We were starting a new business. Finally! An opportunity came up and I was going to stop working for someone else. My family and I were venturing into the realm of entrepreneurship in the U.S of A.
We were all excited to start something new, something that would help others make their life a little more enjoyable while we were going to make a living from it.
We were in America for about 8-9 years now, working for someone else and trying to make ends meet. My dad worked odd construction jobs. My mom worked in the elderly care industry, cleaning houses and holding a warehouse job. She did this while going to school and getting her medical assistant certification, and now she was finally working at Kaiser Permanente as a medical assistant.
I waited tables right after graduating high school for $2.00 an hour, went to community college to pursue my higher education, worked in a warehouse, waited tables…again, and finally now I was working for a small, family owned signing agency.
My job consisted of finding and contracting notaries across California for lending firms looking to finalize their financing and refinancing contracts with their customers. Our main costumer (the main lending firm we worked with) was Ameriquest. If you heard of the Financial/Housing Market Crisis of 2007, you heard of Ameriquest! The housing industry was booming at that time (circa 2003-2004) and the young Ameriquest loan officers, whom I had good working relationships with, were making a “killing”. They were signing loans left and right and were making incredible paychecks, especially for such young individuals. Most of them were in their early or mid-twenties, no older than thirty.
The signing agency company I worked for was a small family owned business (more like single-mom of 3-owned). There were six of us working (including the owner) and we all got along great…most times. The end of the month was always a little intense, to say the least. All the loan officers HAD to close every, and all of their contracts so they could get their commissions and bonuses. We worked till midnight making sure all notaries were at their locations, all customers signed their agreements, and the loan officers got confirmations on all of their deals.
My job was fun, challenging, and I was making decent money…for a young Romanian girl that came here with nothing (other than her family) but her dreams (and they were 90210 kinds of dreams! I was 16, what do you expect?). I came a long way from being paid $2.00 an hour (in 1998-1999), only four years prior and I was still pursuing my education while working, in hopes that one day I would have my dream job…whatever that would end up being. I was on the right path to being a productive member of society. Even so, I saw these young, ambitious loan officers at Ameriquest making all this money, buying new cars, flashy clothes, and partying it up in the VIP sections of all the clubs in Sacramento (Yes, Sacramento isn’t that big and it is that easy to run into people you know when you frequent the same nightclubs and bars) . I wanted to make that kind of money.
My ultimate goal was to have my business. But what could I do in the meantime?
Turns out the process to become a loan officer at Ameriquest was pretty simple and they were now hiring. I spoke Spanish and I had a great relationship with the loan officers working there. They could put in a good word and vouch for me. The job was as good as mine!
At this point, I was still working my butt off for the signing agency. I asked for a raise and was denied. I liked the owner and everyone else there. Everybody was good people. But I wanted more. I was hungry. I wanted to have the same financial opportunity these loan officers had, so I made up my mind. I was going for it. I was going to get that job as a loan officer at Ameriquest. There was no stopping me. I was going for it but I was not going to let my boss know…not yet anyways.
As all this was unfolding, my family and I were talking about opening our own business…but what was it going to be? Aha! We had finally figured it out! We were going to open a care home for the elderly. We knew how we were going to do it and it only made sense. How so, you may ask. Well, let me tell you…
My mom had the experience, and the main driving force behind this was a noble one. We truly wanted to help the elderly. My mom worked for several care homes since we came to the US and she witnessed some despicable things done to sickly elderly people. But most importantly, my grandpa died in a care home in Romania shortly after we came to the US. He was in the care home before we left. We went to visit him for before leaving, and the last thing he said to his daughter, my mother, was: “Take me out of here…Please…They beat me”. He muttered those words to my mother with tears in his eyes and she could do nothing about it. Our departure to the US was already scheduled, our plane tickets purchased. My parents sold everything they owned so we could go find fortune in the US of A. There was no turning back. Not even those sad, sad words, and the tears in my grandpa’s eyes were going to change that. It was such a sad moment. The sorrow and feeling of helplessness was eating me inside. I could only imagine how my mother felt then.
This was our chance to make that experience count. We were going to open a care home for the elderly. And it was going to be the best care home yet. A care home that actually cared for the elderly!
The plan was simple. My mom was going to take care of most of the operations while I was going to finance the business. After all, that loan officer job that was going to make me five figures a month was literally mine already. Right?
Wrong! I never got the job as a loan officer. I did not have enough sales experience, and I obviously did not sell myself well enough for that tiny detail not to count. My boss at my current job found out I interviewed for the job at Ameriquest and it did not sit too well with her. She put me on a one-week-non-paid leave as a reprimand. That did not sit well with me! I decided not to return. I was not going to work for someone that scolded me for trying to further myself.
I was now jobless, incomeless but thanks to my parents, however, not homeless.
My mom held her end of the bargain. She found a house, made it compliant with all the laws, rules and regulations, and “our” business was on its way. Only, not at all as planned. I had no income to finance the business, and I had no intention of getting “dirty” in the business. I basically wanted to be an investor with nothing to invest.
I had to do something fast. I knew I could do it. And I did. My Spanish speaking skill came in handy. Although I had no sales experience, per se (life is a series of sales “jobs” in my opinion), speaking Spanish got me a sales job. What a great opportunity…I thought. Yes, things did not turn out the way I planned, but this was a great opportunity for me to learn more about sales and I had an income. I could now invest in the care home while the business was starting to get some cash flow.
Long story short, I stayed in my new job for three years and my mom handled all the operations of the care home business during this time. She got burned out and the money was not coming in as we thought it would. My income was not enough to support the business AND my personal expenses. It was just not enough to keep the care home going.
The business failed.
We took our losses and closed the business down.
No Cinderella story here. The business failed. And it did so miserably. I could come up with a million reasons, and excuses for why the business failed. But the truth of the matter is, the business failed. This was going to teach me something about myself. Was I going to get discouraged? Was this going to deter me from ever wanting to start a business again? Would I be living my life working for someone else, retire at 65, 70, 75…whatever the acceptable age may be in the future? Then die?
I know…It sounds a bit dramatic. After all, there is nothing wrong with having a job and living a “traditional” lifestyle. My mom is doing it. My sisters are doing it. Most people I know are doing it. It really seems like the thing to do…most everyone thinks so. I am kind of almost convincing myself here. ALMOST!
I was always a bit of a rebel, although at times with no apparent cause, and “traditional” just isn’t for me.
Forwarding into the future, about ten years later, I am writing a blog and since I quit my last job (in 2008), I haven’t worked for anyone else other than MYSELF…well, AND, of course for my always so very needy children (that I will probably always work for). I quit my corporate “career”, which I quickly learned was not meant for me, and never returned. Never again! It is a vow I made to myself and kept it ever since.
So, although I wouldn’t change anything from my past, there are some key points I would take from this particular experience:
Here are 4 of them:
- Research the business you go into
Even though you work for McDonald’s, it does not mean you know how to run a McDonalds. There is so much that goes into running a business. There is the operations aspect, marketing, sales, insurances, licensing, taxes, budgeting, etc.. Now, don’t let this discourage you. Yes, there is a lot that goes into running a business but if it were impossible, nobody would succeed at it. So figure out what you are good at it, or what you love doing, or what makes sense and makes money, and go for it. Just do your research before you venture out.
- Don’t go into business with family (parents, brothers, sisters)
I love my mother, and I think my mother still loves me. But seriously, it can definitely cause friction if things don’t go as planned. It can end relationships. It has happened. It can also be the cause for your failed business. This was the first business that I went at with family, but not the last. And the result was different, but not one I would call a healthy one. I know…I am stubborn and persistent. It is my blessing and my curse! But you don’t have to make the same mistake.
- Do not get into a business that you are not willing to get “dirty” in
This is pretty self-explanatory. Unless you have unlimited amounts of money to invest, or close to it anyway, do not do this. I made the mistake of thinking I can own a business and not really learn or do much about it. I mean, this is nice and all but I am no Paul Buchheit.
- Know when to quit and never give up
This may sound like an oxymoron but knowing when to cut your losses is important because if you know when to step back from something you can save yourself much time, money and headaches. But that doesn’t mean you are giving up. It means you are smart enough to recognize when something isn’t for you. Or you are smart enough to recognize where you erred and that starting all over is the best option. Take all you learned from your experience and go at it again. Don’t’ give up!
In a nutshell, did the business fail? Obviously. I just mentioned that it miserably failed.
But really…what a great opportunity to fail at something! I learned a tremendous amount, about the corporate world, about building and running a business, and about my family. Most importantly, I learned about myself and made everlasting friendships. So I say, ”What an Opportunity!” I failed, got up, learned, grew and moved forward.
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