Kianta, I am glad you heeded your Mom's advice. You and John have left an impressive impression with more people than you know. Always remember, you don't have to change your goal, but be willing and prepared to make adjustments on how you get there. Success is rarely a straight road. Congratulations on all your accomplishments.
My fiancé, John, and I both came from single-parent homes where our mothers held federal and state jobs. We understood the security in the whole 9-to-5 thing, the comfort that comes with working a steady job. Growing up, we never missed a dentist appointment and our moms made it to every drill meet and cheerleading competition.
But our parents have a security that this generation and beyond probably won’t ever have. Staying at a job for 25 years or more and receiving a decent pension and benefits package just isn’t that common anymore. So John and I decided to create financial security through entrepreneurship, instead of putting all of our nest eggs into one job. We wanted a business that could generate wealth, one that we could pass down, one that would make our parents proud.
Our parents, of course, couldn’t fathom this. I remember telling them, “It’s a new economy and new rules. Of course it’s the perfect time to start a business.” They cautiously nodded, but they did what parents often do—they worried. They wanted us to finish graduate school, but we wanted to start a business. They wanted us to have a debt-free life, while we were more concerned with having a boss-free one.
But as I (as most entrepreneurs do) quickly found out, the boss-free life comes at a price. Often, after we paid our employees, vendors, and taxes, we were left with humble profits. We were living month to month, eating pickles and broccoli for dinner, putting on five layers of pajamas during the winter to avoid turning on the heat, doing the opposite during the summer, and going to local coffee shops to use their Wi-Fi to catch up on our favorite shows. My monthly pedicures became nonexistent and John learned how to cut his hair. They were the worst of times, filled with crooked hairlines and jagged toenails.
We were approaching a year into the business when Lazarus (our food truck) suffered another mechanical breakdown and big client cancelled a catering event though we had already purchased the supplies. I couldn’t talk to John about it (his optimism can be so—overwhelming). I needed someone who would give it to me real; I needed my mom.
I remember crying to my mom about how terrible things were going. I’m not sure how she understood me in between the yelling, sniffles, and trembling words, but I felt like I was releasing every woe. After my mini meltdown, she suggested that I (hold your breath) do the unthinkable: Get a job. “But what about the business? Who will manage it?” I asked.
I was expecting a “Get it together, girl,” not a “You need to get a job, girl.” But my mother offered me a dose of reality, hold the sugar. In my mind, I had a plan to work on the business full-time for two years, but my mom reminded me I was getting closer to the health insurance cut-off age of 26. It was a conversation John and I had often. We knew Sallie Mae would soon come knocking, and that our humble profits wouldn’t be enough unless we decided to move in to our food truck.
So we listened to our parents’ prompting. I got a job, and John went back to grad school. And you know what? Our parents were right. Today, we’re working for great companies that admire our entrepreneurial spirit and give us the flexibility to manage our business. We’ve built a relationship with another food truck owner who allows our crew to use his kitchen and gives us great tips on managing a restaurant. John continues to take care of the operations, and I manage the taxes and catering events. And we would be nothing without the most dedicated crew in the world. The transition has been frustrating, but we’ve had support from all ends.
I believe that if my mom hadn’t nudged me into getting a 9-to-5 job or John’s mom hadn’t urged him back to graduate school, we would still be eating pickles and broccoli, wondering what went wrong. At the time, I thought my mom was trying to kill my entrepreneurial spirit and being a complete Debbie Downer—like the times she made me sit at the kitchen table until I finished my vegetables or cut the grass at 8 AM Saturday morning while the rest of my friends slept in. But you know what? Her guidance made me a lover of broccoli and a stronger person.
Now, this didn’t mean our parents were totally unsupportive of our business. When our parents had the time, they cleaned chicken, tasted different waffle flavors, served our customers, washed dishes, and took care of our laundry. There were times we wanted to quit, but our parents would remind us of how far we had come and how well we were doing. And when the local newspaper printed an article on our business, they—of course—cut it out and hung it on the fridge.
I learned that even if our parents had a different idea of what our futures should look like, at the end of the day, they were still rooting for us. After all, these are the same people who put every honor roll bumper sticker on their cars and drank their morning coffee from the hideous mugs we made in art class.