In case you don't remember, I really got exhausted doing Brazen Careerist. The pressure was insane and it made me nearly lose my mind multiple times. Now Ryan Healy is running the company in DC, and I sort of miss the startup life — sort of like women endure labor and then a year later they are pregnant again.
So I have been sort of bored and lost all winter, trying to think of what to do next. And then, one night when I was visiting my neighbor, her son propped himself up in his TV-watching chair and told me that he wants me to help him do a company this summer. For his summer job.
I said, “OK, but what do you want to do?”
He said he wants to pave driveways. Like, put tar on them.
So I asked, “How will you get customers?”
“I don't know. That's what I need help with.”
“I think you should start out with a list of ways you can get customers and then see which way is conducive to starting a business. So, if you could get customers for dancing on your head, then you should dance on your head rather than pave driveways. The customers are the hard part.”
“So what should I do then?”
So I told him to email me his Myers Briggs type profile and to find a friend he wanted to do a business with. And then to come to my house on Thursday night.
Zach did that. He brought Mitch. Zach is an ENFJ. And Mitch is an INTP. I asked them if they thought of ideas for a company. They said no. I told them they can't do a company without an idea. Mitch said, “How about a toilet bowl that also has a disposal?”
I guess this would be for high schoolers and their vomit. I wasn't really sure. But I took the opportunity to explain that if you're not an inventor, there's no use thinking about businesses that require an invention.
We talked about how hard it is to think of business ideas. I told them even adults have a hard time, but I'm great at it. I listed for them three ideas that I thought we could do together.
One was small: selling ads on my blog for a commission. One was medium but I can't remember what it was, actually. And one was to produce humane goat cheese.
I recounted for the boys my story about how almost all the goat cheese in grocery stores comes from farms where baby boy goats are clubbed over the head or drowned.
The boys picked goat cheese. I told them it was a big business, and we'd need funding. They liked that. Not that they knew anything about funding. I explained that another day.
I told myself I will send them lots of links so they learn about entrepreneurship. But the boys did not have computers. Further, they do not even get homework that involves computers because not all the kids in the local high school have computers at home. They do research for reports only from books in the library.
Then it occurred to me that they don't read. They can read, they just don't read.
“What was the last book you read?” I asked Zach.
He couldn't remember. Then he remembered: “The Scarlet Letter, for school.”
“It sucked,” said Mitch.
I told the boys that entrepreneurs read. They have to read. The problem is that if you don't read you don't know where to start reading. I decided we'd have to start with reading about sex, to keep them interested. I gave them Dennis Cooper. They liked it. After a while I slipped in articles about entrepreneurship. And finally I assigned them to read Fred Wilson every day.
I’m pretty sure they are not doing that. But they are learning other stuff. For example, we went to a farmers market and I was looking for something to bring home for dinner.
Zach said, “How about some sausage?”
I said, “Jews don't eat sausage.”
He said, “You say Jew! Isn't that a bad word?”
So they started coming over once a week for a company meeting and I'd give them assignments and they couldn't do the assignments because they had to go to the school computer room to get anything done but the school blocked most of the blogs that I sent them to.
This is when I realized the company needed funding immediately: Because I couldn't work with them if they didn't have computers. Really, I'd like to buy every kid in our local high school a computer. But I am a practical person. And I got seed funding to buy computers for the boys.
That was a fun day.
So we've all been working on the company, and sometimes, after the company meeting, I talk to them about college. There is no college counseling in their school. No one tells them how some colleges are
good for some kids and some are good for others and choosing a college is about self-discovery. So I have taken it upon myself to also be their college counselor.
Last week I had them doing college research until almost midnight. I'm worried doors are closing for them and I want to keep them open. The boys worked hard trying to learn differences between schools. I wished I could do more, but really, they have to learn it themselves.
So I said, “Do you guys want me to make you cookies while you're working?”
The boys doubled over laughing. They say that this was the line the teacher at school used when she was seducing high school boys.
I worry that the town thinks something is wrong. The town wonders how I can have a company valued at more than a million dollars when the company does nothing. The town thinks, “Why would she want to spend so much time helping two boys?” The town thinks I'm up to no good, I'm sure.
So I have a new company. And it's funded. And I love that I'm doing a farm-focused startup since I live on a farm. And I love that I'm helping goats. And I love that I found these two kids to take along for the ride.