From lemonade stand to entrepreneur
During the summer of 2011, money became real to me. To that point in my life, I had always operated under the impression that I would definitely go to college, I would definitely graduate into a good profession, and it all would somehow become magically affordable. My entire perspective on money and life transformed with a simple email informing me that my financial aid package at my old college had been significantly reduced. Since I couldn’t afford to attend the college in which I had invested my first two years of education, I chose to drop out of school. Suddenly, the prospect of college went from a foregone conclusion to an elusive dream.
These financial circumstances forced my 20-year-old self to grow up and establish exactly how I wanted to handle adversity for the rest of my life. I resolved to never allow my financial position to prevent me from achieving my goals professionally, educationally and personally. Since I had been a DJ for a number of years working for another company, I decided to start my own music and entertainment business that would specialize in wedding entertainment. My older brother loaned me $500 to buy my own equipment, and suddenly my business was born. I was already working two part-time jobs for a total of 60 hours/week, so I was forced to work on my business in the evenings and on the weekends.
I majored in business for my first two years of college, and I planned on “being an entrepreneur” after I graduated. Many people have dreams of opening their own business, but they never take the final step because they fear the prospect of failure. Since I had nothing to lose, I fully and passionately committed myself to the success of my business. I began to understand that an entrepreneurial spirit is not binary and does not involve a simple on/off switch. Instead, entrepreneurship is a defining characteristic that guides and defines you. Growing up, I was the child with the lemonade stand who recycled soda cans for spending money and organized a barter economy among my four brothers. I was always an entrepreneur; I just needed the proper stimulus to engage one of the most basic characteristics of my personality.
More tangibly, opening my own business taught me core business tenets from interpersonal and marketing skills to general administration and financial management. I became fascinated with business and efficiency. I started to read voraciously; during the 2012 calendar year I managed to read more than 100 books, a majority of them business-related. My experience as an entrepreneur provided the motivation to become a lifelong learner and achiever because I knew that as I improved, my business practices would improve as well.
My older brother’s investment reaped dividends, and he now works for me. My business achieved so much that I was able to return to a new school, the University of Maryland Smith Business School, for the 2012-2013 academic year. However, I now have new plans beyond “being an entrepreneur.”
After receiving my degree, I plan to open a consulting business geared toward aiding small enterprises like my own. I want to act as entrepreneurial mentor and teach people how to overcome the challenges many small business encounter on a daily basis. My ultimate goal is for my business to become financially independent so that I can use the structure and capabilities of my enterprise to help small business owners in the underdeveloped world achieve self-sufficiency and independence. My plan is to create a social enterprise that can work in tangent with the World Bank, the Grameen Bank and non-profit organizations to create opportunities for better outcomes in underdeveloped parts of the world.
Walt Disney once said, “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me…You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” This quote resonates with me because where I am today would not be possible if I had not experienced adversity, dropped out of college and opened my own business. Instead of an ambiguous career path, I now have very specific career goals that I hope will lead to a fulfilling life through which I can make a positive impact on the lives of others. My business allowed me to find my passion.
This essay was written by Jesse Buchman, one of 10 finalists for the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Jesse and the other finalists were selected from more than 500 applications reviewed by the SuretyBonds.com Scholarship Committee. Three of the finalists will win a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward furthering their education. To vote for Jesse or any of the other finalists, visit the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship voting app on Facebook.