This is How Our Show Began 25 Years Ago

It's our 25th Year

The phone rang. “Honey, we’re in business.” The year was 1988. With substantial financial reserve, buckets of business wisdom, and a rock-solid business plan, we smiled, lifted our heads, and confidently forged ahead into the future.

Not. I am being facetious.

Rewind. Scrambled noises. “Honey, we’re in business”. Kevin was clearly excited, even though he had just been squeezed out of his job by a management decision. In full disclosure, I sat down with a thump and cried. Where Kevin saw opportunity, I saw three baby birds in my nest and their little beaks were wide open. We had little reserve. It was not that we had never thought about running our own business. We had. We had talked about it for several years. It was not that I was unwilling. It was just something we planned to do later. So lets just say we were in business S.A.R.: Some assembly required.

How I envy the glamorous startup like those you read about in the business magazines. How I wish we had started with a deep understanding of our markets, a lucid and compelling vision, ingenuity, and confidence. Alas we did not. We did have some big positives. We had tactile skill and people were willing to pay for it. The value we wanted to provide was actually needed. But we also had the classic entrepreneurial syndrome: we did not know what we did not know. In a desire to keep it simple, we actually made it difficult. We jumped in and chose to get our business degree like our own reality TV show. Live. On the set. Our grade was live too. We either had happy customers, or we did not. We either had cash flow, or we did not. We quickly discovered what might get us voted off the island. No, we didn’t have an MBA, but we did have a real time education that went far beyond business school. A business school diploma is valuable, but when you graduate, technically what you have is a set of theories packaged with the falacy that you now know how to run a business. If it were only so. We actually had an advantage. We field-tested most of the theories without even knowing it. When we did actually take classes, we already knew that cash flow rarely works like the accounting textbook says it will work. We also learned to ask for help, because we did not automatically assume we had the answers. That was not a skill that comes with an MBA.

When I read this to Kevin just now, I cried again. Why am I crying now you ask? Why am I even telling you all this? Despite our ignorance when we began, here we are celebrating our 25th year. We are amazed. We are grateful- not only to our customers, but to all that have helped us in our journey. We are completely different people than we were 25 years ago. You could say we have built a small business. But the truer statement is that the business has built us.

Here is another reason I share this with you. We are looking for a few good stories. I know there are many many small businesses out there that have wonderful stories. I suppose there are a few that begin in textbook fashion, but some started because grandma dropped some mustard into the pot by accident and developed a whole new category of gourmet cuisine. Still other stories are nail biters, and others are like a sitcom. Every successful entrepreneur I have ever met has learned something in the journey that could not have been learned any other way. I am convinced that there are way too many small business owners who are afraid they are the “only ones” experiencing problems. If they knew that others had experienced it too, they would be encouraged to press on.

We would like to put together a collection of these stories to encourage all those who blaze the trail behind us. Would you share your story? Would you share how you overcame obstacles, how you learned something priceless as you grew your business, or how you surprised yourself by doing something that no one, not even you yourself, dreamed you could do? 

Small business is like a catalyst of human potential. When courage and skill and circumstance and opportunity and personality combine with Small Business, we get an epoxy of amazing things that can happen. If you share your story, maybe someone would understand that the struggles make you stronger! If you share your story, maybe someone would understand that it really is your show. You can make your show whatever you want it to be. And hey it is never to late for a remake.

Here are the details:

Please share your story below in as little as a few words, up to 500 words max. Entries close midnight on December 31st. On January 10th, we will announce our winners! Depending on the number of submissions, we will combine the top stories, to share in an e-publication for download.  

Three prizes will be awarded:

Grand Prize: A nice dinner for two on the town, here in Des Moines, and a movie tickets-tickets to a show of your choice of course. A $150.00 value. (If you live outside the Des Moines area, we will give you a VISA gift card voucher for the same value.)

Second Prize: A $100.00 Civic Center Gift Certificate

Third prize:  $50.00 in movie tickets.

Plus, your story will be highlighted in our Small Business Story Project.

Please see Contest Rules for additional information.


God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!

Lamentations 3:22-23