Here's hoping you all enjoy it, too.
Most kids find some way to earn spending money. You know - mowing lawns, babysitting, washing the car. It was very special that I could work for my father in the family business from the age of eight years old. It was a wonderful little job for 4 hours a week, and I got to spend time alone with my dad, which I treasured.
But I was an ambitious and clever little girl, and I like to think I was innovative, too. There were markets out there just waiting for a gutsy 11 year old entrepreneur named Ella with a ponytail and a bicycle.
We had lived in the same subdivision of new houses since I was six years old. Tons of children with whom to play. In the winter all the kids built snow forts and had snowball wars. We dragged sleds and toboggans to the top of the highest hill at the park by the railroad tracks. In the summer, we played hardball in an empty field across the street. Our dads helped us lay out a regulation baseball diamond and even built us a backstop. We rode our bikes to the city swimming pool in the afternoons. We were neighbors and friends.
I stumbled on the idea for my business on a summer day when I discovered my brother and a group of the neighborhood boys
poring over a dirty magazine that they found in a garbage bin. At first, they tried to hide what they were doing, but I soon reminded them that I was not a girl who tattled. I checked out the magazine for myself. Lots of boobs and butts and arty cover ups for the genital area. Not really racy by today's standards, but the guys were very motivated . I listened to them bemoan the fact that this kind of magazine was kept behind the counter at every news agency and drugstore in town. Besides, they were all petrified that parents would find out if they tried to buy one.
So a totally amazing marketing opportunity dropped from the sky right into my lap. The deal was that I would purchase any magazine they wanted with a 100% markup. Money was required up front. I started my business small - just the boys on the block. I was the sole proprietor and purposely did not confide in any of my girlfriends. Some of them were a little "goody two shoes," if you know what I mean, and I didn't want any parents involved.
The first time I went to the little news agency in our town, I was a bit nervous. I knew the man who owned it because I bought comic books and fountain drinks there. Looking as cute and smiley as I could, I put my Little Lulu comic book and a candy bar on the counter and politely asked for about 4 or 5 of the clear-wrapped magazines I could see on a rack behind the cash register. He hesitated, so I smiled even bigger and said, "They're for my big brother. Could you please put them in a bag for me, Glenn?"
And he did!
Soon I was shopping at about 6 locations in our town and the village next door. My clientele grew by leaps and bounds. There were adolescent boys who lived up to a half mile away who made orders through the guys I knew, my "preferred" customers. Then the boy cousins in the family got wind of my business, and
suddenly I was tapping into such a bigger market. The profits were phenomenal, and I didn't even have time to spend the income that was rolling in. Practically on the Fortune 500 annual list. I had orders for Playboy, of course. But to keep the guys interested, I found copies of magazines like Gent, Stud, and Bachelor. Penthouse was another standard. Once, when on a trip to downtown Chicago, I found a real prize right in Union Station; I think it was called Stag or Stag Party. As CEO of this little company, I decided there would be a surcharge for that particular issue. Highly prized and shared among the guys.
I never really worried about my parents. I figured even if they found out, my mother would ignore it completely if it had anything to do with sex. She wouldn't even say the word. My dad? Well, he might even turn out to be another customer.
Alas, this lucrative enterprise was doomed to hit the rocks sooner or later. I was actually surprised that it lasted as long as it did. Little Ella kept thinking how dumb the boys were not to figure out they could buy their own magazines. And then, one of them finally did. The business tanked within a week.
Back to babysitting. Damn, but it did pay the bills. I did not enjoy it, though. Much preferred working for Dad, and he gave me more hours at the store as I got older, too. With raises along the way. Once we were all grown up, the secret came out. As I predicted, my mother refused to even speak about it. Dad just laughed his ass off. To this day, when my older male cousin and my brother get together, someone always mentions my dirty magazine business. I like to remember it as an early venture into the world of finance.