There are two individuals that had a major positive influence in my life. They both taught me about what it takes to be an entrepreneur.
Here is a short story of how I came in contact with them and how they influenced and taught me about being an entrepreneur.
When I was 9-years old I was still living in Tijuana, Mexico. That was 51 years ago. I would, many times, take the local bus around town or to just go home. I loved walking around the city on my own. In many ways Tijuana was my personal entertainment park. Tijuana, was for me, one big amusement attraction. Something novel and exciting was always going on somewhere in the city.
One day I was on the bus going home and at one of the stops a tiny young little girl and her father got on the bus. The father apparently asked the driver something and he seemed to agree. Then all of the sudden the little girl started to sing while the father played the guitar. I still recall seeing her tiny face and her gestures. She was a delight to hear. Fellow passengers were all of the sudden quiet and listening. She was very good.
As soon as she finished a passenger asked if she could sing a second song. Again, she stood up proudly and entertained us. Upon finishing everyone gave her an applause and started to give them money as the father's hat was being passed around. I think I had a couple of pennies left in my pocket and I also put it in the hat.
I did not understand at that time the wonderful lesson I was learning about entrepreneurship but I did understand and admire how the little girl was so confident and able to perform in front of complete strangers. Later in my life I remembered her many times and came to realized that if she could be in front of an audience, why couldn't I?
The second person I leaned a great deal from was a man who was missing both arms. I never talked nor asked him but from what I could see it seemed he was born without arms. I tried very hard not to stare at his shoulders but I guess I did.
I would sometimes walk in his side of town and I would make it a point to specifically go by where he normally was in "his shop". He sat on the concrete street floor and weaved baskets with only his toes. He would weave tiny baskets and used tiny strands of palm. He would weave them tightly and intricately. There were many tiny designs on each one. For the many times I visited him I regret never having spoken to him. His face always seemed so focused on his craft. There were usually others standing there and I guess now, in retrospect, admiring what he was doing. I know I was. One of my regrets in my life is not having bought one of his baskets. Not so much to possess it but rather to have been part of the individuals supporting his business. Although I am not sure, I think he sold all the baskets he produced.
A tiny little performing girl and an armless man provided me with lifelong lessons about entrepreneurship and economics. What they offered the public, they offered it with pride and confidence. They knew their product and understood that not everyone would buy. Both were offering their services and were being compensated. I also learned that businesses begins with a basic idea and actions and not just years of education and planning until the perfect moment arrives.
It was the little girl that eventually gave me the confidence to sell newspapers in downtown Tijuana. Actually, I didn't need the money. Both my parents had wonderful jobs and I got a weekly allowance. They both worked and I needed something to do during the summer. Besides, I also knew that newspaper boys could go into locations that was strictly only for adults. I sold some newspapers but I spent most of my time going in and out of certain adult "business" establishments. I quickly learned that selling had its fringe benefits but that is another story.
Now as an adult, do I see the persons in the street selling ice cream, corn on the cob, balloons, oranges on freeway off-ramps, shaved ice (raspados), or my gardener as entrepreneurs? My response is unequivocally, YES!
They have taken their first baby steps and have entered the world of entrepreneurship. Will they someday be featured in Fortune Magazine? Never say never. However, individuals are learning to break away from seeing the economic world only as employees and laborers. Their children and families are beginning to understand the concept and benefits of having their own businesses.
Did the little girl I heard sing as a child ever grow up to become famous and had her own record label? I don't know, but she had the potential. Did the armless basket weaver produce many baskets to sell and retired comfortably? Again, I do not know. What I do know is that they did not limit their productive economic potential in lieu of their age or handicap.
These individuals, like many others, take what they have and seek honest business opportunities. If they can find opportunities, or opportunities does not find them, then they create them.