Three Kids Vending lasted a few years and netted us something like $40 profit each, though my parents claim it was more than that I don’t remember more. We eventually sold the machines because my parents were realizing that while we’d enjoyed the fun project at first, after a few years it was tedium and we weren’t cooperating with it any more.
My parents, dad especially, was upset because he really wanted to give his business to us kids later in life and we weren’t picking up his level of excitement. But, what he never quite understood was how we kids saw their entrepreneurship. We saw his late hours, the fact he would be gone for days, we saw him plowing himself into bad health through stress and work-aholism.
During this time we’d bought a new house, a beautiful high class thing on a hill. We had luxuries we’d never had before. Real basketball goals, video games, big screen tvs, a camcorder even! Any time we asked to spend more time with dad, he’d point to these things, to where we had been, and say he had to keep going. It was always a problem and a fight.
Then came the day, just a few years after we’d moved into the nice big house, that the lab finally hit rock bottom. It’s debts had been piling up and we risked losing our home in the ensuing bankruptcy. I was terrified and confused. Worse, my grandparents also risked losing their home!
But they found a company willing to buy the assets and customer lists of the lab, and were able to make enough in the sale to settle the debts so we didn’t lose our homes. We were, however back to square one. We tried again with Amway for a while, then dad picked up some repair work fixing the equipment he’d sold to the new lab company. Eventually he built up a business in repairing lab equipment.
This company did so well it kept moving into bigger and bigger buildings. Meanwhile I went to high school, then college for graphic design, having been inspired by my art and computer teacher, Mrs. Brooks-Johnson. Throughout my childhood and teen years I was expected to do ‘family bonding’ which usually meant, heh, working in the family business for a few hours or a full day and then going out for pizza and video games. I had hard work beaten into me and it showed because I tested out of most of my first year college courses. I’d been self-teaching myself design software and was eager to hit this college thing hard!
During college I managed to get an designer internship under my second-cousin in a business that I, to this day, am not sure what they did… except that it involved reselling dental insurance plans. It was interesting because I re-learned what it meant to work in downtown Louisville. I’d forgotten how windy it was!
As internships go, I don’t know if I did anything useful. I was mostly a go-fer. No one knew design and I had to bring my personal computer to work in order to have the software to -do- the design work. But it gave me experience working for a business that wasn’t run by my parents, and despite the many dramas that ensued, I’m grateful for that time.
I learned I didn’t know very much at all about how to match design and art with real world customer needs. I learned about how much faster paced a business is versus designing in college. I learned the folly of giving a client 40 design options to choose from. It was every bit as educational as college.
// Photo: Christmas with the family. //