Bracelets, shirts, flyers, cows & groceries

Ever since I was young I had an entrepreneurial side.

I liked to figure out how to make a few dollars doing something…anything…as long as it was legal. 🙂

Jonny the bracelet maker

In elementary school, it was friendship bracelets.

During that time, everyone else was making braided friendship bracelets out of plastic cord and I thought I could get involved in that type of business…if only I could figure out how to braid.

Mom tried to teach me to braid, but I just didn’t get it. It was going to take me a while to learn the skill, so I started making a different type of friendship bracelet out of electrical wire wound together, using 2 or 3 colours. This type of bracelet didn’t require much skill to make.

The demand was there. Kids were willing to shell out $1 on my amazing bracelets. If I could sell 5 per week and that was big money for a 7-year-old!

In my world, that was 500 penny candies. Well, almost 500. I hated taxes.

The only problem was that when you live out in the country and electrical wire from a store isn’t readily available, you have to find a way to get more wire.

How was I going to keep up with the raw material requirements?

This is when I started looking all over the house for any electrical appliances, toys and electronics that might have red, green, white, black or blue wires on the inside. If it plugged in, there was a good chance that I took it apart to see what was inside.

In my quest for more wire, I took everything apart. Some of it was broken, but some of it wasn’t and Mom was thrilled with my new business. Especially when I took something apart that wasn’t broken…and I wasn’t able to put it back together.

But soon enough the fad was coming to an end…and I was running out of things to take apart. It was good while it lasted.

Jonny the shirt maker

Later on in elementary school, I turned to printed sweatshirts.

I was able to purchase plain sweatshirts at Woolco, then purchase printed fabric at Fabricland and iron it on. I then added accent paint to make them have some contour. They were decent shirts actually.

My Mom was able to find a market for my shirts among the middle-aged women that she worked with. That was good money. I enjoyed ironing the designs on and doing the painting.

Anything with a teddy bear on the front was a big hit! I made about $10 profit per shirt which was a nice little income. It was even more profitable when I could convince my parents to purchase the shirts for me.

Christmas was a busy time and I made some money.  Cha-ching!

Jonny the paperboy

And then I became a teenager.

Most jobs offered to teenagers are manual labour or they require standing for most or all of the shift. These types of jobs just weren’t going to work for me.

A job at a fast food restaurant, or working on a farm wasn’t suited to my abilities so we had to get creative.

Before I was able to drive by myself, my Dad saw the perfect opportunity. The local Shopping News was looking for a delivery driver in my area. Just 355 papers every Saturday morning and we already have the perfect vehicle to do it. Our 1986 Suzuki Samurai that I wrote about back in a previous post.

It was a pretty huge paper route, spanning a grid of country roads that was about 10km by 15km.

Each Saturday morning, Dad would get me out of bed at some time between 4:30 and 5:00am. We would drive about 15 minutes to Wyoming to pick up the papers and then we were off.

The vehicle was packed to the brim with flyers.

Instead of taking them home to fold and prepare, we devised a way to do it in the vehicle as we drove. Dad would drive, I would fold and wrap. By the time we got to the area where the route started, I already had about 20 or 30 papers ready to go by my feet.

There was enough time in between each house out in the country where I could get another few papers ready to go. Depending on the weather and the locations, we would either put them in each mailbox or toss them out the window wrapped in a pink bag.

The whole route from start to finish took us to about 10 am, depending on the how many flyers we were required to fold into the bundle that week and if the weather was favourable.

It was a massive area, but I made good money. The vehicle was good on gas so it only took about $10-$15 in fuel and I made anywhere from $75-$110 each week for doing it.

Once I got my drivers license, Dad would take some Saturdays off so I just had to convince one of my friends to go with me.

It was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun. Honourable mention goes to the following and forgive me if I miss someone. Rick, Bryan, Matt, Morgan, James & Corey. Over the next year or two, they would go with me, folding and tossing papers out the window.

Of course, I had my eyes on expansion plans and when I found out that the other local flyer company also had pretty much the same route, I decided to get that route as well.

It was a good gig – I made over $150 each Saturday morning, which when you’re 16/17 years old is plenty of money to meet my needs.

Jonny the Farmer

We lived on a farm so that allowed me to have a few interesting opportunities.

Each year when I was in high school, the Government and the Royal Bank partnered to offer students what they called “Student Venture Loans.”

All you had to do was put together a simple business plan and show them how you could take $2000-$3000 and make it into more money by the end of the summer.

The no-brainer for me was to buy a couple of steers or heifers in the early spring, put them out in the pasture all summer, let them eat grass and then sell them in the fall when they were big and fat.

For the city-folk reading this who might not know the terms, let me clear things up.

In the country, we liked to be more specific. The general term for a cow is still “cow” – but to a farmer, a “cow” is a mother who was capable of having babies. Her whole job on a farm is to have babies (calves.)

A Steer is a male “cow”  that’s been either castrated or pinched. Yes, I helped to “pinch” young steers. We took away their manhood…that’s a whole other story.

A Heifer is a female cow who hasn’t had any calves yet and isn’t heading in that direction. She will never be bred with a bull (a male who has not been castrated,) but rather butchered before then.

For me, this was easy money, as long as they didn’t have any health issues. We already had the land for them to graze and I was familiar with what it took to look after them. Hay, grass, grain, water and a salt lick.

I was able to buy in the spring, let them eat all summer and walk away with a few thousand dollars in the fall. I paid the loan back and still had money left. The trouble with this is that my spending habits increased with my newfound wealth, so the money was gone anyway.

I did this 3 or 4 years and by the time I turned 18 and was old enough to get a real credit card, I already had a stellar credit rating. My first credit card quickly gave me a $5,500 limit…which was a BIG mistake…

Jonny the grocer

And then there was a grocery store…I bought a grocery store. What the heck was I thinking?

Just after I finished college, I purchase a small grocery store in Oil Springs. I was young (21), inexperienced and stupid, but it was a good experience that I can look back on with fond memories.

I’m going to be writing an entire series on the store, so stay tuned for more on that venture…

What’s next for Jonny? Stay tuned… 🙂

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