I was busily working on my book revisions when a call came in on Skype from my daughter.  Jennie called to ask me to settle a mother/daughter dispute. It seems that Jennie had told 4 1/2 year old Zoe that when she was a little girl she’d made books and went door to door selling them to our neighbors. Zoe loved the idea and promptly recognized a hot business opportunity right on her street. It was also a natural for this pint-sized artist. Jennie wasn’t comfortable with the idea, being new in the neighborhood and all. 

I listened to both sides (although Zoe was more whiney than persuasive) of the story, then suggested to Zoe that she sell to people she already knew. “I’d buy one,” I said. “How much is it?”

Zoe perked right up. “Zero dollars,” she said.

I suggested she rethink her pricing. We finally decided that $3.00 would be the right price. “I bet Margaret and Jim and Becky would each buy one, too,” I said, committing my siblings who didn’t even know about this fabulous product we were envisioning. 

Then I asked Zoe if she took checks or credit cards, or if this was a cash only business. Jennie chimed in and said they weren’t set up for credit card sales. I said  that was not a problem and I’d tuck $3.00 into Zoe’s Valentine.

Then Jennie asked, “Would you like to have it mailed or would you prefer to wait and pick it up when you visit us in a couple of weeks?” I said I’d be happy to wait. “Oh, Zoe,” she said, “she’s saving you shipping and handling.” Zoe broke into a big grin as if I’d done her a huge favor. She went off to begin production.

So here’s what Zoe learned that timid people ten times her age haven’t figured out yet. In order to start a business, all you need to do is:

1) find a product/service you love

2) then find your first customer

Now you’re in business. Period. Begun. Open. Then just do it again. And again.


Zoe’s too young for teleclassses, of course, (and she gets free consulting from Grandma Vegas whenever she wants) but you’re probably just the right age.  Want to learn  how to generate a steady stream of good ideas? Join Alice Barry and me for Better Than Brainstorming on Wednesday, February 18, 8-9:30 PM Eastern. 

The following week, I’m on my own for Outsmarting Resistance (which Zoe wouldn’t need yet) on Monday,  February 23, followed by I Hate Marketing on Wednesday, February 25. Both teleclasses are at 8-9:30 PM Eastern.

7 Responses to “Don’t Know How to Start a Business? Zoe Does”

  1. Lisa Tarrant

    This is a great story! Thank you so much for sharing Zoe’s wisdom AND impulsiveness to act on a great idea when she hears one, we could all benefit from that.

  2. Nicole Relyea

    Great post, Barbara. I always love reading your (and Zoe’s) insights, and am consistently inspired by them. Thanks!

  3. Pink Heels

    I stumbled upon your blog post via Twitter. This is a fantastic story that exemplifies the most basic business theories that are often overlooked!

  4. Sylvia

    So here I am learning from a 4 year old. Fabulous! I retired several months ago, have been blogging about it, and now am ready to take that next step. Yesterday I gave a keynote address at a teachers’ conference which I’m hoping will be my “first client” since I’d like to do more talking about the ways in which I believe education needs to change so that not only are we teaching kids how to make a living we’re also – and perhaps this is even more important – teaching them how to live a life.

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