My Childhood Business


Recently I have been binge watching Family Ties. I remembered loving the show, and when I saw it on Netflix, I had to watch it. I thought maybe my enjoyment rewatching the show would come from nostalgia. It didn’t, the show really is well done, and well written. When I was a little kid, one of my aunts used to call me Alex P. Keaton. If anyone is unfamiliar with the show, I will give you a short version, Alex P. Keaton, 17 at the beginning of the show, was always thinking of ways to make money, his political agenda was never part of why I got the nickname.

When I was a kid, I always was thinking of a way to make a buck. My family had a convenience store/gas station, and I have been working there all my life. I remember trying to make a deal at the age of 4, or 5 to stock the pop cooler. I was sure I deserved $0.10 for each bottle of pop I put into the fridge, while I didn’t get that much, I did get more than they wanted to pay me in the first place. I used to take the Slap Bracelets to school, at the store they were $1 each, so at school I would charge $2 each. They sold out once a week. I would give the store their $1, and I would have $1 profit from each.
My best memory from childhood, or at least one of the best was my business. It was an actual little business. When I was 5 years old, I shovelled snow from steps all winter to earn money. While I may have been paid a little more than I was worth, I still worked for the money. We were taking a trip to the USA in the spring, and Nintendo was on my shopping list. I bought a Nintendo, which came with Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt, and one other game (I don’t remember which one). Oh, I was proud.
When we got back to Canada, someone suggested I should rent the system out, and make some extra money from it. Made perfect sense to me, “Rent it, make money, buy more games.” So, I did it. I put the system for rent, and I knew I would have to give up my time with the machine/game anytime someone came to rent it. I can honestly say, I never once was upset when I had to run next door from my house to rent out the game/system. I could have the NES packed away, and to the store, ready to rent in less than 5 minutes.
Business was great. This was a time when the average game in Canada was $100 with tax, some games cost more than $100+ tax, so renting made more sense than buying. I can’t remember my prices, it was something like $3 for 1 night, $5 for 3 nights. The neighbourhood kids rented the games en masse. The more the NES/games rented, the more money I made. I understood the games wouldn’t be popular forever, and I always had to have new inventory. When the games slowed down, I would sell them for $20-$40 (and if they never sold, eventually down to $5).
I would get the video game magazines, and study the games coming out in the near/far future. I could pick with great accuracy which games would be winners, and which would be losers. Almost every game I bought was based on money making ability, and not whether or not I wanted it. Sometimes these things would cross paths, sometimes not. I would go to the video game store with my mother, or father, and pick out anywhere from 1-10+ new games many weeks. I have to admit, it felt good at the age of 7 going and buying $1000 worth of video games, and knowing it was my money paying for them. I finally settled on a video game store for most of my purchases, because they would talk to me, and not mom/dad when we went in to the store.
I would call the store every morning when gram was doing the money from the night before. I would ask how much money I made from rentals from the previous day. One day my mother opened the store, and I called to ask for my take from the day before. She said a number to me, and I said, “No, I made more than that. You need to do the money again, you are wrong.” She told me something along the lines of some days aren’t as good as others for profit. Then a while later she called back, “Shawn, you made [a number which is higher than the other one], you were right.” I was maybe 8-10 when this happened.
I ran this little business from the age of 5 until the age of 13. I decided I was going to get out of the video game business because I didn’t know which of the half a dozen video game systems would win the war to be the best renter. I knew all 6 wouldn’t have a chance of surviving, and I didn’t want to sink money into a loser, or all of them either. Also, I didn’t like the idea of renting out the CD type games, because I didn’t trust people to be gentle with them, and return them in good working condition.
During the whole run of things I had an inventory (not all at the same time, but running count):
250 NES games
3 Game Boy Systems
85 Game Boy Games
2 Sega Genesis
90 Genesis Games
2 (or 3) Super Nintendos
199 SNES games
All in all, it was worth between $50,000 to $60,000. The only money of my own I put into it was the first system, and the games, the rest all paid for itself, and then some. I had exactly 1 game stolen during my time renting out video game systems. It was Monopoly for Super Nintendo. My mother can still tell you who stole it, and how uncomfortable she is whenever she bumps into his mother (once every 7 or 10 years).
I could tell stories about this particular time in my life for hours, and there are moments I am jealous of the money I had coming in as a child. There are times I wonder if I still have the head for business I did when I was 6, 7, or 8 years old. Not because I am dumb now, but because I was good back then, really good. I suppose more than anything else, I need to buckle down, and get my head on straight. I have a thousand and one ideas for businesses, and investments, and the sort, but… I have lost my followthrough. Not even for things which would take over 100% of my life, but side projects. I suppose it is time to get Stella’s groove back.

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