I’ll never forget running to my parents, aged eleven shouting with joyful excitement.
“I’m going to Spain this summer! Lisa’s grandparents said I can go with her and stay with them!”
My parents looked at me and said
I can clearly remember that typical child-like sensation of feeling entirely impotent, devastated and confused, which in hindsight, I am sure manifested itself as an out and out paddy/tantrum with tears. But that, it seemed, was that.
For about half an hour.
“How did you think you were going to get there?”
“By plane” (duh).
“And who do you think was going to pay for it?”
“You” (and again,duh).
“So you expect us to pay for your plane ticket, just like that?”
“Ummm” (yes! Obviously. My weekly £1.75 pocket money isn’t going to help with this.)
And so the conversation continued and as I felt my parents move toward some compromise, all I could think was “oh my God! I’m going to go on a plane, I’m going to Spain, I’m going to be away for three whole weeks. In Spain! With Lisa! On a plane”.
So I agreed to the compromise with alacrity and very little thought.
I pay for half my air fare, I go.
Laker airlines: £110 return, 8 weeks until take off. 2 weeks pocket money already saved (£3.50). Oh yeah baby, I can DO this!
Now, if any of you know me, or have read previous blogs, I am nothing if not organised. That OCD need for order was not learned, it was innate, and already evident in an 11 year old me. My parents wrote lists of jobs that needed doing with prices next to each task and I picked and chose in the following weeks, working out which were most time/price effective. My father’s tasks paid far more – arranging his receipts for VAT returns into date order being just one that paid £3. My mother’s highest paying task was the painful weekly house ironing, which I undertook for £2 every Saturday – my father’s arm was the entire length of the ironing board and he only wore cotton shirts. And yes, there were 5 to do a week plus the rest of the basket. More often, I would take the smaller jobs: Put the cookery book shelf in size order (20p); sort through the baking ingredients and spices cupboard (20p); the cupboard under the sink (20p), the cupboard under the stairs (50p). You get the picture. I admire my mother’s ability to search for more and more tasks to complete as my energy and appetite for them seemed boundless.
By the end of the first week, I had about £6 and 7 weeks to go. The cupboards in the house were spotless, the ironing only a weekly task and I was too young to take on a paper round (started that at aged 13). And so I learned my first real life lesson.
I spent that hard earned money. I spent it all.
Not only was I organised, I could make a mean cupcake. I knew that the girls at my school had disposable income – their parents gave them, on average, 50p more than their lunch money every day, and I also knew that our school didn’t have a tuck shop.
So I went to the supermarket and I bought ingredients and I borrowed old ice-cream cartons from my mother and I made cupcakes and chocolate crispie cakes and packed them in the cartons daily and I travelled 30 minutes on the tube every morning into school to sell them. 6p a cupcake, 4p a chocolate crispie. And I never ate one myself (no biting into profit margin) and I never returned home with one unsold, even when doubling the quantities and finding travelling with them almost too awkward for comfort. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I had to make more and more each night to keep up with demand and to cater for the home market. My brothers and parents would buy a few each every night and whilst I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to carry those to school the next day, I also hated a furtive 11.30am request from a Year 7 girl asking for more and being unable to supply. A potential 6p being snatched away from my grasp. I also think that after 3 weeks, I increased my chocolate crispie price by a penny, another lesson learned because no-one batted an eyelid.
My corner of the playground became a sugar rush filled speakeasy and my ‘allotted’ shelf at home filled with ingredients was ordered and always replenished with my earnings.
Did I make enough money?
£68 in 8 weeks. It’s one of the only numbers that I can actually remember. I had £68. I wrote out a receipt in my best handwriting declaring that I had given the princely sum of £55 to my father for the express purpose of purchasing a Laker Airways return ticket to Malaga. This receipt was presented along with the money in the presence of my brother and all had to sign with the greatest solemnity. I proudly stated that I had £13 spending money. My father generously doubled this for ice-cream money in the gloriously hot sunshine of the Costa del Sol. And my mother probably spent a similar amount in sun cream and sunhats.
My God! Did I enjoy those three weeks. Eating pomegranates straight from the tree; day after day of mucking around in the pool; bus trips up mountain roads with tyre tracks going over the edges; remembering to wear flip flops on sun baked sand; ice creams twice daily; learning to play Mahjong in the lazy warm evenings with my best mate’s grandparents. It was brilliant. Made more so by the knowledge that my hard work had paid off and that, even at 11, I could make money.
I’ve worked ever since.
So starting Two Little Boys Ltd in 2002 was not such an enormous leap of faith for someone who started in speculating to accumulate at the age of 11. It’s hard work, it’s frustrating and it’s rewarding, it’s exciting and it’s dull; but it’s working. Although, I should mention that I have just opened my warehouse invoice and I can’t help but think: Why didn’t I stick to chocolate crispies?