This morning, 18-year-old Katie Schisler, would like to share what she has learned by running her own business. I’m sure you will enjoy the wit, wisdom, and advice.
When I was 13 years old, I started working as an employee at my family’s snow cone stand in the resort town of St. Michael’s, Maryland. I am now 18, and for the last two years, I have been running the stand as my own business. I handle all of the financials and hire my own employees. I also still work at the stand myself. Here are 5 things that I have learned as a young, small business owner.
1. Conversation skills.
Tips are a huge deal. That is the only money that you make that goes straight into your pocket (I do pay myself and my employees, but tips are walk-away-with cash). So how do you maximize your tip amounts? You talk to your customers! With a smile that says, “I’m happy to help you,” it’s always nice to ask where they’re from and what brings them to the area. And if someone happens to say that they are a local, encourage them to come back, and tell them that you can’t wait to see them next time. Customers are much less likely to give a good tip to someone who is unfriendly, or acts like that is the last place they want to be. Extra tip: it also helps to wear a hat or t-shirt with the name of the college you plan to attend. It’s a real conversation starter, and you’d be amazed at how many people say they or their relatives went there.
2. The value of a dollar.
Everything costs money, and at the beginning of the season there is a good chance that you are going to be in debt. Whether you owe your grandfather money for buying you flavors and spoons, or you owe your only employee $8 an hour for a weekend where she only sold $30 worth of product, you are going to have expenses that you need to pay off. This is when you need to learn not to panic because some weekends will earn you a lot more than that. Also, everything adds up. If I were to sit here every weekend eating snow cone after snow cone, eventually I am going to run out of flavoring that no one was paying for.
3. Patience is a virtue.
As I write this, it’s already noon, and I have not made a single sale. Town had so many people in it while I was driving to work, so where is everyone and why don’t they want snow cones? I might as well close early. But then, as 1:30 rolls around, my first customer approaches me. He was eating lunch at noon and had decided to wait until after lunch to come get snow cones for dessert. By the time that customer is finished paying, I have another customer waiting in line behind them. Before I know it, the line is halfway down the sidewalk. After that, it begins to slow down a bit, but customers still trickle in until closing time. Closing early is only worth it on days when it is raining no matter how bored you are.
4. You form relationships.
I live in a tourist town, so a good amount of my customers are tourists. However, ever since we opened all those years ago, we have had a small amount of locals who have followed us from Talbot Street to the Maritime Museum to our current location on Willow Street. Whether it’s “The Chocolate Guy” or “The Egg Custard Lady,” I can always count on seeing a familiar face during my day at work. Other than occasionally seeing them at Church, I really didn’t know these people before I started this business. This kind of support is what encourages me to keep coming to work every weekend.
5. It’s really not THAT bad.
Yes, on days that I have work, it is very hard to get me out of bed. But with an occasional groan and grumble about how much I don’t want to go, I get up and go to work. In all honesty, there is nothing bad about working during the day; I actually really enjoy it. The dread, however, comes from the before and after of the job. Every morning I have to lift heavy coolers full of Ice into my car, put the full flavor bottles in my car, drive to work, drag out the stand, move the coolers and flavors onto the stand, and do the tedious job of making the counter look presentable. Then, at the end of the day, I have to put the coolers back in the car, put everything that was on the counter away, make sure everything is clean, put the flavors in the car, drag the stand back to where we keep it, go home, then then refill all of the flavor bottles. THAT is what I dread every morning when I wake up for work. Like I said, working here is actually kind of nice once everything is set up. I thoroughly enjoy interacting with the customers, and when I have no customers it’s nice to sit in the sun and read a book. I just have to push through the annoying jobs that come before and after working.
So, if you or your child is thinking of starting a serious, worth-while and sustainable business, go ahead! Encourage your kids to get out of bed and go to work. There’s nothing like being your own boss, and the responsibility they will learn from it will help them for the rest of their lives.
What I was writing about one year ago this week: To All the Muses in My Life.
Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing: Had a Job Interview but No Callback? Here’s What to Do Next Time; Interview: The husband of Chiara Corbella on his wife’s sacrifice and possible canonization.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.