Thursday, April 26, 2007

Family Business: Pros to Embrace

"Sweet Somethings is a family affair—in the beginning, fudge making was the hobby of one of our ten daughters. At the time, our family was traveling with another product to craft and trade shows around the country, and she decided to try her hand at peddling a particularly good fudge recipe she liked to make. We decided to give it a try, so in March of 2003, we set up shop at our first show with only three flavors of fudge and a lot of fresh cut flowers. We did pretty well, and our imaginations immediately went into overdrive."

Four years ago, my family started Sweet Somethings, a traveling chocolate company that has been a financial staple for us ever since. The above words were written by my sister Becky on the Web site she recently designed for us.

My father has ever been an entrepreneur. He is what Debi Pearl calls "a Visionary." In fact, when I first read her "Three Kinds of Men" chapter in No Greater Joy's monthly newsletter, I ran into our kitchen (where Mom and three of the older girls were busy preparing fudge for an upcoming trade show) to read it out loud. We laughed so hard that fudge production ground to a momentary halt. Surely, we thought, Debi had been following us all these years and taking notes. Dad's visionary nature has driven our family into many ventures with varying levels of stability, normality, and success.

If you're starting a family business of your own, here are some of the pros you can look forward to:

1. Time together. Sweet Somethings has meant long hours working--and joking, talking, even complaining--in the kitchen. It's meant hours in the van, packed in amidst boxes of fudge, collapsible tables and fake flowers for decoration, swigging Coke from a two-liter bottle and seeing the world together. It's meant long work days that are a treasure-trove of memories now. The family that works together spends time together--and in a world where it's increasingly hard to do so, that is high praise for a family business.

2. Experience! Families are ever in search of ways to give their children experiences that will benefit them in life. Business is an excellent way to do this. In a business that involves sales, as ours does, our kids have had umpteen opportunities to interact with people from all walks of life, to learn graciousness and salesmanship, to get over their shy tendencies, to work with money, to make chocolate (an invaluable skill, I assure you) and to see the world. Business brings us all face to face with reality in a way that few other things do.

3. Hardship. Yes, this is a good thing. We're not talking desperate privation here, just a good working knowledge of life when it isn't comfortable. I'm extremely grateful for the presence of some hardship in my life. Its salt has heightened the flavour of everything else.

4. Personal growth. This ties into each area above, but I want to highlight it here. Sweet Somethings has developed confidence in the shyest of us; savviness in the dreamiest of us; persistence in those of us most likely to quit. We have learned to sacrifice for each other and to work together as a team.

Our chocolate company has been reasonably successful, so it's helped us financially. Greater than the financial benefits, though, have been the rewards reaped in family solidarity. As you launch your own family business, keep these things before you.

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Wild tales of the Thomsons' adventures in trade shows shall be shared in the unnamed book-to-be-published next year, an entertaining collection of stories and essays that examine life in a big, homeschooled family. Subscribe or check back at this blog for updates!

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Coming soon: "Family Business: Cons to Beware."

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Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Rachel, That is really awesome. And I think you must have picked up your confidence to start your own business in printing through your family experience.

I really like the concept you share here. Of course many people don't have that entrepreneurial (sp?) flair or ability, though I would guess alot more do than they realize.

4:26 p.m.  
Anonymous Carlene Schnitzer said...

An activity which involves the active participation of the family while earning along the way? Why not? Some would say that a family business is the best choice for the business starter. In your case, you enjoy fudge making together, entailing support and encouragement from each member. It also goes to other types of business. With confidence, focus, support, and the right technology and tools to use, the business is poised to go far. Systems used for marketing, thinking of sales ideas, and others should be decided for the common interest of the family.

5:51 a.m.  

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