My paper route I had as a kid taught me a lot. I have been an entrepreneur most of my life. I started my first business when I was 13 years old. My little brother and I grew nursery stock in our back yard and wholesaled it to garden centers and landscapers. It was our first introduction to the world of business. We did all the sales, bookkeeping, purchasing, and planting. The only thing we “sub contracted” was deliveries: my mom drove us! That little business morphed into a full-fledged landscaping company which I ran through my high school and college years. I made more money in the summertime than some of my friends’ parents made all year!
Being an entrepreneur was always in my blood, my dad owned his own business, so my brother and I had a good role model. Even before our first business venture, when we were 8 and 10, my brother and I had another entrepreneurial venture: a paper route. We divided our route in half. Each of us was responsible for deliveries and collections for our share.
Every other Saturday, one of us would get a day off when the other took the whole route. We had to go downtown to the newspaper office each Saturday morning to hand in our collections. The office wanted a bank check, so we waited in line at our local bank and got a cashier’s check for the price of 25 cents. The office would reimburse our quarter, but the route dispatcher guy would always flip us for the quarter, “double or nothing.” Some days we each had a quarter for the candy store and some days we got nothing.
A Paper Route Teaches Business Skills
Having a paper route is the first step to being an entrepreneur for many people, at least those of a certain age. I am always surprised at how many business owners got their start with a paper route. At the young age of ten, I was learning skills that are important in any business. I had to handle complaints, collect money, budget my time, provide customer service, and do some actual physical work. In the case of our gambling route dispatcher, we learned about risk! I never had an allowance, I had a paper route.
Warren Buffett is a notable paper route veteran. He got his first route when he was 13 and even filed taxes and deducted his bike for a business expense! Having a paper route is a good first lesson in entrepreneurship; it teaches responsibility and gives a young person an opportunity to earn some money through good, old-fashioned WORK.
A Thing of the Past
Younger generations will never know the benefits of having a paper route. Newspapers are now mostly electronic, and the few paper routes that are left are largely handled by adults with cars. This vanishing occupation is a lost opportunity for kids to learn the value of work, time, and money. I know there are lessons I learned from my paper route that helped me as an entrepreneur over the years. I still remember “Mr. U” teaching me how to stack money into a roll instead of jamming crumpled bills into my pockets, and “Mrs. H” who always made a point of gauging her tip each week according to how well I placed her paper according to her specifications.
Anyone who ever had a paper route will surely understand the points I have made. I wonder how many entrepreneurs had a paper route? I think kids today are missing out on a valuable business education by not having the option of a paper route.
What do you think?