Scholarship Finalist: Clara Porter

Small business ownership and me

I am from the charming small town of Warsaw, Missouri. Warsaw is a place where everyone knows who you are, where it smells like fish when it rains and where the businesses are primarily comprised of mom-and-pop motels, cafes, barbecue joints and, because of the nearby lake, souvenir shops. In fact, there are few corporately owned businesses. Or at least there were. The Warsaw of today is much different from the one that I grew up in. It is through the gradual transition of time that many small businesses have faced the oncoming wrath of larger corporate businesses. As I reflect on the impact of these transitions, I can see the great importance of small business ownership.

I grew up knowing the feeling of walking into a local cafe and the waitress (who probably worked there all of her life) already knew what you wanted to eat. I also grew up knowing that it was the sole influence of the new Walmart super-center that closed the neighborhood grocer of G&W Foods. It was due to my upbringing in a town focused on small business ownership and the evil connotations of larger companies that I created a business of my own at the age of 13. I guess that I had decided to take what I learned from lemonade stand success and turn it into real profit. I bought a book and some material, and, before long, I started Clara’s Paperclip Jewelry. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and this experience has shaped me into the person that I am today.

Owning my own business has taught me so much about life. First and foremost, it has taught me about responsibility. When there are goods that you are providing for people, I have learned that it should be of the utmost importance to make sure that the goods are high quality, reasonably priced and are delivered in a timely manner. I am aware that in today’s current economy, caring about the customer’s budget shows respect for the person as a whole. With that in mind, I do not feel that I am “selling” anything, but providing a low cost gift option for my customers. I truly care for my customers, and owning my own business has reinforced the idea of respect and service that I have always valued. I have to be attentive to more than just the immediate needs of customers purchasing my products, focusing on their other needs and how I can best serve them.

In addition to responsibility and service to others, owning my own business has also taught me creativity, business and money management, great people skills, organization, involvement in the community, confidence and determination. Most of these traits, such as business and money management, have come simply with trial and error while going through the motions of starting up, owning and operating a business. Other traits, such as involvement in the community and great people skills, have come by observing other successful small businesses in the Warsaw community. Confidence, determination and the expansion of my creativity are traits that I have acquired from the success that resulted from my business experience.

All of these experiences have helped mold me into the person that I am today. I am focused upon others, responsible, creative, involved, confident and determined, as well as so much more. While I intend on continuing my jewelry business throughout college, it is my goal to use my experiences through my entrepreneurial endeavors to become an occupational therapist. Occupational therapy is reliant upon creativity and innovation to think of new strategies to help rehabilitate patients. My selfless service through occupational therapy will mimic what I have learned in my own jewelry business. I realize that while I may begin my career in occupational therapy in a larger corporation, I intend on using the experiences gained in that setting to one day operate my own occupational therapy clinic. I believe that a small business setting will provide a more personal atmosphere, proving to be more successful at rehabilitating patients due to one-on-one service.

My experience in a town focused entirely on small businesses, as well as my experience owning my own business, has shaped me into the well-rounded, successful person that I am today. I cannot imagine living in a world without the friendliness and personalization of small businesses. I know how it feels to be welcomed into a business and treated as family, and I strive to treat every customer that I have in that same way. It is also due to my experience with small business ownership that I feel prepared for my future career as an occupational therapist, as well as a potential small business occupational therapy clinic owner. Small business ownership has no doubt shaped me into who I am today.

This essay was written by Clara Porter, one of 10 finalists for the Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Clara 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 Clara or any of the other finalists, visit the Small Business Success Student Scholarship voting app on Facebook.

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