Crazy Enough to Call Myself President

When you start up a company, do you list yourself as President?

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Like most serial entrepreneurs I’ve had a few tries at self-employment. I always recoil at the title of “president” or “owner”, and yet leaving it blank was too vague for most people. This time the word “Founder” appeared in my thinking. I thought up the product concepts, after all. I liked it, so now it’s in ink: business cards, brochures, etc.

Everyone wrestles with the idea of being self-employed. Especially those who are self-employed!

I love being self employed. The ups and downs can be scary, but incredibly rewarding. I’ve given up several times for the lure of a steady paycheck to keep things smooth for the family. I would probably have a much more secure pension or retirement if I retired from a long-term factory job. My kids would have worn Nikes instead of K-mart shoes. BUT – we sure had a blast! Self- employment has its adventures for the family too!

How many kids got to grow up with a 20 foot long swing inside an office with 40 foot ceilings? How many kids had a computer to play on (each) when most friends’ families didn’t have one? (We used to spend hours playing the Sims after work!). I still have videos of the kids shooting after hours spy movies they made of adventures in the long, time-warped, wood floor corridors at the J. G. Cherry Building in Cedar Rapids. At 8, 9 and 10 years old they were playing with digital cameras and movies, back when those cameras cost nearly $1,000 each.

Working on my own allowed me to spend entire days and nights with my kids – the most important folks in my life! They grew up knowing lots of cool clients. They knew our pizza guy on a first-name basis, and saw him so often they knew when he got a haircut. My studio was vast, with a full kitchen with 2 ovens and a full bathroom and shower. We had couches and play areas, and a huge area the size of a ballet dance floor that was freshly refinished. Our cozy third floor space was warm in the winter, echoed with Puerto Rican music I played on the stereo. In fact, my middle daughter who is now 25 said tonight as we reminisced, “don’t worry mom, we’ll get to live there again sometime.” Compared to my memories, the studio looks small. New tenants took the clean open space and cluttered it up, and darkened the walls. It no longer has its airy charm.

I used to tell the kids the original builders and craftsmen of that solid building were so proud we refurbished our studio from the peeling paint and smelly place it started out to be. I imagined them checking the solid beams and joinery as I polyurethaned and sanded the maple hardwood floors.

So while the ups and downs can be terrifying, and the lifestyle unpredictable, the adventures (I learned) are actually enjoyed by everyone. It’s like a shared roller coaster ride. The kids joke about how we’d be extremely poor for weeks, then enormously rich. I remember taking all five kids to Walmart one summer night, handing them each a $500 and telling them to buy whatever they wanted. Wow we had fun that night! It was a dream as a parent to see the glee in their faces. We had all worked so hard at being poor, so the first major payout from work was a hard-earned one by the whole family. They worked hard too – each person had their share of chores and work. We all pitched in.

No matter the paycheck, you just can’t get that from a job.

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