My first foray into entrepreneurship was at age 14 when my friend and I worked as paper boys for a Danish newspaper. We’d deliver papers once a week for 3-4 hours, and at the end of the day, we’d get paid around $6 to share between the two of us. Even accounting for inflation, we were definitely getting ripped off.
After one particularly bad night where we had to schlep our deliveries through a rainstorm, my friend and I thought about how much we’d rather pay someone else to get soaked in the rain. But, of course, there wasn’t exactly a wide enough margin for us to outsource. So we decided to take matters into our own hands.
We quit our jobs at the big city newspaper and went into business for ourselves, handing out flyers and ads for local shops in the neighborhood. Once we had some interest, we started hiring other kids on our street to make deliveries for us. Now, on rainy days, we could hang out inside with a mug of hot chocolate, put our feet up, and just wait for the money to roll in.
On one fateful, stormy night, I had all of the day’s deliveries stacked in my living room and perfectly organized. My business partner and I were ready to kick back for the night and let our delivery boys suffer through the rain. At this point, we had around 20 kids working for us, so we figured, what could go wrong?
It turned out, a lot of things could go wrong. Just as I was about to make some hot cocoa and sit down in front of the TV, I got a phone call from one of our delivery boys. Turns out, he had a big test tomorrow to study for, so he wouldn’t be able to make it. A few minutes later, we got another call: another couldn’t make it because his mom was forcing him to go shopping with her. Another kid was sick, and another’s parents wouldn’t let him out in the rain. Delivery boys started dropping like flies, and my business partner and I were left with no other choice but to schlep the deliveries through the rain ourselves.
Of course, we weren’t thrilled. But this rainy delivery had one crucial difference from the one months before. Now, we were in business for ourselves. It felt a lot more satisfying to slug through the mud because we believed in what we were doing. It wasn’t just for a couple bucks from a big, faceless company anymore.
Since then, I’ve tried my share of harebrained, get-rich-quick schemes. I’ve been a medical equipment salesman, a window washer, and seller of badminton gear. But none of those ventures have lasted or left me as fulfilled as my work as the CEO of GO DREAM. After the many tries that led to this one, I’ve discovered something that I really knew since I was 14, with my very first business. Money alone isn’t enough motivation. What you really need is a bigger vision and an unshakable belief that your idea is worthwhile.
In honor of National Entrepreneur Day, I thought I would share this story, and the conclusions I’ve come to after years of running my own business. The most important rule is that you have to have a “why” behind what you’re doing and an internal drive to make a difference beyond just making money. Rule #2 is that most of success is in the slow crawl to the top. The process of growing your business, making mistakes, and trying again is the fun part. If you get too caught up in looking to the future and hitting it big, there’s no way you’ll actually succeed. And Rule #3 is that you have to believe in yourself, because everyone else will doubt you along the way. No one will think your ideas are brilliant until you can prove it, and in order to get that proof, you’ll have to persevere through many failures.
My final word of advice is to surround yourself with people who share the same vision that you do. No matter how great your idea may be, it won’t come to fruition unless you have the right people behind you. With my newspaper business, maybe our 20+ delivery boys didn’t share the same dream, but me and my best friend certainly did, and we succeeded anyway, storm or no storm. You’re only as good as your team and the core “why” behind what you do. But with those two components together, anything is possible.