Stuck in The Beast
So there we were two 16-year-olds, sitting there frozen in a 1971 forest green Pontiac Grand Safari Lemans 455Ci station wagon, complete with wood grain vinyl side paneling and dual-hinged tailgate. It was as old as we were. We called it The Beast. But it was no longer The Beast, just a hunk of metal on wheels. The Beast was dead, in the middle of a busy intersection, caught in the middle of a left turn. We were on display to be ridiculed from literally every direction.
I could have sworn everyone in their cars were honking, yelling, and glaring at us because we were in the way. Are we going to die? Do we get out or stay in the car? We had no phones, only pagers. It was the 80’s. Blood drained from our faces as we stared at each other for what felt like an eternity.
Just days ago, my friend Juno and I had started our first business together, Paramount Lawn Care. We were going to be the two kids that changed the landscape of lawn care (pun intended). We were going to be the pinnacle, the apex, the zenith of lawn care. We settled on paramount because we stupidly we could leverage the Paramount Pictures brand. We were silly teens with brains that were still being developed.
I whipped up some flyers with my superb MS Word skills to hand out door to door (this is pre-internet folks). We had everything we needed, my dad’s lawnmower, weed whacker, a slew of chemicals as weed killers (pre eco-friendly). But the key was Juno had access to The Beast, which would get us from job to job. This was going to easy money.
Armed with 500 photocopied flyers, we loaded up The Beast with the lawn equipment. This little summer business was going to turn into an empire, and we’d have to drop out of school to tend to our multi-national conglomerate of lawn care businesses. We were ready to take over the world.
Screech! Not more than 2 km from where we loaded up the station wagon, The Beast died… in the middle of a left turn, in a busy intersection. At first, I thought Juno was trying to pull a prank.
I looked at him and smiled, “Ok, guy, it’s not funny. Turn the car back on. The light’s gonna turn green.”
He was scrambling, trying to find a way to get the car started again. He said, “I swear, I’m not kidding, the car won’t start.”
We both froze as we looked at each other as the reality of our situation settled in. We started to freak out as two polite Asian kids who didn’t want to cause a fuss. We can’t sit here forever.
“Ok, I guess we’re doing this,” I said as we jumped out of The Beast and started pushing The Beast through the intersection. It’s pretty amazing how much heavier a car can feel against a slight incline. We just needed to get it over the hump, and we’d make it to where the road points slightly downhill. We were pushing with everything we had. With our faces red and our legs shaking, we barely notice that a few people pulled their cars over behind us and started pushing with us.
Needless to say, we did get The Beast over the hump to safety, and everyone cheered as a wave of relief and sheer joy washed over us.
That day I learned a few things:
- It’s always easier to do something challenging with a friend by your side. I don’t know what I would have done if I were in that car by myself.
- We sometimes project our shame and fear and assume people are against us, when in fact, there are people who are cheering for us and want to help. So take a second, get over yourself, and ask for help.
- Sometimes the little stories that come out of our business ventures are longer lasting and more valuable than the business goals we may have set.
What have you learned early on in your entrepreneurial journey?