The way of things...
In the short time we’ve been open, several friends have approached me about how they too, can make their entrepreneurial dreams come true. I’m taken aback each time because I am certainly NO expert. I was however, raised by entrepreneurs that were raised by entrepreneurs, so I guess I have more knowledge on the subject than most.
One of my earliest memories is of being at my Papa’s trading post, south of Belen. It smelled of rugs and drum leather and my “toys” were tiny flower or Mickey Mouse-shaped turquoise and coral rings and Navajo-made Squaw dolls dressed in velvet with tight black buns, beaded Squashblossom necklaces and little baby papooses on their backs.
The natives that were ever-present, trading goods for money, food or alcohol with my Papa, teased, “How much for the little girl?” They even tried to sweeten the deal by telling him that my broken English was so jarbled up and hard to interpret that it could pass for their language. “She already speaks Navajo!” they’d giggle.
Flash forward a few years and my Papa helped my parents open a store, The Squashblossom, in downtown Silver City. Again, I was surrounded by native-made jewelry, drums, rugs, baskets, pottery and all things New Mexico. My favorite part of the day was helping to load or unload the jewelry trays in and out of the giant safe behind the oak and glass counters. I loved the notion that these items were so precious that they had to be locked away at night. And, then seeing them again the next day, was like seeing them for the first time. I’d organize the rings by size, shape and color and in doing so, find a new favorite every time.
When the market changed and Indian jewelry fell out of fashion, my parents bought a Hallmark franchise and reinvented our lives, right before my eyes. It was impressive and inspiring and quickly became my favorite place in the world, second only maybe to my other Grandparents’ farm in Deming.
So, my parents, and both sides of my Grandparents were all self-employed. I noticed how hard they worked but also that they always had time for family and to me, that was everything. I didn’t know as a kid, that I would one day follow in their shoes because I guess I thought in some capacity, I’d just work for them. I’d worked in my parents’ store, since I was so small, I had to stand on a step ladder at the register. I’d gone along to market and on buying trips (even discovering SMURFS at the Dallas trade show!) and had even helped out for a summer, when my Papa and his then (bit of a floozie) girlfriend, Bobbie, had a shop off the plaza, in the Santa Fe Village. Retail…small business…entrepreneurship was my whole life.
When we started our first business, I was so young and naive that there’s a lot I didn’t realize. How hard and yet rewarding it could be. How generations of hard work and education by my family made it possible. And, how there’s nothing else I would rather do. So when people ask me for advice, I stumble a bit. I didn’t go to business school; I have instincts and I use them 100% of the time. I follow my heart and try to trust myself, every single day. Small business is like family…nothing else I can think of can bring you such joy while simultaneously holding the potential to completely break your heart.
Having said that, we lost my Papa today, at 96 years old. He will be remembered as a “mean old fart” which, in many ways, he was. But, he loved me every day of my life and proved it a few months ago, when he made Ampersand Old & New possible. I am eternally grateful.
Happy and healthy, on a beach in Mexico with a fishing pole in one hand and a “winning hand” in the other, is where you’ll live in my heart forever, Papa. I love you!