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My first business, outside of a paper route or lemonade stand, was writing comedy for radio stations using email. The year was 1984 and nobody really knew what email was. Here’s how it started and the journey it took me on during my 20’s.
I was working in a record store. I’ll never forget the manager saying, “There will always be record stores.” What a dumbass.
Anyway, I was making a little more than minimum wage and had just driven cross-country from Columbus, Ohio to Los Angeles, California a few months earlier.
There were a few things that didn’t make sense to me. Those were driving long distances from where I lived to the job and the amount of pay that I was making as a manager trainee. Management explained I’d be getting a great opportunity to go into their management program at a salary – but that I would not get paid for overtime.
The salary combined with extra hours was less than just being a regular employee. The math of the offer didn’t make sense. I’d made that cross-country drive with around $345 dollars in a Nissan Pulsar with no air conditioning. So I knew a thing or two about taking risks and I simply knew this job wasn’t going to work for me but I didn’t know what would?
There were only two people in Los Angeles that I knew. I stayed at one friend’s house for about a month and then got my first room rental near Venice Beach.
My neighbor was an interesting person. A tortured soul type of writer with a good heart. He was working on a screenplay and some interesting folks would visit his house. The screenplay was Colors.
Anyway, he threw a party and there was a guy doing an MBA at UCLA. He told me about the internet and email. Then the idea for the business hit me – “I could write topical comedy and send it to radio stations through email.”
I couldn’t sleep much that night and I knew this was the answer.
The next day I went to work and on the lunch break walked down to the Radio Shack store and purchased a TRS-80 computer. I set up an email account with MCI, printed off some postcards, mailed them to radio stations and started getting a few clients. A few weeks in, more people were paying me $50 a week than the paycheck at the record store. I quit and quickly saved money because now instead of driving forty-five minutes both ways to work. My commute was about ten feet from my bedroom to the living room.
A few weeks in, more people were paying me $50 a week and the number of clients at that right was greater than the record store paycheck. I quit and quickly saved money because now instead of driving forty-five minutes both ways to work. My commute was about ten feet from my bedroom to the living room.
I was a punk kid right out of college but within a few months, I’d gotten clients in all major radio markets. One of those clients was WMMR FM in Philadelphia. I wrote remotely for that show for almost two years. Then they offered me a job to come work as a writer and ultimately produce the show. It was a magical time in radio but the industry was on its last legs.
Later I would go on to executive produce five comedy radio networks, one national live call-in show with comedians, and two live sports national talk shows. Then I would leave that place and start to negotiate media deals for major public corporations.
There were a lot of first in those days and they were exciting times. I didn’t think too much about the business or where it would take me. I simply went for it and my point is – you should too! Your first idea may not end up being the real path – but at least it gets you off of your ass and started!
One of my former girlfriend’s parents was the head of PR for a major electric company in Ohio. He pulled me aside one day and said, “Look there’s a lot more security in my job but if I had it to do all over again I’d do what you’re doing.”
It’s not easy to do your own business. There will be times when you wish you hadn’t but there will also be rewards beyond your wildest dreams. You’ll feel a little crazy.
However, you won’t ever feel – trapped.
So go for it and go for it Big!
Every week I give 10 consulting hours (no charge) to the first 10 business owners contacting me from the previous week. This service is available for any business owners or executives that have to run their division like it is their own business.
If you’d like a free session just use this form.
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