In Media Res

Are you clocking out

It  would be convenient to have a nice beginning for this story, but as tends to be the case with real life, there are no convenient beginnings.  So maybe I won't start with the beginning, but with a beginning.

Do you remember taking aptitude tests when you were in middle school? You would fill in little bubbles on the Scantron sheet to find out if you were meant to be an architect or a plumber.  I cheated.  The test were boring, so I'd create patterns in the bubbles. Sometimes I was supposed to be a park ranger, others a mechanic.  If only it were that simple. I progressed to being a high-school trouble maker. A's in Art, and D's in Math. I drifted though a few different colleges. I didn't know what I was doing there, but that was where you go when you finish high-school. Five-and-a-half years later I had a degree in photography and no idea what to do with it.

While I was in college my sister got me a job in the kitchen where she worked. I planned on working there for a year while I figured myself out. That was twelve years ago. Now, I have always been known for being equal parts clever and determined, both of which are great assets in the restaurant industry, and that made me successful. I worked my way up to running the bar (how I became a bartender is a great story I'll have to share some day.) I bought a house, met my wife, and managed to live a comfortable life. I wasn't happy. I was miserable. I moved to different restaurants hoping the change would help. It didn't.

The problem wasn't the restaurant. The problem was me. I've never been comfortable having someone else decide my fate. It chafes. So I decided to go into business for myself. I had planned everything out perfectly. I was going to start a gourmet ice cream company. I spent years designing logos, researching recipes, looking up rules and regulations.  All the while working at my regular job, telling myself that it was all worth it because I was on my way out.

I was wrong. I spent four years planning that business. In that time four separate ice cream joints opened around my house and I had to conclude that there was plenty of ice cream around. I spent so much time planning the perfect business that I had missed the chance to start one.

Then I read about a conference. This was a conference about entrepreneurship. The main speaker had an interesting proposition. He wanted everyone to take $100 and start a business with it. That's it. Don't follow your dreams, don't plan the perfect strategy, don't find investors, don't search for you dream job. Just take $100 and figure out how to make money with just that.

For $100 I couldn't start a food service operation. So my main area of expertise was out of the question. I had always had a slew of hobbies. I was currently on a leather working kick. I had made myself a nice simple wallet and when I showed it to a coworker he asked if he could order one. That was when my business started.

The Wright and Rede basement workshop Circa 2012.
The Wright and Rede basement workshop Circa 2012.

I didn't have any business cards, a vendors license, a company name, a logo, or any of that stuff I had stressed out about before. I did have a demand for one wallet though. That was September of 2012. I decided that if I could sell four items by November I'd have a go at it. I sold four in two weeks. So I had a friend design a logo, came up with a name that wouldn't limit me too much, and started selling leather goods. I never got a loan. I never had a plan before hand. I just figured out things as I went along.

Then one night it happened. I was standing around waiting for the restaurant to get busy. I was stressing out because I was rushing around all day trying to get leather goods in the mail and still make it to work on time. I was looking around at the empty tables and thought to myself "Is this really what I want to be doing with my life?". I had come to a crossroad. I could stay at the job I knew would pay my bills, but had no future in it, or take a risk and see what happens. I went home and had a long talk with my wife that night. The next day I went into work and told them I'd be leaving.

So here I am. Back at the beginning of this story. I quit my day job and took the plunge. I don't know if I will succeed and I don't really have a plan worked out. I do know that if you want something it won't come to you. You have to go out and get it.  So wish me luck.

Clocking out at my final shift.
Clocking out at my final shift.