I never knew where I got it from but I always seemed to have this innate entrepreneurial drive. My first sense of it was when we lived in Chester and I bought a beat-up old bicycle from Tim Lewis for three bucks. I appropriated some red enamel that was lying around in the garage and brushed it onto the mottled, multi-layered existing finish. With a uniform color, I think I was able to boost its value to five bucks when I resold it. I also caught Hell from the old man for taking the paint without asking.
All I wanted was some spending money, so I saw an ad in the back of a comic book and sent away for a sales kit to sell greeting cards. I caught Hell from my mother when it showed up in the mail. She said that selling greeting cards door to door was tantamount to begging. I ignored her and sold them anyway and did OK with the project. I learned a lot about rejection and persistence and never communicated a bit of what I gained in knowledge to anyone. Hard-won and hard-earned, but that knowledge was mine.
I bought and sold a few other items over the years and when I was 12 I had an opportunity to be a back-up substitute paperboy for Terry Sprague. He had the much-coveted Rutland Herald route and I learned that route and could recite it to Terry verbatim. I never got a chance to sub for the substitute because we moved to South Royalton that summer. I quickly learned that the paperboy for the Rutland Herald was Gordy Brock and it was a dynasty. After Gordy, there was brother Norris and then there was Mike. Somehow I lucked out and ended up with the Times Argus route. It was a tough one, but I made it work.
That small newspaper route provided just enough money to keep me in milkshakes and candy bars year-round. I soon became the cornerstone of Dr. Edminster’s dental practice in town. I think he was able to sell his house and move to a more upscale town further south or maybe even retire there. The dentist who replaced him was able to purchase a brand new Ford LTD wagon with fake wood sides within his first year. Somebody asked him what the LTD stood for and he told them “Long Term Debt” but my parents knew who was making the payments.
When I moved on from the newspaper route I was in a rock band with some friends. No one would hire us to play so I decided to rent halls, advertise with posters and finagle free radio ads using “The student dance committee” as the sponsoring body (yup, I made that committee up) and had my girlfriend collect the money. We did pretty well with that project, even when we had to pay for a traffic cop in downtown South Strafford, Vermont.
Forty some odd years later when I met and got to know my biological father I finally learned where I got that entrepreneurial spirit from. As a kid, he was always busy and earned the nickname “Buzzy.” His business talent is with real estate and rental properties, although he did some band promotion that was quite successful as a hobby. As an artist, he has sold countless paintings and watercolors, but he never depended on any of those talents to make his living. He was an educator his entire career, but he is still one heck of an entrepreneur.
As I grow older I am slowly figuring out what I derived from nature and what I derived from nurture. While I got the business savvy from my biological father, I also gained a whole bunch of critical people skills from my adoptive Dad which were invaluable in my sales career. We don’t often get a chance to sift through our childhoods and clearly identify what we got from DNA and what we got from our environment. I’ve been fortunate to be able to discern where certain characteristics come from.