#SWAAYthenarrative
Photo Courtesy of Rose and Basil

Limitless: How to Start Your Own Successful Business at 21

Business

Away for a wedding, I’m writing this piece in a really busy Cafe in Boulder, Colorado.


It’s 9 AM on Friday morning and the cafe (Snooze, on Pearl Street) is doing anything but snoozing. There’s not a seat open at the bar. The wait is about 25 minutes long. The espresso machine has made about five lattes and three caps since my last full stop. The mimosas are topped off with strawberries and the air smells like pancakes and syrup. The team of people behind the bar works like a well-oiled machine, tending to everything and everyone. This baby is not just walking, she’s dancing.

I’m done tackling my morning emails and have checked on Rose and Basil about four times already.

Ioana Holt

I’ve been away for three days, and it is about now that I get hit with the ‘first-time mom’ anxiety. My baby is 16 months old and well watched by the family of fairies I put together since her arrival, however, I still have a hard time being away from her.

Like most moms, I look around at all the other babies and smile when recognizing similarities, compare behaviors and learn from them. There is no doubt though that my baby is the best, regardless. A special and unique creation, the very thing that I’ve poured my heart and half my DNA in.

It hasn’t quite managed yet to learn to walk on her own: I stand there holding one or two fingers as the chubby legs move, still unsure. I document, like any loving mother, each move, each new word. We celebrate each moment and soothe every bump.

I sleep less since her arrival. I’m more anxious and somehow less independent, or at least less of what I thought independence to be like before she arrived. In fact, a lot of things have changed for me since her arrival. The world and all its possibilities expanded. Time earned another dimension and success another scale. Days sometimes seem weeks long and how well I did today is often based on how well she did today.

For someone that has been on their own for more than a decade, this new dependency aspect of living is new and to be quite frank, a little scary. As days go by and my baby grows and wonders at the world, I realize that I no longer have the option of taking off. I’m grounded now in a way that I’ve never been before. I’m attached. And the most surprising aspect of it all is that I like it. My creation, even though so young, has already started to change lives and that is to date my biggest and proudest accomplishment.

And as a ‘business mother’, there is nothing quite as fulfilling than seeing something you've made grow and positively affect this world. It humbles you and overwhelms you, but most of all, it gives your purpose and an understanding that there are no limits towards what you can achieve through them as your extension.

You rejoice, you worry about them, and you devote all that you are into making them the best that they can be.

Some days, you succeed: they shine and you, from the shadows, feel your eyes flood with tears and heart with joy.

Some days, you fail: they are lonely or sad, scolded by the world, and you are left to hurt for them, to struggle and to find in you - only you - the way to make them get up and chase another day.

There are books and other parents (including your own) full of advice and knowledge. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll do your best to try to absorb all they have to offer before she comes.

But it will feel like you know nothing and the first days when you are alone with her, she’ll be too helpless and too tiny and won’t stop crying no matter what you do. You’ll wonder what were you thinking when you decided to have her in the first place.

No book will save you but your own will to make her grow into something breathtaking. Your own desire to make her succeed.

You will doubt yourself often. You will want to run. You will want to give up.

You will have to be resourceful and extremely creative. It won’t be easy, but it will always be extraordinary.

With her there, you fight for two. You hurt for two. You cry and spend for two. (or ten if you’re anything like me!). Life as you know it changes and transforms and slowly you realize that so do you.

And in all that, life becomes more colorful, touched by all that was submerged in ignorance prior to her arrival.

You now see things - small microscopic things - you ignored in everyone else before. The first smile she steals, the first friend she makes, the first step she takes towards that dance you’re carefully preparing for.

Maybe she’ll take on to become a star child early on and surpass even your greatest expectations. Maybe she’ll drag you down to the park and introduce you to the love of your life or your best friend. Maybe she’ll force you to learn things about yourself you never thought were there.

You find joy and satisfaction in the joy she brings into the world. That realization is probably your most powerful superhero (mom) power because once that settles in, you become unstoppable.

You leave behind your innocence and become an adult, a parent.

I cannot tell you how to start your own business at 21 and be successful in any better way than to compare it to becoming a parent at 21.

Leaving behind days of chill, putting something else but yourself first and, at least until the baby is ready to go dancing, being okay with doing all of that all too soon. Is it worth it?

While sipping on a chai latte in Boulder, processing cake orders and considering what should be our next winter spiced frosting, I can assure you that yes, it is.

Because when the baby starts dancing, she is limitless.

3 Min Read
Business

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.