Guest Blog – Lessons from a Teenage Entrepreneur

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.

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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.

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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.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

Unmasked

3 Apr 9, 2013 1-12 PMHalloween is upon us.  That time of year when everyone dons a mask and tries to be someone they’re not.  But let’s be honest here, don’t you sometimes feel like every day is Halloween?  Everywhere I look, I see people trying to fit in with those around them.  Whether it’s high school girls with lots of makeup and matching outfits trying to look and act like the “popular crowd” or middle-aged men and women trying to look or act like teenagers, I often wonder why everyone always tries to be someone they aren’t.

How many times have we seen movies where, at some point, the male lead takes off the glasses of the female lead, lets her hair down, and tells her she’s beautiful?  Do we all swoon because he’s finally seeing how beautiful she is without her glasses?  No!  We swoon because he finally recognizes how someone so different from everyone else, someone not trying to conform, is the most beautiful girl of all.  He sees her for who she is, inside and out, and he realizes that in spite of her being a nerd, or shy, or even crossed-eyed, she’s the one he’s in love with!  Let’s face it, it’s not every girl’s fantasy to be loved because she is just like everyone else.  We want to be loved because we are who we are, and that’s good enough, in fact, better than good enough – it’s perfect. Look at one of the most popular entertainment genres out there – the musical.  Wicked, Billy Elliot, The Lion King, Footloose, Flashdance, Frozen, Matilda, even The Sound of Music – they all have one message in common – Be who you are, embrace it, show it to the world, and live the life you were born to live.

I was ridiculed a lot in high school by my peers for standing out, for dressing my own way, for being a little too loud and a little too peppy.  I had gone through all those years of elementary and middle school hiding behind the popular girls, and I was determined not to do that in high school.  No matter what, I was going to be myself, popularity be damned.  Here’s what I learned: yes, there were girls who hated me and boys who were annoyed by me, but I didn’t care, and in the end, it didn’t matter.  I was never “in” the popular crowd, but I was friends with them, along with every other group in school.  I never felt the need to fit in with anyone, and it turned out that I fit in with everyone.  And really, that’s the way it should be.  After all, as everyone under the age of 50 understands, “each one of us is a brain… and an athlete… a basket case… a princess… and a criminal.”  It’s when we stop hiding all of the facets of who we are that we are able to show the real person who lies beneath the mask.

There’s an old adage that the least popular kids in high school are the most eligible ones twenty years down the line.  So here’s my advice to the world, for what it’s worth.  Be yourself now.  Why wait?  Don’t worry about what others will say or think, just be the best you that you can be.  Take off your mask, and be proud of who you are.  Life is too short to live in someone else’s shoes, or their costume.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Raising Adults

DSC07028No offense to any new moms out there, but you have it easy!  Those first few years of parenthood are both wonderful and exhausting.  Sleepless nights, changing diapers, choosing a preschool, putting them on the bus, teaching them to make friends, watching them make the wrong friends, helping with homework, cheering on the sidelines, cleaning scraped knees and wiping snotty noses and tear-stained faces are just some of the painful joys of parenthood.  But I have to be honest with you, looking back, it was actually quite easy to raise children.  It’s once they hit high school that everything changes because that’s when you realize that you are no longer raising children; you are raising adults.

I liked raising children so much better than raising adults.  I have such a hard time letting go.  It just seems so much easier for me to fill out forms, contact teachers, cry to (and about) coaches, and make the tough decisions for them.  I want so badly for them to advocate for themselves, but I can’t help myself!  I am always fighting the urge to step in, and I often lose the battle.  If you think that watching your child fall off a bike is hard, try watching them fall in love, fall into the wrong crowd, or fall on their faces literally and figuratively.  Being able to pick them up, cradle them in your lap, and kiss the hurt away is infinitely easier than mending a broken heart or being on the other side of the slammed door.  Being a guide and mentor would be easy if I didn’t want so much to be at the reins, controlling everything that happens in their lives.  As if I could have stopped that bike from falling…

Raising adults is a lot like raising puppies.  You discipline as best you can, hoping they understand that it’s out of love, you scold and yell to stop them from doing something harmful, you keep them on a short leash for as long as you can; but then you realize that there comes a day when you have to trust them, leave them alone, let them wander, and pray that when you or they return, nothing has been damaged beyond repair.  There will be accidents and incidents, and no matter how old they are, they will try your patience and make you so angry you see red, but deep down, you know that all they really want from you is your love and attention.

I still have a lot of learning and letting go to do.  It’s not an easy road, and there are many bends, dead ends, yields, and U-turns, but I know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  My mother and I don’t always agree, and we had our share of arguments when I was becoming an adult, but there’s nobody in the world whom I love, respect, and enjoy spending time with more than her.  I can only hope and pray that I can be as lucky with my three girls.  Correction, my three young adults.  Loving them while letting them go is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I know that someday we will all reap the rewards.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online. Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Is It Worth It?

snowconesThe dog days of summer are upon us, and in our family, that usually means one thing – snowcones!   For several years now, our family has owned and operated a snowcone business in the tiny, tourist town of St. Michaels on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  Ken and I support the business by maintaining the stand, ordering product, and financing the equipment; but the daily operations, inventory, record-keeping, etc. are all done by the girls.

I am often amazed by the number of children these days who do not have a summer job.  Our girls have been working the stand since Morgan was about nine years old.  And while it sounds like fun, it’s hard work.  The daily set-up itself is a real chore, and there’s no respite from the sun or heat.  On some days, the line of families stretches down the whole block, and whichever girl is working needs to keep moving hand over fist as quickly as she can to satisfy her waiting customers.  It’s demanding, boring on slow days, but overall, very rewarding.

Recently a girl in Morgan’s class called her spoiled because she owns both an iPad and iPhone.  Morgan rebuked her saying she paid for both items and pays the monthly fee with her own hard earned money.  When we travel, any and all souvenirs that the girls want, they have to buy.  The number one question they have to ask before making any purchase is “is it worth it?”

That’s the same question that Ken and I ask ourselves every spring when we dig out the machine and assess the shape of the cart.  The answer has always been a resounding yes.  Every time the girls deposit their money into the bank, they do so with the great satisfaction that they earned every penny of that money.  Every purchase is carefully thought out, and big items are saved for only by dividing up their earnings into savings and spending so that they are always putting at least half of the money away.

As with most things, the girls have grown up and are starting to move on.  This summer, Morgan does more babysitting than making snowballs, but she’s our backup when Katie can’t work.  Rebecca has worked for the past two summers at a law firm, gaining the experience she will need in her future career, but she, too, jumps in and works the stand when needed.  So while many of the other teens my girls know will be sitting by the pool this 4th of July weekend, my girls will be working hard.  Is it worth it?  Ask Rebecca tonight after she finalizes the purchase of her very first brand new car.  We think it’s worth every hard earned penny. But more importantly, it’s worth every lesson learned, every hot, sweaty day in the sun when not wanting to be there isn’t an option, and every time someone remarks on what the girls have and they can be satisfied in knowing that they earned it.  In a world where young people spend most of their time lazily lying around, playing video games, and doing things that get them into trouble, at least I know that my girls are learning the value of a dollar.  Yes, it’s worth it.