Scholarship Finalist: Lena Schumacher

How small business changed my life forever

My mom and stepdad started a small photography business when I was 13. No one could have ever guessed that small business would end up influencing me in a way that I could never have experienced otherwise. With my parents owning that business, I learned the value of a dollar very quickly and how good things can become bad, which continues to impact how I act today. Before that, I was what could be called “spoiled” and did not realize how hard people have to work to just make a little bit of money.

Some months we had enough money to live comfortably on, but other months it was hard to even have enough money to buy groceries and still be able to pay all of the bills that accumulated. This business showed me that money really did not grow on trees. There were days when my mom and stepdad worked 16 hours for the business trying to attract new customers and have the customers that we did have come back.

Although my parents loved the business, it was a struggle every month to keep it open, and, eventually, we did have to close it. Money became so tight after the economy started to go downhill that keeping it open was making us lose money we didn’t have.

Seeing the start of the business and then the end of it affected me more than anyone has realized.

This showed me that hard work and dedication can make a business bloom, but you have to rely on hope sometimes, too. Hard work is sometimes not rewarded, especially in small businesses. It is a struggle every day to stay open, and if you do not truly believe in what you are doing, your business has a much higher chance of failing. Seeing my parents struggle to stay hopeful that we would book a job and be able to pay the bills that month broke my heart but made me stronger at the same time.

Although their business ended up failing, I have never attributed it to anything that they did wrong. They loved their photography business like it was another child. It made them happy, mad and every other emotion. Financial times became even harder after we had to close the business, but it taught me one of the most important lessons of my life: you can have all the money in the world and never be happy, and you can find happiness when you have no money at all.

Through all of the good and bad times with the business, it brought my family closer together and gave us each new lessons to learn that we might have never even thought about otherwise.

Owning a small business is so much more work than people seem to realize. It is time-consuming and costly, but it can also do something so powerful and amazing — such as make a family realize how much they truly love each other through the good times and the bad.

This essay was written by Lena Schumacher, one of 10 finalists for the Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Lena and the other finalists were selected from more than 500 applications reviewed by the Scholarship Committee. Three of the finalists will win a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward furthering their education. To vote for Lena or any of the other finalists, visit the Small Business Success Student Scholarship voting app on Facebook.

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