In my life I have had the following job titles (in no particular order): Business Planning Associate, Partner Sales Executive, Business Category Manager, Senior Change Manager, and several others that all result in the same question from friends and family.
To keep it simple I would always say, “I work in sales.” But could people leave it at that?
They just had to know what I was selling, to whom I was selling it, and how I sold it. This would invariably force me to clarify that I did not in fact sell anything, which would then lead us both down a rabbit hole about channels, merchandising, and other shit that no one outside of the industry understands. Truth be told…
My best friend even took to keeping a note in her phone with a simplified job description for whenever anyone would ask her what I do. It also did not help many of my jobs either required or allowed me to work from home. “How will they know you’re actually working?” my father often asked. He struggled to wrap his brain around the idea that I did not have to keep a time log. Since I rarely “went to work” and could never explain exactly what it is that I do, my loved ones came to their own conclusion about my career.
Well today they are finally right. I am officially funemployed. I guess I forgot to mention that I did not get the internal job I interviewed for last month. I received my final paycheck last week and severance should come by the end of the month. So now what?
Why so jovial? Because the possibilities are endless. My job was eliminated on September 12 and since then I have spent the last two months straight chillin’. I have watched General Hospital every day, neglected to wear pants for weeks, and generally frolicked in the autumn mist of doing whatever I pleased whenever I pleased…all while still a paid employee. As much as I enjoyed reveling in the glory of sloth, I’m over it. My mind and body need stimulation.
Since I am not in need of income for a while, I am not looking for a job. Instead I’m trying to create my own. My goal is to open a grocery store by summer 2018. True, the only industry experience I have is two years as a bagger (didn’t even make cashier) at Price Chopper Supermarkets when I was in high school and my startup capital is non existent. Is my aspiration lofty? Yes. But is it doable?
So how am I going to get this done? By asking for help and lots of it. It turns out that when you want to start your own business the best thing you can do is tell others your plans. I have found that the overwhelming majority of people want to see others succeed and offer their knowledge, resources, labor, and networks to help. The only thing you have to do is open your mouth and say something.
Here is where I’ve received assistance thus far:
- City of Chicago Small Business Center – I’ve gone here for free educational workshops, to work with a SCORE mentor, and learn about the licensing process.
- University entrepreneurship center – I went to my graduate alma mater’s entrepreneurship center to get advice on creating a great business plan. They provided templates and connections to other entrepreneurs in the grocery industry.
- Local business associations – Last week I went to an African American business association meeting. Not only did I get free breakfast, but I was able to talk about my idea with local business owners and find out information on city resources I can use to run a beta.
- Church – I go to a church with a savior complex (pun intended). I’ve mentioned my plan to open a store to several people and they are not only supportive, but they are offering to connect me to funding sources.
- Other entrepreneurs – Last week I had a coffee with the founder of a grocery delivery startup. She was a wealth of knowledge and pointed me in the right direction for figuring out my supply chain. Who says competitors can’t also be collaborators?
- Industry professionals – I accosted the manager at my neighborhood Mariano’s and asked to take him to coffee to pick his brain about running a store. Not only did he not remove me from the premises, he gave me his email and agreed to meet with me.
All of these people have been forthcoming and given me a ton of homework to get done. There is customer research to do, city officials to contact, suppliers to secure, and funding to find. I will admit that it’s all quite overwhelming. However, the challenge is exciting.
While I work on launching the grocery store, I am inclined to bring in some income. The less I have to use my savings the better. I’ll be side hustling like a Hedley.
- AirBnB – Starting in January I will list my spare room on AirBnB. If I can have occupancy for 15 days a month that will cover half of my monthly housing cost.
- Freelancing – I love to write and am sure I can turn that passion into income. I have already pitched a couple of online magazines and am working on some pieces.
- Consulting – I have over a decade of sales experience across different industries. I’m sure someone will pay me for all the useless knowledge I’ve acquired over the years.
- Blogging – I have an old blog in a niche category. I’m considering reviving and monetizing it. I am also Growing Open Mouths Get Fed so it too can generate income.
- Part-time job – Although I am not a fan of having to be anywhere for a set number of hours a day, it would behoove me to get some recent experience working in a grocery store. With that in mind, I have already applied to two retailers. One store manager asked, “Don’t you think you’re a little overqualified?” when I handed him my resume, but I’m sure someone will see the value in having an MBA stocking shelves.
As you can see, being jobless does not mean that I won’t be working. Hopefully, I can even convince my best friends, parents, and siblings that I do something worthwhile. Hit the comments with your own stories of doing your own thing. And of course any and all advice is welcome.
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