It’s interesting that I’ve been approached about three business opportunities in the last month. It’s interesting because I’ve always hated business. When I was younger, I had an honest-to-goodness fear of offices. I would enter offices, see the rows of cubicles, and feel a queasy feeling in my gut and be generally creeped out. And I never trusted businesses and businesspeople. They were push, aggressive, and were willing to step on you to get a leg up or use you to get a sale. Now that I’m older, I no longer fear offices but I’m wary of salespeople, and I mostly hate corporations, feeling frustrated with their exploitation of people and systems.
Earlier this month I as approached by a friend about an energy company. I was encouraged to switch energy companies and also to promote the product. I had heard about what can happen when you switch energy companies. Things are great for the first year, and then they go downhill from there. Or, you lock in your price, and if you don’t update your contract by the deadline, you lose your deal. I have no interest in keeping daily track of my energy bills and watching suspiciously for the chance of change. Neither do I wish to make money for a business I don’t believe in. Also, I just don’t like to push products. So, the deal was a no-go.
My second proposition comes from my own boyfriend. He is very involved in his health and wellness business, Shaklee. This is a fantastic business. I use the products and love them, and I like that they are ec0-friendly and recyclable. This is definitely a company I believe in and could (and do) support. However, to succeed in this business, it requires getting the word out. It requires attending meetings and seminars and investing time in getting to know the product and how to talk to people about it. I don’t like doing that. I would be willing to help present. If someone approaches me, I’m willing to share whatever I know — but I’m not aggressive, and I don’t want to be. People have to make their own decisions about their own health. I’m not going to try to convince them that they can make better decisions. Maybe someday I’ll find a way that I fit into this business. But not yet.
So, this week I got proposition number three. It came from one of my very good friends, a fellow teacher. Immediately I was a little nervous. Was this another energy scheme? I didn’t believe she’d do that to me. Was this one of her previous ideas that she had dreamed up in the past? When I met her and another colleague, I found that some of my suspicions were correct: she wanted to open a restaurant. I was suddenly uneasy. I knew what this meant. Loans. Risk. Things I could have nightmares about. Sure it could be great, but what if it all went wrong? I was trying to get out of debt, pay off my mortgage so that I could take it a little easier in life. And I knew nothing about business. This did not sound like me. The other woman with us told us about all that we would have to consider, such as: Location? Were we renting or buying? Corporation or partnership? Workman’s comp. Insurance. Small business grants. What was our competition? Lawyer. Accountant. Where would we get our supplies? What changes would we have to make to our building? We’d need bank loans. But first we’d need a plan. And what about our credit??? I receded further into my seat as the list went on. “So, what are you thinking?” she asked me. “I think this is stepping beyond my comfort zone,” I told her honestly, “I would be willing to work there and help you out here and there, but I don’t think I can go in on this as a partner. It’s too much risk for me, and I’m terrified of business.” Risk was a part of life, she assured me, but she understood what I meant.
But then she threw open the doors. “What would you be interested in? It could be anything, a business, an invention. . . What do you think?” Anything? Any idea? Immediately Brian’s idea came to my head: opening my own school, and I told her so. That was an idea I’d immediately dismissed as a completely overwhelming task, but also something I knew I could be passionate about. But did I really want to go into the business of education? Didn’t I want out? “A daycare or preschool might be a good way to go. There’s definitely demand for that here,” the other woman chimed in. This was something to think about.
We chatted more about the preschool/daycare and dabbled back on the restaurant idea and other miscellaneous strands. But I had so much to think about. My first mental reaction to a business idea is to shoot it down. I’m a conservative money monk who is cautious and slow to change. On the other hand, I felt like I had little nudges from the universe that may be pushing me in that direction. 1) My New Year’s Resolution this year is to be myself, and I’ve felt that part of that involves being in a job I can believe in and not looking back and regretting my life, wishing I hadn’t been afraid to change. 2) I’ve felt increasingly frustrated in my job that higher ups have not listened to my ideas. I’ve had two great ideas over the last 5 or so years, and they were both completely dismissed. Here was a chance to implement them both at the same time! 3) At dinner last Thursday with some friends, one of them made the off-hand comment that it is not possible to be completely happy in any job unless you run your own business. I heard this the day after I’d gotten the text from my other friend that she wanted to talk to me this weekend about a business proposition. Was this serendipity?
I had a lot to think about. As we left the restaurant, we decided to peek in a neighboring property that was up for rent to check out the possibility for the restaurant idea. I didn’t know if this idea would work for the three of us. We were already beginning to disagree on how to make the food and what ingredients to use! But my mind was racing, already imagining the possibilities for our own utopian school.
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