Memoirs of a Family Business

I know a little bit about small business in America. I have been a small part of one for almost half of my life. I have seen first hand what it takes, and I would like to share that with you.

My dad started our family business when I was a freshman in college. He took his retirement and the profit from the sale of our home to make his vision come alive. He will tell you it was God who led him in this venture, and while I 100% agree with that, that part of it is another story for another time.
Back to this story.
He took out no starter loan, had no degree in business, but a lot of experience and a love for his trade. We all supported him from the very start, and still do today. Dad started with an old bucket truck and an office in the basement of our house.
Dad has always enjoyed a good risk, so he wasn’t, and isn’t afraid to step outside the box. He tried different vendors, different marketing, different equipment, different employees and partners until he found what worked. 13 years later and our business still takes its fair amount of risks.
Our business is very much based on economic situations. If businesses are doing well, they will pay for signs. They will build new buildings and expand and buy more signs. But, if businesses are doing poorly, they are not interested in better marketing. We need other businesses to succeed so we can as well. And no business ever ventured forth with the goal of failure. Economic strength is so important in any country, because without it the infrastructure will collapse.
I remember during the recession in the early 2000s, when we tried making soap and candles as a side venture because business wasn’t too great. I remember the winters where income was rare, but our faith was strong. Being self employed doesn’t mean you are “middle class”. 
No one lived our business experiences for us. No one paid, and still pays the taxes we pay. The risks, and the heart, and the hours and toil that the business has taken on us and from us…. These are things no one else can say they experience on our behalf. Not the government, not anyone.
I went with my Dad to crumbling Detroit to survey cellphone stores… 70 or 80 in a week. Spending days measuring and nights drawing. Missing a bridal shower I planned for my sister because I knew that we really needed this work for our family. 
I stay up late waiting for my husband to get home from a busy day at the office or on site. My sister in law asks what she should do about dinner, because my brother never gets home at the same time. Mom and Dad are often at the shop on weekends, working on the building or fixing the truck. Hey, we even go with on jobs to spend time with our guys. And it’s not that they are workaholics, they know that family is important. But that is why we make sacrifices and they work long hours… Because they love their family.
Having a family business is not all sacrifice and toil, and I hope that is not what you gather from this narrative. There are the “neon runs” my sister and I would make in her little Hyundai Accent, singing our hearts out and laughing together. Working on a sign together was its own kind of fun. Traveling to new places. Inside jokes. Decorating the truck for Christmas. You can’t help but take it in and enjoy this fantastic chance to work with the people you love the most. Not everyone gets that.
But it is not a bed of roses. And I truly and wholly resent our President’s remarks about small businesses. Yes, I understood the context of his speech. I pay for government to do what they do, and if my family’s business wasn’t profitable, government wouldn’t get paid. So, no, government did not build our business. We did, and God blessed. Instead of the warped view that many have of business, government should be thanking us for what we do: pay taxes, boost the economy, create jobs, innovate, unite families and communities. We do much for our nation, simply by following a dream. And I am proud to be a small part of that.

One thought on “Memoirs of a Family Business

  1. Well done, Sis! Neon runs….ahh, yes, those were good times! I think Mom still has some of the soap we made. That was good stuff, too bad it didn't "take off" like Dad had hoped. Dad truly has the entrepreneurial spirit…Starry Sky Scrunchies. Need I say more. I love my family!

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