By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA
So I am still pumped up from viewing the Cameron Herold TEDTalks video. See, Cameron did not know it but he was speaking about me as much as he was speaking about himself. He was speaking about the very things I am and have always been passionate about. He shared the reality of the entrepreneur who was most likely always the oddball, the one who was the square peg trying to be forced in a round hole, and the one with ideas that no one would fathom pursuing. Even the ‘popular’ person always had something unique about them that made them even more popular–it was their ability to stand alone, to think for themselves, and to take risks. These same people are the ones that schools and doctors want to quickly medicate or negatively label. What they fail to realize is that these same kids are the innovators, creators, hustlers, and doers in our world.
I grew up in Los Angeles and Orange County, California, in an entrepreneurial family, with two parents who taught me how to never limit myself, earn and save money, and make my money work for me. Compounded hustle meant that I would never have to ask my parents to buy me something, because I quickly learned how to make my own money—although gifts were always accepted!
At the age of 9 I was reading the business section of the newspaper before I was allowed to reach the comics section. My dad would have me picking and tracking stocks. He would have me think of the various ways I could improve other people’s business ideas.When I was 10 years old I started my first business, purchasing and reselling consumer goods. I learned how to start other entrepreneurial endeavors such as watching the neighborhood kids while we all played outside. I smiled each time a neighbor placed money in my hands for doing something I was already doing—playing and looking out for the younger kids. Anytime a parent had an errand to run, conference call, or something else pressing to do, I made money watching their child.
My dad exposed me further to the inner-workings of business by having me work inside of his office. By the time I was in 6th grade I would fill in for his assistants and secretaries, especially during holidays and “Secretaries Week” when they were absent from the office. I learned about customer service and relations, organization and management, efficient work habits, interdependence, and focusing on my strengths. I also learned how to negotiate my rates, invoice my father, and demand payment when he was in “Dad mode”.
Also in 6th grade my mom helped me invent the “Doorbell Butler” which allowed people to ring the doorbell of a house and leave a recorded message for the owner in case they were not home or unable to answer the door. Ever drop by someone’s house and they weren’t there? Well with the Doorbell Butler they would know you dropped by and could contact you once they were home, or available to talk. My mom sketched out the prototype and helped me think of the possibilities of where the “Doorbell Butler” could help consumers; while my dad showed me how to market the idea. I unfortunately never patented the idea, or leveraged it beyond my 6th grade experiment, and more than 25 years later another entrepreneur monetized that same idea.
By the time I was 14 I was baby-sitting after school and on weekends at my neighbors homes, for $8-10 per hour, while still making time to study, participate in sports, other extracurricular activities, and working at a part-time job (to earn extra money). Also by this age, my dad smiled and told me “you make a great worker but a lousy employee…you will definitely be an entrepreneur your entire life“. I smile as brightly now as I did then, as it made perfect sense what my dad said. I never thought I would fit into the prototypical “employee” model within an organization. I always thought outside of the box and oftentimes reinvented the box, while most of the jobs I worked for wanted to contain me in a dysfunctional box. I was born to lead, born to work well on teams–but also have a strength within to stand on my own when and if needed.
I was very interested in becoming a personal fitness trainer, so just shy of 18, I was hired by Family Fitness Centers (before they became 24 Fitness). I learned fast and I worked my way up the ‘credibility ladder’, one year later the gym was bought out and converted to 24 Fitness Centers. By that time I had earned a great reputation as a trainer, and was one of only two trainers allowed to train clients in free weights. By the time I turned 19, I had enough experience and knowledge to leave the company and a few months later I started my first personal fitness training business, Paradigm Fitness, with more than 6 clients in less than 3 weeks. Throughout my adulthood I never remained on a ‘job’ for long. The longest was two years helping to teach at-risk middle school and high school boys. It’s just not in my DNA, and I am grateful. So I have started four more businesses since Paradigm Fitness, and I bust my tail 7 days a week so that I am never forced to squeeze into that round hole society has created.
I think back to my childhood and I wonder, what if my dad never encouraged me to be an entrepreneur? What if my dad never exposed me to business? What if my mom never showed me how to develop my creativity and combine it with my other skills to bring ideas to fruition? I know one thing, if they hadn’t I wouldn’t be sitting at the beach right now typing this post today–as the owner of two businesses–and with more in the works. Thanks mom and dad!
Natasha L. Foreman is the CEO of Foreman & Associates, LLC and consults and volunteers with organizations such as Operation HOPE.
Copyright 2012. Foreman & Associates, LLC, and Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.