7 Mins Reading Time
Many people aren’t happy in their jobs. At best, most are content when they have something semi-enjoyable to make ends meat. Personally, I feel that if you have a job that sucks, you can use this experience to become a successful entrepreneur and embrace financial independence. Use it as motivation. Use it to make a promise yourself NOT to do this type of work again. I did. Let me tell you how.
Lets wind back the clock to my first “real” job. It’s important in my story because the job sucked so much I promised myself I would not work a job like that again.
The summer when I was 16 my mom told me, out of the blue, “You’re getting a job”. Now, this was quite a shock to me. I had just gotten my drivers license and all the freedom it brings and was looking forward to a summer of fun with my friends, not a summer of working.
To make matters worse, she had already contacted an old friend of hers, who in turn contacted someone else and I became a certified dishwasher in local restaurant in southeastern Connecticut. I worked in a cramped space with no air conditioning during the hot summer shoving lobster and seafood leftovers into a garbage pail, then putting the dishes and utensils through a steamy industrial dishwasher for hours on end.
Most days, it was 85-90 outside and a steamy 95-105 where I worked. It was disgusting. Really disgusting.
I was paid $4.25 an hour. It sucked. Big time.
During the weekends that summer, my friends and I went to a popular nearby ‘under-21’ club called “L.A. Beach Club” located in the summer beach town of Misquamicut Rhode Island.
You paid a $5 cover charge at L.A. Beach Club, hoped you could chat up a tourist girl (I didn’t, I was shy) or played pool on a beat-up pool table all while a DJ spun records overseeing a small dance floor. Coca-cola or orange juice were the drinks offered, although I must confess my friend Darren would sneak in rum from time to time.
I starting noticing the DJ would play certain songs that, while popular, would clear out the dance floor. And this wouldn’t happen just one time. It would happen every weekend. The same songs, the same results. People left the dance floor.
I thought to myself, “I can do a better job than that.”.
So I spent every spare penny from the sucky dishwasher job that didn’t go to L.A. Beach Club or gas for the car on vinyl records. Yes, old fashioned vinyl. I built up a large DJ record collection even though I had no equipment, no turntables, speakers or gear and no dj jobs lined up.
By the time school started in September, I had two crate full of records. But still, no gear. I found an older guy in the local newspaper who was offering to rent dj equipment. I called him (remember, I’m still a 17 year old high school student) and we worked out a deal. 50/50 split. He would provide the turntables, speakers, amplifier and lights, as well as set them up and break them down. I would find the gigs and do the DJ’ing.
Good enough I thought.
So then I cold called a teacher from 7th grade at the nearby town I used to live in. She was in charge of setting up the dances at the junior and senior high schools in Ledyard Connecticut, my old school system. I told her I was DJ’ing and she gave me my first gig for $300 in cash. In today’s money, that’s over $700!
I split half with the older guy that owned the equipment and made a quick $150 for three hours work. In today’s money, my share would be about $360 or $120 per hour. That’s a lot of money for a 17 year old, especially after making $4.25 hour as a dishwasher. I was hooked. I’m not going to work for anyone ever again I promised myself.
I learned, quite accidentally, many things on becoming a successful entrepreneur during this experience. Namely, I learned:
- To just do it. I had zero experience in being a DJ. It wasn’t a cool thing to do at the time. I just thought I could do better at it then the one I saw and I knew I wanted another way to make money.
- To take a risk. There was no plan on my end or book to read when I was buying the records and before I found the old guy that had the equipment. I just took the risk, spent my dishwasher money as it came in and figured out things as I went along.
- To figure out a way to finance it yourself. Rather than buying two $800 technique 1200’s, speakers, lights, etc etc. I found a temporary partner to split the initial DJ jobs with. That means I funded my initial equipment, other than records, for zero.
- To make cold calls. It can never hurt to ask. I just called a teacher I hadn’t spoke with years, presented an idea, and got the job. I repeated this process at a few other local schools before setting off for college, then repeating it again in college and for a couple years after college. In fact, despite have no demo tape, no following, no nothing, I got a DJ job at every school dance or nightclub that I cold called out of the blue.
All of this is basic entrepreneurship 101. Many people will pay thousands to learn this. As with most things, real world experience will get there quicker, as it did here.
I had no mentor, no one to show me how to do it. The good news is, if you join our mailing list, I share with you all the wisdom I have gained from starting multiple successful businesses.
All of which started with a sucky job as a dishwasher at $4.25 an hour. Thanks Mom! It was definitely the right choice on her end to force me into work that summer.