An Entepreneurial Mind

As any responsible mother, with my heart-broken and doubting the fairness of placing my daughters in day-care, I began the never-ending process of finding the right place. I needed a day-care part-time, a nurturing place, safe, clean and welcoming where my daughters, raised in the nest of their own environment would feel at home while I went to work. After thorough probings the ideal place seem to be the Day-care and later Nursery housed and run by a United Church of Christ local church.  The women who worked there were not working for a lot of money, but they were giving to the little ones in their care love and dedication. One could feel the honesty and genuine concern these wonderful women, mothers and grand-mothers themselves, bestowed upon the children. I felt my children were more than safe there. I felt it was good for them to socialize, to play with other kids their age, to be exposed to the real world. They were only going to day-care from 9:00 Am to 3:00 PM when I worked. I was letting go of them slowly… I opted to join a local Financial Planning company which focused on pension plans  for the teachers in schools. I thought my children’s schedule fit that of teachers and it would be easy to visit schools, talk to teachers about supplemental retirement plans and at three o’clock rush back to the loves of my life, my daughters! It turned out to be a big order, juggling work and motherhood… I was primarily assigned schools in the North East Philadelphia. Contrary to what I was told, generally, the teachers were not willing to speak with me. It turned out the market fighting for teachers’ supplemental retirement investments was ferocious, and while the company I worked for was reputable and well-known in most schools, so were many other “vendors”. Yes, this was the name the schools used for us. Not investment or retirement planners, but vendors, implying the reality that we were the sales people and they, the teachers, were the buyers of the financial products we offered. There was nothing shameful in what I was doing, yet, I felt uncomfortable. I was assigned a sponsor, a well-versed financial planner, Ted, who over the years, beyond our work relationship, was to become a faithful friend. He and I would make calls, got permission to come into the schools and “set our prospectuses” and promotional materials  on tables, in the teachers’ lunch rooms.  During breaks, the teachers came and most times they would just look in our direction and walked away. The look on their face read to me: ” Oh, not again, these people pushing us to invest our money!” Those moments, standing behind the table filled with information on various investments, smiling when I felt like crying, introducing myself to occasional  clients when I felt like running, were some of the most humiliating moments of my life, but no humiliation could stop me from earning money to support my family! Then, after almost two years, I was told I needed to work more hours. To be successful in this competitive business I needed to make house-calls at night. I could not just rush out the door at 2:30 PM so that I may pick up my kids at 3:00 PM. I left the Financial Planning firm with a bitter taste, carrying forever in my being the humiliations of rejections and hurtful remarks:  “oh, not again, you people  are always in our lunch rooms! We can’t even eat in peace, you never stop pushing your stuff…” Perhaps, I was too sensitive, and as many times as I was told rejection was not personal, I did take it personally, and it hurt! I decided in my heart to never sell investments again, although in all fairness, these investments were after tax dollars and extremely beneficial to the recipients.  I just wasn’t fit to be a sales person. I failed! I failed but I didn’t give up! This was a theme in my life, going back to when I was in my early twenties, back in Romania, trying to learn how to sky in one of the famous sky resorts in the Carpathian mountains, Brasov. I had the right equipment and rented the right size skies and while Cristian skilfully seemed to get the hang of it, as did all our friends, I kept going down the slope, and in the same exact place Ifell down, got up and in a Sissyphic effort I’d repeat the effort over and over again, only, unlike Sisyphus, I was falling going down the mountain, not up. My behind was hurting and so was my whole body, and as the Sun was setting and I was again down in the cold snow, trying to get up again,  when a stranger approached me: “Lady,” he said, “I’ve watched you all day and I must say, I never saw someone fall so many times and not give up!” He left and I got up, went to the cabin and while sipping hot chocolate, I wondered: “What did he mean? Was what he said an insult or a compliment, praising my perseverance?” Then, my ego decided it was a compliment. For years I used the example to illustrate how perseverent I was, until one day, driving with no purpose in suburban Philadelphia, out of the blue, in a state of self-hypnosis, I had a revelation: It was not a compliment, I was falling in the same spot, making the wrong move, over and over again! Had someone taught me to twist in the right direction, or if I would have realized that similar moves brought same results, I could have learned to sky. I suddenly, years later, understood I was stupidly stubborn and expected different results when I was making the same mistake over and over again. I was so vain, I thought I could defy a law of physics! Truth be told, I wasn’t vain, I was just ignorant  and very stubborn and paid for it. At a smaller scale, by never learning to sky, at a larger scale, failing many times in my life… as I was repeating same mistakes again and again, and not realizing I was setting myself up for perpetual failure! Perhaps I was, but back then I didn’t know it and I kept on fighting to earn money while being a mother and wife. After I quit the financial planning world, my vivid imagination came up with the idea that there was not enough romance in our busy, business oriented world and I started a love letter service, entitled: “Affairs of the Heart.” My idea was that people were too busy to follow-up on their romantic encounters, and I was going to write their letters for them. I started to promote my budding business and one of the ways was to hold workshops at professional dances organized by  local singles companies. That evening, I got dressed up, make up and all, and drove to a nearby hotel in the lobby of which a “professional singles” company organized the dance. My free workshop had about six participants. Two men and four women.  Women were always more receptive, I thought. I presented my services and gave examples of how, for instance, a busy businessmen met a lovely woman and they had a wonderful time, but the man was forced to leave town the very next day after the romance had started. In fact, he was in such a rush to catch a plane, all he could do was scribble on a napkin to the woman who could have been the love of his life:”Got to go! had wonderful time, will be in touch!” Well, I argued,  “wasn’t the note impersonal?”  Which would be better, a rushed, impersonal  note like that, or calling me and asking that I mail red roses with a note saying to this woman saying,  “You had given me in a short time hope that you and I have a future together. These few wonderful moments are the beginning of many more to come and although I was forced to leave, I will contact you soon. Meanwhile, please know I am thinking of you and look forward to being again together soon.” Which “note” would be better, I asked my six- people audience, knowing without a shadow of a doubt they would all, in unison confirm the note I wrote was far superior, my service was needed in the rushed world we lived in… I was convinced they would all sign up for my service! Instead, my rhetorical question was faced with silence. Finally, after many encouragements, Meg, a sweet, unassuming nurse, dared voice her opinion: “Well, to be honest,  I liked the first note better…” I was appalled. “What? You mean, you’d rather have that note  on a napkin instead of red roses and a love letter?” “Yes, I would,” she confessed, “because the first one is real… at least he took the time to write something on a napkin… in real life men don’t!” Oh well, if this was the attitude and expectation of our singles crowd, so be it! I had to give up “Affairs of the Heart,” since, it seemed our singles got used to functioning without a heart, and expecting so little… However, I was not giving up, and my mind plotted a way to be home and yet earn the so much-needed money. I was a good cook and I loved having guests. Didn’t “experts” say to do what you liked and the money would follow? Yes, I was going to open a Bed and Breakfast in our large home. Our third floor was unused. Perfect for a bed-and-breakfast. I applied for a business license from the township and after being awarded one, a few months later, the township came back on their decision. Our home was not zoned commercial. However, for a few months I didn’t know we weren’t zoned commercial, and through a referral agency I had a few guests. I was making fresh breakfast for them, muffins, eggs and bacon, tea and coffee. My first customer was a young man who studied at a local rabbinical college. Things went well. He was happy. I was hopeful. Then his training ended and the referral agency sent me a family with three small children… this didn’t go as well, but we managed, and they left and promised to come back whenever they were going to be in the area to visit with relatives. Then, a young, handsome man come to check us out. The room wasn’t going to be for him, but for his elderly parents. He climbed the steps to our third floor two steps at a time. He was in good shape. He checked the large room, the clean bathroom, the study room, and concluded it was ideal for his parents. Because I wasn’t going to be home when his parents were supposed to arrive, I gave him a key to the house for his parents. When I came home from picking up our kids from the nursery school, in our living room, on the couch, sat two older, very pale people. The man was silent and his eyes looked horrified. He was breathing heavily. His wife, stood up the minute we entered and started to scream at me: “You, you! Did you want to kill my husband! He suffers from asthma and he had a heart attack! This room is on the third floor! He almost died climbing your stairs! I will sue you if he dies!” The children started to whimper, the dogs, locked in the basement, barked nonstop… she kept screaming. I looked at the old man in horror.  Indeed he was pale, he was barely breathing … Oh my God, I thought, we were going to lose our home! I blurted out her son had chosen the room. I had no idea the husband had heart problems and I surely didn’t want him to die! I offered them muffins. She refused. He couldn’t, as his breathing was getting heavier and heavier. I proposed we called an ambulance, but she called her son who showed up promptly. I helped him take their luggage to his car and handed back the $50.00 deposit. By the time they left the man was breathing normally and his color was back. He mumbled something, which I thought was “thank you,” but from her son’s car, the wife kept threatening to sue me if her husband died… He probably didn’t, because I never heard from them again, but the memory of the half-passed man sitting in our living-room and the wife’s threats determined me “Home Away from Home” was not the answer to our monetary problems… But, but, I didn’t give up! This was why I chose to live in a free country, after all, a country in which the sky was the limit, and my own imagination! As a responsible parent, as Eva and Natalie grew up, especially in their first years of life, I took so many videos and pictures, I believed I could become a professional videographer. More so, I managed to convince others of my artistic talents and started to get jobs video-taping  jobs of parties, weddings and various events. After a few months of success, I ventured to name my new business, “Unforgettable Moments”.  I had a flair for good business names, that was for sure! The girls were taking ballet lessons with a large studio near by.  Once a year, the owner of the studio rented a large theater and the studio had two endless recitals, in which one had to be either a parent, grandparent or extremely good friend to have the patience to stand through hours of mediocre dancing.  I was one of these people! I guess, somehow I did have some sales skills, because I convinced the owner to give me the job of taping the recital. It was a huge job! My first big one, and I was confident, if all went well, many jobs were to follow. Because the recital was a few hours long, I asked Kevin to help me. We were to use two video cameras. I was going to tape running around the theater hall filming, while Kevin was to use a fix video camera. We worked hard, the two of us, and when we got home we eagerly watched the results of our efforts. It started well, but soon, in the middle of the dances, at intervals of a few minutes, the images blurred and shook, and one could barely see the dancers!  The problem, it seemed, was the camera used by Kevin. It took us a while to understand that he plugged the camera in the general theater outlet. Every time the lighting on the stages was changed,  the voltage changed, resulting in the blur that  ruined our tape! What to do? What to do? The tapes were pre-sold… the owner, who herself danced a couple of solos was calling frantically: “Are you done editing the tape? How do I look? Do I look professional? I hope it looks good..” After a few calls, I almost screamed: “You look blurred! No, you don’t look good at all because we screwed up!” But I didn’t have the guts to tell her the truth, I reassured her she looked great, and so did her students. We ended up buying an expensive piece of equipment which allowed us “special effects.” Now we had the ability to change colors, shade the blurs and focus in and out the dancers to mask the disaster… We spent ten times the money we made on the “unforgettable moments,” and this marked the end of my entrepreneurial ventures, but not the end of my desire to do meaningful work… and  when I thought it was all over and I was never going to be able to  find meaningful work,  or  any work for that matter, a hobby turned into what was to be the most meaningful work of my life!

2 thoughts on “An Entepreneurial Mind

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