You might say I was born to be an entrepreneur. I knew pretty early on that I wanted to do something that had real worth. My first leap into entrepreneurship began at the ripe age of 11 years old. Unlike your typical side walk lemonade stand, I was upping the game. I was selling golf balls, and a lot of them.
To begin, this wouldn’t normally be an easy business to start at 11, but I was fortunate enough to grow up with a golf course in my back yard – the 11th tee box of the Carson Valley Golf Course to be more precise. Needless to say, a golf ball business was a pretty natural fit. Being the savvy little entrepreneur I was, I knew I had to get a pretty good stock going before I could start the business. Every evening before sundown, my dad, my brother and I would go out and walk the course to see what we could find. My dad being a pretty good golfer and having played the course many times, he knew more or less where we needed to be looking to find the lost balls. After two weeks of searching, we came up with around 150 balls. I remember how excited got when I found a shallow spot in a creek where dozens of golf balls had washed down under a rock – it was a golf mine!
“My 11-year-old old self was PISSED, though it was a good first lesson in entrepreneurship: rarely do things ever go the way you plan them to.”
I had the stock that I needed, but I knew I wasn’t quite there. Being keenly aware of how important presentation was (and being a budding clean freak), I had to scrub each ball until they were pearly white. This was WAY harder than you might imagine as some of these golf balls had been sitting for years, perhaps longer than my short life at the time. I scrubbed for what felt like hours, probably an ENTIRE EPISODE of Dragon Ball Z. Fortunately, my dad gave me the bright idea to let them soak in peroxide, and that pretty much did the trick. Those balls all sparkled!
My brother and I picked a Saturday and set up a little stand right at the edge our property, about 40 feet away from the tee box. We designed a big 4×8 ft sign with bright orange spray paint, propped up a beach umbrella and beach chairs – completely legit. Golf balls were 50¢ each, or 5 for $2.
Long story short, it was a typical spring day in Northern Nevada: it started out nice and sunny and quickly changed to cloudy, cold and windy. At one point I had to chase the umbrella as it started to blow down the street faster than my little legs keep up. I don’t even think we made a full $10 that day. My 11-year-old old self was PISSED, though it was a good first lesson in entrepreneurship: rarely do things ever go the way you plan them to.
Clearly distraught, my dad gave me some much needed encouragement. He told me to hold off selling golf balls the next day, and instead wait until the following weekend, which was was Memorial Day weekend. He said I was guaranteed to sell more golf balls since this was when people usually started out the season.
This was some serious sage wisdom, on par with Socrates or Tony Robbins. That Memorial Day weekend ended up being beautiful, bright and sunny, and there was a non-stop stream of golfers all day. Being on the 11th tee box, the golfers were all good and primed with alcohol and rapidly running out of golf balls. It was the perfect set up. After two days of selling golf balls, we had almost completely sold our stock. While I can’t disclose exact numbers as I kept the books pretty locked down, I will say after my brother’s 30% cut (he didn’t go searching every night or scrub any of the balls) and factoring in all the extra tip money golfers gave us, I was at almost $100. ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS! At 11 years old, this was serious business.
At this point, you might be wondering what the point of this story is. Who really cares about the inner workings of an 11-year-old? The point is that every entrepreneur has to start somewhere. Whether they’re young or old, entrepreneurs must find that certain spark that ignites their passion to do something different. Sometimes it’s a desire to produce something great, other times it’s the promise of writing your own paycheck. For me, it was the joy of being able to solve a problem while getting paid to do so – golfers needed golf balls, and I just happened to be the only kid on the block selling them.