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Entrepreneurship . . . A Solution

African American news from Pasadena - Editorial - EntrepreneurshipThe stories of how businesses start should be a class for young people to take in order to understand that they are capable of starting a business and surviving, even in hard times. A local newspaper carried a recent story of how Howards Appliance and Television stores first started as a radio repair shop in the rear of a sporting goods store, called Jeff's, some fifty plus years ago. Howard started out repairing radios as a hobby. Today, Howards owns ten giant stores and the land they sit on.

I love the story of how my mother started her first store. She took the hand me downs and throw-a-way clothing given to her when she worked as what we call today "The Help". She figured that if the goods were good enough to hand down, they were good enough to sell. She rented an empty little storefront, and thus, Hopkins Used Clothing and furniture store was born.

Years later she would rent another storefront which was built as a Barber shop. She told me to quit my job as a barber in another shop one block away and move into that new shop that I called New City Barber Shop, circa 1962. I was twenty, but it was not my first business. That would have been my shoe shine stand in another barber shop in downtown Bakersfield, CA.

I guess you could say that the little two chair shine stand turned into a two chair Barber shop which turned into a burning desire to keep on learning and ultimately to a Law degree and later, this newspaper. Owning the land that this paper and Law Office sit on has its benefits. This realization grew out of a business started by my father, that failed. It failed because "the man" he previously worked for at a car dealership, before quitting to start his own business, paid my Dad's landlord to raise the rent beyond his ability to pay to force him to close his business and go back to work for "the man".

Herb Hudson owns six Roscoe's Chicken and Waffle restaurants in Southern California. He took an old Black tradition of serving Jazz musicians late at night after their performances would end. The food was a combination of dinner and breakfast. He found a hole in the wall in Hollywood, CA and started cooking chicken and waffles.

Likewise, a guy named Wally, who called himself "Famous Amos", built an empire out of baking chocolate chip cookies. He somehow let the business get away when his investors owned more of it that he did. Today, he doesn't even own the right to use his own name. He lost the business, similar to how my father lost his business. Daddy then started an underground business of selling cars on the side.

My oldest son took classes in photography and silk screening and opened a business called Hopkins Graphics and T Shirts. He later developed a hobby and taught himself to play the guitar and now has built a career in music as a blues entertainer. He travels and sells his CD's across the world and uses the Internet to market his business.

There are a few lessons in these stories like, where you begin doesn't have to be where you end up. Keep studying until you find your own brand of success and satisfaction. Build in safety nets like buying the land if you can. Don't forget you need a good support system. I got mine from my parents and then I married the right girl and stuck around for fifty years.

These stories are important because the times we live in will require people to be creative to survive, economically, and for young people to avoid the temptation of fast money, selling drugs and stealing. Hobbies can become businesses, like Howards. People who think the lowest form of jobs, like being a maid, can lead to a successful cleaning service business with lots of employees and many clients. Taking hand me downs can build a successful retail career. And a shoe shine stand and a thirst for knowledge can even lead to a Law degree and beyond.

Just a note: There are many people who started their musical careers in church. Just as many other careers started there with less fanfare. My Mother got clients from fellow church members to buy furniture and clothing. My Father polished, detailed and sold cars to fellow church members. I, too, have built up a client base from church members.

If you find a church you and your child can have a great source of support. It is a great alternative to gang life and the streets. Your child can learn to read and recite in Sunday School as well as develop a great moral code. Let's not forget that Jesus was the greatest entrepreneur. He took twelve volunteers (employees) and conquered the world. Eat your heart out Bill Gates.