My First Career
Before I was a Biglaw associate, my first career was actually that of entrepreneur. Well, let me take a few steps back. A few giant steps back. As a little kid, I loved baking cookies with my mom so much that when I was about seven years old, I turned my little hobby into a real business, complete with business cards printed at a mall kiosk.
Every weekend my brother had a couple of soccer games that I would tag along to. With no snack bars in sight and no such things as Seamless, Uber or other delivery services, if you didn’t arrive at the game with snacks, you weren’t going to get any. I saw an opportunity and jumped at the chance to sell cookies and other desserts to the kids on my brother’s team after their games, and to their parents and siblings who were there watching from the sidelines.
I prepared at least two types of sweets for all of these games – chocolate chip cookies, Rice Krispy treats, brownies, and small sugar cookies with cream cheese were my specialties.
With my mom’s help, we shopped for ingredients, baked the desserts (I could do most things by myself except I distinctly remember not being allowed to take the cookies out from the oven – I was 7, after all) and packed them up for sale.
I made cardboard signs advertising my desserts and the daily prices. I would lug the baked goods, along with my sign, a folding table to display everything on and a box for keeping cash to the various soccer fields my brother’s team was playing at that weekend.
A Successful Business
And let me tell you, my cookies were a hit! So much so that around Christmas time I would sell tins of the cookies to the soccer moms, most of whom took them to cookie exchanges or gave them out at home, passing them off as their own perhaps.
One time, I received a phone call from a woman looking to purchase my cookies. My mom was confused when a woman asked to speak with me (what random adult calls and asks to speak with a second-grader?) until the two realized that my business card had made it to a friend of a friend of one of the soccer moms.
She assumed the owner (actually, I am listed as “President” on the business card) of the business was an adult and wanted to place an order for a box of my Christmas cookies. Building a business by word of mouth really does work!
Lessons Learned: Top 3 Skills I Learned That You Can Apply In Your Career Today
Aside from the obvious skills I learned from my cookie business, such as: improving my math skills by setting prices, selling the cookies and making change for customers, shopping for ingredients, and learning to read and follow recipes, I gained some skills that are useful in life to this day as I embark on a new career.
Below are my top 3 take-aways I learned as a young entrepreneur. Reflecting back on this time in my life made me realize that sometimes you develop skills as a kid that you lose if you don’t practice them. Or you lose them because the career path you take is very structured and doesn’t provide for the space to be creative and take risks.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, I hope my breakdown of these three skills and pieces of advice inspires you to be a little bolder, no matter what career you are currently in or are looking to branch out into.
1. Do something you aren’t “ready” to do yet.
I used to be so much bolder than I am now. I wasn’t embarrassed about my imperfect cookies or imperfect signs advertising what was for sale. I just went for it and sold those cookies every weekend, and people loved them!
The thought never entered my seven-year-old mind that my business wasn’t “ready” before I launched it. I knew how to make cookies and I had a place to sell them, so of course I was ready! I scribbled my name on a sign, came up with prices on the fly, and set up my stand using random things I had around the house.
Over time, I made a nicer sign and eventually got business cards, but I didn’t have them when I started selling the cookies and nobody cared because the cookies themselves tasted delicious. If I had waited to perfect the marketing aspects of the business, I never would have launched it and my product wouldn’t have made it to market.
Take-Away: When I look back on this, I realize that most of us could use a little of that seven-year-old confidence. If we wait to put our thoughts (maybe a blog post) or products (maybe cookies!) out into the world until they are “perfect” (whatever that means, anyway), we miss tons of opportunities. Opportunities for a business to begin, to expand, to reach a larger audience or to spread by word of mouth.
Get your ideas out there, as soon as possible, figure out the details on the fly, make it better as you go along and trust that it is going to work out.
2. See a need in the market and fill it.
At the time, there were no snack stands at the local soccer fields. And after running around for a few hours, 10 and 12 year old boys are super hungry. Not to mention that during the games, their parents and siblings are often times bored and hungry, too. It was as simple as that – I saw a need in the market, I filled it, and it worked.
Take-Away: A market doesn’t need to be huge for it to be your market. If you are starting a new business or side-hustle, it is often overwhelming to think about who you are going to serve. But you can start small, like I did, and fill a small and immediate market.
I’m using this as a lesson for my blog and future expansion into a career coaching business. For now, my target market is relatively small – Biglaw associates who are looking to switch up their lives and careers. I saw this need based on my own personal experience – the fact that almost everyone I worked with had similar feelings to mine, but no outlet to express them or to talk openly about leaving the job. So I’m working on building a place that people can come to when deciding whether to stay or leave their jobs or careers.
3. Be bold.
Back in my cookie business days, it wasn’t weird at all to me to pass out my business card to everyone I knew. I told everyone about my business, and my strategy obviously worked (my cookies sold out every weekend, I made boxes upon boxes of cookies at Christmas-time and people still ask my dad, to this day, when they run into him around town, if I’m still making and selling cookies).
TAKE-AWAY: I am using this as a lesson for putting myself out there and you can, too. If you never tell anyone about what you are doing, nobody is going to find out. That’s not a good marketing strategy for a new business. It’s not a good strategy if you’re trying to jump into a new job or new career, either. If you never tell anyone you are looking for a change, nobody is going to think of you when a new opportunity that would be perfect for you comes along.
I promise you, if you have an idea, can channel the confidence of a seven-year-old with a thriving cookie business, and put yourself out there, you’re going to succeed!
Buy the Lemonade, Bake the Cookies
Lastly, I’m going to leave you with two thoughts. The first is why I think we should all always buy from a kid’s lemonade or cookie stand. Buy something – even when it looks gross or you wonder whether they put their little hands in the lemonade or licked the spoon before putting it back into the bowl (I’ll let you in on something – as a former owner of a cookie business, they are definitely doing these things, every single time).
You don’t even have to drink it or eat it, just buy it. Because the feeling I got from having a successful business that people actually liked was the coolest thing in the world. It made me feel like I could do and succeed at anything.
I lost some of that feeling along the way, but I still learned these valuable lessons and I am digging them out now to use as motivation for my new ventures. So, thank you to Mr. Carr, Mrs. Levine and all the others for buying my cookies all those years ago.
Second, no matter what job you are in, remember to bake the cookies (or whatever version of “baking cookies” is for you).