Depression Glass (part five)
“You’re twenty-one,” her aunt said on the phone.
“Yeah, I am.”
Merrilee and Monica, roommates then, had gone to a steakhouse known for its goofy cocktails, with the promise they’d try three, each different from the last.
“Happy birthday. How you feel?”
“Great. I’m glad kids your age have that enthusiasm for the future.”
“C’mon, you.” A breath, that told Aunt Jeane was launching, and she did. “Your Mom and I took the classes already. I’m telling you about it now.”
To qualify for this grant needed more than disadvantage. You had to finish their course, six weeks of finance, business law, business modeling. You had to write your proposal. If the panel wanted you to have the money, you were told to borrow it. The grant, the free part, was calculated with tables, per whatever you’d convinced the bank to loan you.
“How come limos?” Merrilee asked her mother. “Is that, like, a thing you always wanted to do?”
Her mother slid a textbook from the kitchen table stack, and cracked it.
A successful business can be one that fills a void in your community. Pay attention to current events, and note what types of goods and services, which may be trending in larger cities, are lacking locally. A successful business may also fill a niche. Recall our example of Mary’s Bakery. A business similar to your idea may exist, and may even dominate the local market, but it may not offer a feature desirable to the community—such as home delivery, or specialized catering
Niches, the book’s authors felt, were better than voids.
“Cause why?” To a pair of shrugs, Aunt Jeane said, “Think about it.”
“The answer’s in the book.” Keeks sat straight, pointing the passage to Merrilee, who read…and paraphrased:
“People local are already customers for whatever kind of thing. I still don’t get why you and Mom want to drive. I thought you hated that work.”
“Yeah, you hate handing food out the window, but you still go home and fix for yourself.”
Plan for a slow start, even to the extent of limiting your offerings to your own circle, and people connected to those you know. Every business must make purchases from other businesses, but the “low person on the totem pole”, whose orders of materials are smaller, and whose priority for services is lower, quickly falls into a bind when her business is too successful. Bad ratings on social media may follow, from disappointed customers
“How are you gonna get anyone you know to order a limo?”
“We’ve got an angle,” Merrilee’s mother said.
And Aunt Jeane said: “We don’t need those people.”
Their first proposal, under the banker’s eye, had been kiboshed. “You’re doing well, but you need actual data on your fleet. Find out where you can buy the cars, who’s going to paint them, detail the interiors, all that. How much you need to borrow in real dollars.”
This was in a high school gym, on three folding chairs in front of a folding table, where the charity’s students were getting free consultations, and a basketball team was practicing at the other end.
The actual and the real began to chip away at the dream state. They left, and Merrilee’s mother said, “It’s okay. Almost nobody wins at this stuff.”
“Where we going?” Merrilee asked, thinking food.
“We need to put in some research. Look at that face…it’s only four o’clock. You can spend two hours making phone calls.”
“One hour and I’ll do a sandwich run.”
The textbook said: Ask a target business if you may shadow a key employee for a day.
Sprawled on the bed, door open to Aunt Jeane’s voice from the sofa, her mother’s from the kitchen, Merrilee wanted to sound brisk, a Pink Luxe believer. She felt embarrassed and out of place. She tapped the number for A*Star Limousine.
A tree answered. Merrilee opted to speak to an operator. While music and static played, she did as the tree suggested, and looked at A*Star’s website.
A woman came on. “Hello. Do you have a customer number?”
“I’m new. I’m, um…”
Merrilee listened to her voice echo on speaker, while she explained…lamely, she thought, sounding like a kid.
“Do you have a commerical driver’s license?” the woman asked.
“Oh. I’m not sure I really mean…” Me. That I would be the one. Do better, Merrilee counselled herself. Get a grip. “We’re trying to find out where a limo company buys its fleet, how much money, and so forth.”
A man’s voice came on. “Hi, there! Phil Webb. I’m the owner.”
(2022, Stephanie Foster)