The ‘Egg Ranch’ was a magical place near my childhood home in San Jose, California. This small convenience store was a five-minute ride away on my Santa Cruz Skateboard and offered a variety of candy choices that would make Willy Wonka himself feel at home.
On a random 1987 summer day, I wanted to purchase some watermelon flavored Jolly Ranchers. However, at the ripe age of seven years, I had a cash flow issue preventing me from purchasing the heavenly candy creations. Unlike my friends, I did not receive an allowance. I could earn money, but I would not be given money. At the time, the lack of an allowance seemed to place me at a distinct disadvantage, but I would later realize it was actually the beginning of my entrepreneurial spirit.
Out of a ‘need’ for candy, an idea for my first business was quickly formed using available resources. It was not unlike a freak show at a circus – I would charge my friends to watch my brother eat dog food.
My brother Jonathan, who was two at the time, would be fairly compensated for his role in the business. I would purchase him two Blow-Pops and Jolly Rancher. Casey, our Cocker Spaniel, would donate a bowl of Purina Kibbles n’ Bits.
With minimal marketing, word quickly spread about a dog food eating show at my house. The 30 or so kids that lived nearby were interested, but I was running into difficulty converting a high level of interest into actual ticket sales.
At the age of seven, I had never heard of the psychological Sales Principle of Scarcity or fully understand how it worked, but I quickly made a decision to limit the show to ten tickets. From playing neighborhood games, I knew everyone hated to miss out on fun things and was motivated to falsely created a supply and demand curve. This guaranteed my venture’s success. After limiting the tickets, my friends ran home to get money to watch the show – I quickly sold out the ten seats.
The lucky few that had managed to procure a ticket before the event sold out filed into my parents’ garage and we shut the garage door excluding the rest of the neighborhood kids. My brother got on all fours and began to eat dog food like a dog. The crowd comprised of kids around my age roared with laughter and generally felt like this was a great value for the $0.25 admission price.
Then, an amazing thing happened. Jonathan started to look sick. Really sick. Projectile vomit sick. For a moment, I felt awful, but then I realized I had a secondary monetization opportunity. I told everyone that the show was over, but that for an additional quarter they could stay and watch my brother throw up. 100% of the audience felt this was a good value and my gross revenue on the venture doubled.
My brother kept eating and then spewed vomit all over the place. The audience cheered and felt like the show had generally exceeded their expectations. I was fearful that my brother would rat me out, so I agreed to double his pay if he agreed not to tell my parents.
Life was good. We had some good laughs as we skate boarded over to the Egg Ranch and stocked up on candy. Since my brother got twice the candy he was expecting, he was happy. The business was a success.
I was super-stoked. This was a business that could be monetized different ways. The problem? My best friend’s Mom ratted me out. Evidently, when Jimmy excitedly told his parents about the incredible show, there was some concern about my brother’s well-being.
An unknown factor came into play and the new business was gone. This early venture taught me much about business, psychology, risk, and what it means to have the entrepreneurial spirit.
The entrepreneurial spirit is a mindset. It is not being able to quote textbook definitions of economic concepts. Instead, it is a problem-solving attitude and approach that innovates, adapts, and solves problems. Outside factors are constantly being applied and new opportunities will be presented.
Be different. Be ready. Seize the moment.