My daughter is graduating from high school next weekend.
I type those words, but I can hardly believe it. It seems like just yesterday she was playing at my feet while I worked. I know its cliche, but man, kids grow up too fast!
Yes, I’m one of those people who built a business while I was raising my kids. Was it easy? No, but I didnt expect it to be. In fact, one of the main reasons why I built my business was so that I could be there for my kids when they were small.
I can’t help but feel kind of nostalgic this week, so this blog article isn’t going to be my typical copywriting educational blog. I want to share with you some memories and takeaways that I have, both from my childhood growing up and from my time as an entrepreneur, as my family transitions from kids at home to older teen/adult kids. I want to take the time to celebrate the milestones.
My Entrepreneurial Heritage
I grew up in a home with a dad who farmed and a mom who stayed at home. She wasn’t just a stay-at-home mom though, although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Raising small kids – even big kids – can be a full-time job! My mom, however, was also an entrepreneur.
Mom always had some kind of creative business going on the side. Farming can be kind of a volatile industry, and she wanted to do what she could to help out. But mostly I think she had a need for an avenue to express her creativity.
My mom has always been an artist. She has always made things with her hands. When we were tiny, she sewed our clothes. As my brother and I got older and started going to school, she began making wooden crafts to sell.
I grew up watching entrepreneurism happen right before my eyes. In fact, my first job was in the woodshop helping sweep up. As I got older, I graduated to painting, staining, and using the sander. In the spring and fall we would pack my dad’s pickup topper full of wooden handicrafts and drive off to craft fairs all over Iowa.
People came from miles around just to buy my mom’s crafts. They lined up outside the booth, and I can even remember times where there would be crowds of women pressing in, grabbing things off the shelves, and throwing money at our direction as we tried to take sales and count change.
I learned how to do things like count change, bag merchandise, and do customer service from a really young age. I never had the desire to have a creative business that involved physical merchandise, but as I look back I can totally see how those seeds of entrepreneurship were planted during my childhood.
As my brother and I got older, however, things changed when I moved to college three hours away. My mom stopped creating and selling wood crafts. She was ready for more freedom in her schedule to travel, and my dad needed more help in the fields during the fall and spring. She became the Combine Queen.
Even today you can still find her running the combine during the fall with her feet propped up against the window and her cooler full of snacks at her side. There were a few years in there where she didn’t have a business of her own, and then she discovered jewelry making.
I think it started when she was looking for some jewelry to wear. Instead of just seeing it as an accessory, she started looking at it as a challenge. “I could make this,”she’d say. So she did. She opened up an Etsy shop and started working with leather and beads and gemstones, creating beautiful designs that people love.
From Employee to Business Owner
So that’s my mom’s story, but what does that have to do with me and our daughter graduating and the future of our business? Well, if it hadn’t been for my mom and her ability to find ways to be creative and generate income from it, it probably never would have occurred to me to start my own business.
I’m not naturally a risk-taker. In fact I like safety, security, and comfort, but my mom always believed that you can find a way to make things work. If staying home to be there for my kids was a priority for me, then she would do whatever she could to help support that, and she definitely led by example.
My first real grown-up job was doing layout and design for a local cattle organization. I worked in a home office in my boss’s basement. My boss was a mom with grade school aged sons, and I remember being so in awe of how she made it work to have a career while still being there when her sons got off the bus. When our daughter was born, my mom baby sat several times a week so I could go into the office. When she got old enough, I started bringing her with me.
My boss and her husband loved having Lexi come to the office. She was super chill. She sat on a blanket with a few toys and some Cheerios and was happy as could be playing next to me. They would always say she was cuter than a basket full of kittens, and she really was if I do say so myself.
When it came time for baby number two to arrive, I expected things would go much the same, just plus one kid. I would take a few weeks off, then Lexi and her new sidekick would both come with me to work. Easy, right?
Oh, how little I understood about how unique two kids from the same parents can be! I didn’t expect them to act exactly the same, but I was completely unprepared for how very different they were. For one thing, Clay was NOT content to sit on a blanket on the floor and play with toys. He wanted to crawl around chasing the cat, climbing the shelving unit, and trying to find out what would happen if you shoved things into electrical outlets.
Needless to say, I was spending more time trying to keep him from destroying everything than working. It was time for something to change.
I talked my boss into letting me work from home on one project as a test. I don’t think she was 100% convinced it was a great idea at first, but I was able to accomplish so much more when I could work on my own time with the kids in their own atmosphere. I never went back to working in the office after that.
It went so well, in fact, that my boss and I decided to start our own business creating promotional materials for livestock auctions. This is something I never would have come up with on my own. My boss was the visionary, and she understood how to get out there and drum up clients, while I happily worked in the background on the technical aspects.
When she was elected to public office, I took over, and that’s how I became a business owner without really knowing anything about being a business owner.
Did I Have What It Takes?
In the beginning, all I wanted was a way to supplement my family’s income without having to leave my kids at daycare. That was it. I didn’t have any higher aspirations or goals. It had never been a dream of mine to have a super big professional career, and I was okay with that.
I hadn’t planned on running a business – it just kind of happened that way – but I liked it. It allowed me the freedom and flexibility to work from home and still be able to volunteer at the kids’ school and make all of their after-school activities. I had no complaints.
I never once thought about doing anything else. It seemed like I had a good thing going. Why would I rock the boat? What I didn’t know back then was that I was soon going to find out whether I had what it took to really be an entrepreneur or not.
But first, my husband and I decided to homeschool the kids. We had talked about it for years, and with my business going well, it seemed like the perfect time. I do want to say that we didn’t decide to homeschool because we were unhappy with our local school system. In fact, just the opposite. Our kids had a great school with wonderful teachers and staff.
As our kids got older year after year, we realized that we were waving goodbye to them before 7 a.m. in the morning and they were gone until after 4 p.m. By the time they got home, we had maybe four hours with them before they went to bed. We knew the years of having them live with us under our roof were going to go by too quickly, and we just wanted to make the most of it. Our main reason for homeschooling was just to steal more time with our kids, and it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Building a Business That Didn’t Run Me
The timing for homeschooling ended up being really interesting though. Because just as we had finished year one, my business took a major hit. Due to a client’s impending retirement, it looked like we were going to lost 80 percent of our contracts. Now what? We had just started homeschooling our kids. Was I going to have to send them back to school so that I could commute for an hour each way every day to sit behind a desk just to keep our lights on?
After working so hard to create the kind of freedom lifestyle that allowed us to have time and make memories with our kids, this was devastating. Our family couldn’t survive financially on just 20 percent of the income we had been used to, but I just couldn’t see letting go of our dream of homeschooling the kids so easily.
I decided to summon all the entrepreneurial spirit my mom had passed down to me, and I decided to try something new. I ended up starting completely over with new services and new clientele. Guess what? It was not easy.
I didn’t really know anything about running a business, especially not a business with the kind of volume I saw the potential for. It was a steep learning curve, and in the first six months I burned out pretty badly. Now what? I definitely hadn’t gotten into this to lose myself in it, but what broke my heart the most was the effect it was having on my kids.
I remember one day overhearing my husband ask Lexi about what she wanted to do when she grew up. Would she want to have her own business like me? Her response broke my heart. “No way!” she said. “I would never want my own business because then you would always have to be working all the time.”
That motivated me so much to keep trying to find a way to build a business that didn’t consume me. It took some time putting in the hours and late nights, but today I can honestly say I love my sales copywriting business. And guess who likes to take on little side projects to earn extra cash inside my business? That’s right, my two kids.
Coming Full Circle
I feel like today we’ve come full circle. I’m so happy I’ve been able to pass along to my daughter what my mom passed along to me – the knowledge that it’s possible to create a business doing what you love that can not only support your family but create abundance in your life.
As Lexi heads off to college this fall, she plans to study sports medicine. She wants to work with athletes and help them recover from sports injuries, something she’s unfortunately experienced in her high school sports career. For that, she needs traditional medical education, and we’re super proud and happy to support her in that. But she also goes off to college armed with the knowledge that being an entrepreneur is a viable option too, and that she can accomplish anything because she has the ability to learn and grow.
Our son is 16, and in a few years, both our kids will be in college. I’m determined to keep enjoying every moment with both my kids. My business is bound to keep growing and changing too, and I’m here for it. So yes, this article is more sentimental than usual, but I think I’m allowed, right? My first baby is graduating, and I couldn’t be more proud and excited for her – and a bit sad for me. Fly, beautiful girl. You’re ready.
More from Christa Nichols
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