The Young Entrepreneur
I became an entrepreneur at a very young age because I was determined to get out of my house as soon as I could and see the world. It also just came naturally to me.
I took my allowance and purchased candy by the case and then sold it for a profit to friends and neighbors. I also had an unusual skill where I could easily win stuffed animals at carnivals, amusement parks and arcades. I spent a few dollars, won my limit and then sold them with a huge profit margin.
I loved arts and crafts so I made cards, doll clothes and interesting things I put together from basically nothing and sold them. I wrote poetry and I painted or printed on paper that I often handmade myself. I then framed it and sold them.
I took care of neighbors animals, washed cars, pulled weeds, scooped dog poop and had lemonade stands regularly. Sometimes I would tell my Dad I was going to play at a friend’s house but I was visiting my “customers”.
Not All Heroes Wear Capes
A lot of these ideas I came up with were my own but some were encouraged by my Uncle. He also happened to be my hero. For various reasons my childhood home wasn’t the best so he would rescue me from it and we would have adventures.
My Uncle Joe was a vendor at college football games where he sold apparel. I was a little girl running around beaming in USC and UCLA apparel yelling “Let’s go USC aka University of Spoiled Children!” and I’d taunt UCLA fans by saying “U Clowns Lost Again!”. It turned heads, we had a blast and I loved talking to all the people coming to our booth. Thankfully, we never had any issues. The customers just thought I was hilarious and I had absolutely no idea what I was saying.
I was sometimes allowed a small part of the table where I could sell my own goods. Most of the people I talked to were so nice and supportive. I especially remember a woman who purchased a poem I wrote about the ocean. I collected shells for weeks, scrubbed them, painted some and glued them on the frame. She opened the frame and asked me to sign it. I didn’t even think I should sign them. I was a little embarrassed and hesitant. She said, “Sweetie, I want your signature because you are going to be known one day. You have a determination about you that I’ve never seen… even in my students. Just keep pushing forward when anything gets in your way.”
I remember feeling so awkward from her praise that I wanted to crawl in a hole and throw up. I made a joke about pushing my older brother because he was always in my way.
My uncle told me that night that she was some big shot professor at the college and he was proud of me.
He was also a popcorn and cotton candy vendor at the IMAX Theatre. When I helped him I learned about customer service, up-selling and impulse buying. After the overdose of cotton candy during that time I can’t eat the stuff now. I once picked up a pack of cloth napkins, painted on them with “puffy paint” and sold them to his customers. I proudly paid for dinner that night.
At the end of the day with my Uncle Joe he hugged me, told me I was very beautiful, strong and the smartest girl around which made me a dangerous combination. He also reminded me not to tell my Dad about the things we did. I knew that we didn’t tell him because I was a kid and I shouldn’t be doing those things even though it wasn’t exactly wrong. I knew they didn’t get along and my Uncle never wanted to put me in the middle. We kind of just had this understanding that the less information about the day the better. To this day he really doesn’t know the details about any of this. I guess it’s good he doesn’t read my blog!
Becoming Your Own Hero
It was important to my uncle to teach me how to be resourceful and teach me things I am so thankful for now. Every day seemed to be an adventure filled with knowledge with him. I just thought that was how he was. He exposed me to every different walk of life, controversy and world issues with a great determination that telling me things like, “All people start out good. Sometimes they just make bad decisions or are in hard times and they seem bad. If you can help without being in danger, always do it. One small act can change a person’s entire perspective in life but if it doesn’t then know you did what you could. Don’t ever judge them or yourself.”
Everything he knew about people, business and the world he took the opportunity to expand my mind with. I learned more from him in a weekend than I did in a month in school. He spoiled me rotten and could never tell me no. I wasn’t without consequence. Anytime I got in trouble or made a mistake he would simply explain why it was more important for me to own up to my mistakes and learn from them. “Never make excuses and don’t whine about something you did to yourself. Just don’t do it again!”
I thought we were going to take on the entire world together.
All of this happened by the time I was in middle school. Yes, I was very young with a lot on my plate.
Then everything changed. I couldn’t see my uncle anymore. He was sick and he wanted me to remember him when we were on the adventures or he was “rescuing” me on a bad day. I talked to him on the phone and cried that he wasn’t being my hero who rescued me when things were getting hard. I wanted my adventures and I didn’t get what was happening.
He kept reminding me that I was beautiful, strong and smart and he taught me everything to be my own hero.
He passed away and my hero was gone.
I spent years feeling angry, lost and bitter. I even resented the things he worked so hard to teach me because I just wanted him there.
Turning Sadness and Hard Times Into Empowerment
Then life moved forward and everything he instilled in me became the water that washed away the hard times. I knew and understood things most people my age didn’t. I grew up very fast and kept pushing everything out of my way to carve my own path though I had no idea what that path was.
I was kind of frolicking like a drunken monkey on a winding road with a blind fold on and one roller skate.
When I became a young mother of a daughter with life threatening medical issues, chronic pain and a multitude of health hurdles I found myself tapping into everything my uncle taught me. I became resourceful again. I became determined. I had to figure out how to be home with my daughter and carve a career for myself. I did work outside of the home for awhile but that became near impossible being a single Mom.
I’ve obsessively researched most work at home jobs over the last decade. I’ve been a daycare provider, tutor, created children’s clothing, designed/sewed/sold animal beds, ghost writer, community manager and tossed myself into small business consulting. In addition to constantly creating adventures with my children I have spent most of my time learning. I soak up everything I can and I teach it to them.
I was also alone during most of this. On top of that when you have a chronically ill child you see the worst side in people. Since becoming a Mom I’ve had more judgment thrown at me than when I was a rebellious teenager.
I accepted the judgment from others and brushed off their negativity and kept ninja kicking life’s obstacles. Okay, I didn’t just let it roll off my back. I sometimes took their vile negativity and told them to shove it somewhere uncomfortable.
Now, I am able to look at everything I’ve been through and feel thankful for it. I like where I am. It hasn’t been easy in the slightest but life never is. We can choose how we react to negativity or hard times. I choose to build a big fire with it to light the flames that charge me.
I get why my Uncle spent all those years teaching me everything he could. He knew he was dying and he wasn’t always going to be there for me. I appreciate him teaching me how to be my own hero and never allowing someone else define the rules of my life.
Though, I would give anything to hear him say and do the most ridiculous things to make me laugh and forget about the pains in my world.
One of the girls in my Girl Scout Troop told me, “Miss Leila, you teach me more than any teacher I’ve ever had and you make me feel like I can truly make a difference in the world. And I do because of you.”
Okay, sure… I am seemingly far from the best role model. I’m crude, confrontational, loud and obnoxiously abrasive at times. I can be a lot to deal with. I dress weird. I am hard to keep up with. I’m always doing really stupid things. I can become apathetic and angry easily. I think I exhaust my friends regularly and it takes me a very long time to admit when I am wrong.
That is because I am wrong so rarely, by the way. ha!
Um, I’m now finding myself extremely thankful for my patient friends.
I’m taking everything that I’ve learned and I’ve melted it down, molded it into my own thing and created something new to help others while progressing my career, passions and determination further. I’m launching a new project that will hopefully be different, empower youth and help others learn to “Live, Laugh and Ninja Kick.”
Let’s have an adventure.
About Leila DontSpeakWhinese
Leila, aka The Ninja, is the advocate for all things not whining. Parenting is fun when everyone stops b*tching! She is the Mom of a big blended family of five awesome kids. They ninja kick through life together. Oh and she is a total jackass.