Until you’ve owned a small business you don’t know how rewarding or how frustrating it can be. It’s no wonder more people don’t do it. My first experience with being a small business owner was when my husband and I bought a local franchise for a national chain of a birth announcement company. It involved putting an eight-foot animal often associated with the delivery of babies in new parents’ front lawns, with keepsake bundle in its beak with the baby’s name, birthday, weight, etc. We also offered personalized items we delivered to the hospital for distribution to family and friends. Candy bars, mini candy bars for older siblings to take to school, golf balls, fridge magnets, and a wide assortment of other special items that even included ammo for a military dad to share!
But running a small business is hard work. My husband worked 365 days a year, often from dawn until after dusk, and I manned a booth at baby fairs in four major cities in two states. We answered the phone twenty-four hours a day for six years. The one long weekend we took to visit friends in Atlanta we checked voicemail often, but the customers who heard they couldn’t get their delivery within twenty-four hours were openly hostile, even after my husband explained he hadn’t had a day off in five years and that he couldn’t find anyone willing to fill in for him, even for forty-eight hours. The work was just too hard. Mind you, this was work I’d done when my youngest was three months old, and I’d done it after driving through a horrible thunderstorm to a home three counties away I didn’t have an address for, but was to know by the farm implement in the yard. I did it with the baby in the station wagon, praying I wouldn’t get struck by lightning while wielding the heavy post-setter. And the woman never paid us. Is it any wonder fifth-generation welfare recipients take a guaranteed check from the working taxpayers instead of starting their own business? Especially when it costs more to get your taxes done if you’re self-employed, more to buy the tax software to do them yourself, and then you are charged a self-employment tax?! We had to go out of business after 9/11. Gas prices skyrocketed and people were afraid to let anyone know they had a new baby in the house. No one wanted to buy the business, so we shut down and spent the next year paying off a loan on a business that no longer brought in any money.
Obviously, I’m offended by the government bailing out large corporations and forcing more expenses on small businesses. Who has become familiar with the term “independent contractor” during the last eight years. I certainly have. My husband, like many others works full-time (much more than full-time, actually) for a company. But they do not consider him an employee – he has a “contract” with them. So he gets no benefits. No health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, sick days, vacation days, paid holidays. He’s a courier who uses his own vehicle, buys his own gas, pays his own commercial car insurance, and pays fees weekly to the company he contracts with for equipment rental (a scanner which works intermittently), a company that makes direct deposit available (really?!) and a uniform rental service. He has paid $1,500 in uniform rental fees and is still wearing his three-year-old uniforms. He looks like a homeless man when he goes to work. He also has to pay for his own annual drug screens. Why? Because he’s employed by a relatively small company that would go out of business if they had to pay for the things they should. But instead their employees work hard and still end up living at poverty-level.
The “American Dream” of working hard and earning a good living is gone. So has the “get an education and you’ll do well” version. I know too many people drowning in student loan debt, no matter what degree they’ve earned, or how high in their class they ranked. The young doctor seeing you in the hospital may well be wearing clothes from Goodwill under their lab coat. They are probably thankful for the free doctors’ dining room at the hospital, because it’s the best meal they’ll get all day.
I know too many elderly people who have to choose between medications and food. Hell, I’m forty-nine and some months I’ve had to make that decision. And it stinks, because the easiest ones to give up (blood pressure meds) because they don’t make you feel any different, are also the ones that can cause the most damage when you skip them.
I have lots of tidbits to share, but it boils down to this: The President of the United States of America is no longer the leader of the free world. We are no longer free. As a country, we’ve sacrificed our freedom for comfort. John F. Kennedy would have been ninety-eight years old today. When he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” I’m sure he never imagined reality TV or the Octo-mom. Seriously, who would have?! But his words are as valid today as the day he said them. If you want to make your country better, let it start with you. If you’re one of those “celebrities” that keep promising to renounce their citizenship if someone they don’t like gets nominated or elected: Delta’s ready when you are, honey!
Remember: Tweet @realDonaldTrump to tell him @AngieBallard should be his running mate!