Scholarship Finalist: Lillian Ross

Lessons learned

Small business ownership has been an extremely influential part of my life.  Essentially, every part of my existence has been shaped by small business ownership. My parents run a home-based, small business. Their business has kept us living in a nice house and kept food on our table, and has been the primary authority in the ebb and flow of our family dynamics for as long as I can remember. There have been times that I have been angry and resentful of the business always seeming to come first but, as I get older and have begun to work a job of my own, I am coming to a better understanding of that which I have resented in the past.

What I am beginning to understand is that it takes a great deal of dedication and perseverance to be a small business owner. When I go to work at the mall, I clock in and I get paid whether or not we are busy. What I have come to realize is that that is not the case for my parents. When they are not busy, they have to work even harder to make sure that they are generating enough business to still make sure there is enough money for everything. I used to get really upset that there never seemed to be any time that was just for me and never just a “kick-back weekend” for the family. It seemed like they were always working. Now, I am beginning to see and understand that that is not a misconception on my part. When the business is busy, they work crazy hours and insane schedules to meet all of the demands and responsibilities to their clients, and when things slow down, they work even harder than they did when it was busy.

For a small business owner to be successful, I am learning that it takes a great deal of dedication, discipline, stamina, resilience, and sacrifice. Everything falls on the shoulders of the small business owner. If they are not doing it, delegating it, or overseeing it, then it is not getting done.

There have been many times growing up that I have wished that I could just have normal parents with normal jobs. However, now that I have a normal job with a schedule that is not my own, I am starting to understand that there is a trade-off. Before, I thought my parents never seemed to have time for our family, but I am now coming to understand that they get to make their own schedule. If I need them for something or want to make time for us to do something together, they have the freedom to adjust their schedules to whatever they need or want it to be. When I have a conflict at my job, I often have to “just miss out” because of the conflict.

This new understanding, as a result of my own experience, is helping me to see that for all the times that I have resented my parents business, there are just as many times that I have been thankful for it.

As a result of my parent’s example, I am coming to understand that small business owners have to do many jobs and do them well. There are not different departments for this, that, or the other. It all falls on the business owner. Success and failure are both predicated on the efforts one puts into their endeavor. I can see that takes a lot of maturity, leadership, creativity, determination, trial and error, willingness to fail, self-confidence, and above all — as I have already said — dedication and sacrifice to be a successful owner of a sustainable, viable business.

With my growing understanding of what it has truly taken for my parents to build the business that supports us, I will continue to observe and learn from their example. I do not know, at this stage of my experience, whether I will follow the example that has been set by my parents or whether my personal career path will be of a more traditional nature. What I do know, however, is that my exposure from an early age to the rewards and pitfalls of the independent business owner has enriched my life in ways that I have only just begun to recognize and affords me opportunities and life lessons that many will never have the benefit of experiencing. I am finding that I owe much to the entrepreneurial spirit that has molded my life – past, present and future.

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

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