Thirty five years ago, I was presented with an opportunity by the conditions and the people around me.
In 1979, as a sixth-grade student, I was developing both a passion for music and some incredible kickball skills.
The passion for music was encouraged by a family that loved music and always had music playing.
Every day was a new challenge on the concrete kickball field. You needed to produce results every time the ball was rolled your way.
My edge, I believed at the time, would come in the form of exciting, potentially game-changing athletic footwear I had seen on a classmate’s feet.
Nike sneakers were introduced to South Jersey that year. A couple of teammates called them the greatest, must-have kickball accessory ever.
I ran home that day and asked my father to take me to the Shore Mall to buy a pair of Nikes. He pointed out that at $30, the new leather sneakers were three times what he had been paying for my sneakers. Despite my pleas, we compromised and bought $16 canvas Nikes.
In a couple of days, the wannabe kickball king put an unfixable tear down the side of those canvas sneakers.
I faced my dad and hoped he would say, “You were right, Joe. We should have bought the leather shoes.” Instead he said something like, “That is the last pair of $16 sneakers that I will be buying for you.” My dad was tough but fair.
Back in school, in my non-Nike sneakers, I ran into a friend wearing even better Nikes. I asked him how he persuaded his parents to buy him those.
“I didn’t,” he said. “I bought them myself.”
“How?” I asked. I can still hear his answer. “I got a paper route, delivering The Press. I earn enough to buy all the things my parents won’t buy me.”
So long before Nike was encouraging people to “Just Do It,” I “just did it” and became a paperboy for what was then The Atlantic City Press.
Six years as a paperboy allowed me a taste of financial freedom and ability to contribute to our family budget in ways I would not appreciate until I was much older.
The lessons learned from the work were as varied as the types of people who received the newspapers each day, including:
- People are counting on you. Get up early and deliver.
- If people have a specific request, such as delivery location, again, deliver.
- Be organized and keep good records.
- Make sure you collect from your customers. The money collected, after paying for the papers, was my paycheck.
- Smile, be courteous and polite, because weekly and holiday tips were a big part of the job.
For years, and even today, people in the community remind me that I was their paperboy, and they smile when they say it. Perhaps it was because I smiled, too, or because they, as I do, remember a time when a young person could have an opportunity presented to them, take a chance on that opportunity and have it result in life lessons that are still being drawn on and utilized as an adult today.
The Press of Atlantic City has once again provided an opportunity to me. With this new Business Beats weekly column, I will have the opportunity to bring it all back home where it started for me in business — writing about business concepts, ideas and stories.
I hope the column will resonate with you, the readers. Another goal is to help spark your entrepreneurial spirit to start something new or reignite the passion that put you in business in the first place.
I think the first thing I will do to celebrate this new opportunity is go out and buy myself a new pair of Nike sneakers!
Joe Molineaux is director of the Small Business Development Center at Richard Stockton College.