May 24, 2014
Today was my father’s birthday, he would have been 106 years old, wow. Happy Birthday, Dad!
My father was an entrepreneur; he always worked for himself, first as a barber, later as a beautician, then back to being a barber. It was an honorable profession; he paid the bills, put his children through college, and bought a house, etc. Our family was able to live a decent middle class lifestyle. I don’t think there ever was a day when he felt embarrassed by what he did. No regrets.
So as I have been exercising my entrepreneurial spirit, something happened this week that made me feel embarrassed by what I was doing. It is no secret that Linnice Collectibles has to hunt for their products at garage sales, flea markets, thrift shops, estate sales, etc. To earn a profit, the old adage buy low, sell high is true as it is for any business. Additionally, this business sells luxury items, not toilet paper. So it is not like people are flocking to our eBay store to purchase our products on the basis of need. Instead, they used their discretionary income (if they are lucky enough to have it), to purchase the treasures we find. So for us, the price at which we purchase a treasure is important if we are ever to make a profit.
Now back to the embarrassing moment…we were at one of our favorite church thrift stores and were inquiring when they were having their 50% off sale. We were speaking with one of the volunteers telling her how we liked so many of their items, but at the price they were listed we would be unable to earn enough of a profit to make it worthwhile at this time. It was then that another volunteer looked down her nose at us and said with disdain, “these items are making money for the church, you are dealers!” Really, I didn’t think of myself as a dealer? She replied, “if you are buying and selling, then you are dealers.” I turned to my partner in crime and said, ”hey Bernice, did you know we are dealers?”
I don’t know why the label dealers made me feel so embarrassed. Perhaps it was the intonation of the woman’s voice, or the term being used when referring to “drug dealers” or “wheeler-dealers”, but it bothered me. Bernice, always quick with a very polite comeback, said, “Yes, we know the money goes to the church. And that is one of the reasons why we like to come here, because our purchases go toward a good cause. But everyone has to earn a living; it is hard out there today and we have limited funds. So if we are looking to buy things at a good price so we can earn a profit, it becomes a win-win situation.” Thank you Bernice. The woman immediately changed her tone with us.
Bernice’s statement made me realize that even as a dealer, I can hold my head up high. We are not wheeler-dealers trying to chisel unsuspecting people out of their property, we are just trying to turn a profit, which by the way, hasn’t happened yet as we continue to grow our inventory.
That incident aside, we are actually more than just dealers. Our next outing brought us to the estate sale of a woman who has a 23-year-olf downs syndrome daughter and who just lost two of her parents. She is struggling to help her daughter find a place to work. Her parents died within two months of one another. How do we know this? We know this because we are friendly, compassionate and converse with people. We are parents ourselves, have children with special needs, and parents who have passed on. As we were leaving the estate sale, the woman said how nice it was to meet and talk with us. The world had become a better place as we shared our humanity.
So, today, as I remember my father and think about how his entrepreneurial spirit has reached out to me, I am never going to feel bad about what I have chosen to do in my retirement years. Somehow, I don’t think I will ever really like being referred to as a “dealer”, but Bernice has given me the words to use for those who look at dealers with disdain. However, in my heart, I know we are more than that. I hope our humanity continues to shine through as we continue in our new business venture.