to think not about WHY I wanted to own my business and more about WHEN I wanted to own my own business.

I bypassed most of my recent launches because I’m a grown up now and that’s just what I do. I thought back to when I first launched a “start up” before that was even a word. It was grade 11.  My friends and I had become pretty avid D&D players and played a ton of other board games. But we thought we could do better. And so Black Ice Games was born. We made one game. It was called The Colonies and was a dumbed down, paper version of Civilization or a very complicated version of Risk. It was a pretty fun game. Our primary issues were as follows;

Physical Production. No money and no fantastic artistic abilities meant it would be difficult to produce one copy of the game, let alone to mass produce it.

Marketing. With no real marketing background we had no idea where to sell our game or how.

We were in grade 11.

So after making one really cool game that myself and some of my friends really enjoyed, Black Ice Games died. But that wasn’t my first business.

It was grade 9. My band, The Peasant Hunters, had just recorded (in a basement…with a tape recorder…) our first album. But we really wanted to get our music to a bigger audience. We wanted ourselves and our friends that had bands to have an organization behind them that would help produce albums, book shows and generate buzz. And so Black Ice Records was born. It lasted about 3 months. Here’s why;

Assets, Physical or Financial. We had none of these. The only thing we were missing in order to run a full fledged recording studio was any semblance of a recording studio. We had zero professional recording equipment. We had no money to fix that problem.

A clue. We had literally no idea what to do to book shows or generate buzz. It was 1993. We weren’t tweeting anything.

We were in grade 9.

After 3 months of bravado about how awesome we were going to be and some philosophical differences in the music we wanted to produce, Black Ice Records disbanded, as did The Peasant Hunters and our chance at rock and roll glory died. But that wasn’t my first business.

It was the summer of 1990. I was living in Digby and aside from baseball I had nothing to do. I was going into grade 6. My social calendar was not filling up and I had beaten Contra, so I was pretty bored. One thing that didn’t bore me was sports cards. I loved collecting hockey cards, baseball cards, basketball cards, football cards. Heck, I collected any card there was. But as a 12 year old kid with no j-o-b, I had a hard time finding a way to get cards. I needed money. So I looked around at what I had. I had a desk. I had sports cards. I had some paper. I had a marker.

So I made a sign. “Sports Cards For Sale”. I took my desk and my cards and went outside my apartment building and set up shop. I offered my clients the opportunity to purchase cards individually or in “mystery packs” I had constructed. The mystery packs had a few really spectacular cards but were mostly junk. It was basically a lottery to see if you could find something worthwhile. I set up my desk almost every day for 2 weeks. I made about $40, which was enough for me to buy a few boxes of cards at my local store. You see, I was selling doubles to support my habit of always wanting more cards. School started in September, my schedule filled up with the school soccer team, homework and friends and my little sports cards shop was closed. My business, my first financial success (when you really worked it out, I was making about $1 per hour) came to a close. But that wasn’t my first business.

Grade 4. Wolfville. Before I had enough cards to actually sell in Digby, I decided to make my own. I took existing cards, transposed their stats and re-drew their pictures and sold my own hockey cards. They were printed on some beige construction paper. My rendering of Ed “The Eagle” Belfour looked more like a picture of Ed “My Face is Melting and Entirely Crooked” Belfour, but it was mine. I put them together in packs of 5. It took about 20 minutes to draw each card, meaning I was producing one pack of cards in roughly 2 hours. The supplies cost me about $0.03 per card or $0.15 per pack. I sold the packs for $0.25 per pack. This means that after expenses, I made $0.10 per pack or $0.05 per hour. It was glorious.

Every iteration of my business taught me something. From figuring out production costs to market research, each venture was part of what has made me who I am today. Someone who is over the moon excited to be running his own business.

What’s your story?