Years and years and years ago, far before I had any glimmer of an idea about the possibility of making money online, my dad shared a story with me. I don’t think I was much older than maybe 6 or 7 at the time and I’m not even 100 percent certain the story is even true, but the underlying lesson is something that I’ve really taken to heart… even if it’s not directly applicable to my everyday life now.
The Making of a Businessman
One of the most famous entrepreneurs and “business magnates” that Vancouver has ever produced is Jim Pattison. He was born in Saskatchewan, but he grew up in East Vancouver, just like me and John (though we grew up in different neighborhoods and at different times).
If you’ve ever been to Vancouver, you may have noticed his name plastered all over the city as the owner of the Jim Pattison Group, Canada’s second largest privately held company. It’s got billboards, TV and radio stations, car dealerships, grocery store chains, real estate development, and more. These days, Jim Pattison has an estimated net worth of nearly $7 billion. That’s “billion” with a “B,” making him Canada’s fourth richest person.
He bought his first GM dealership way back in 1961 and has since amassed over 200 companies with diversified investments across multiple countries. “Jimmy” Pattison and his family have done very well for themselves.
A Humble Little Story
For whatever reason, this was one of my dad’s favorite stories. Maybe it’s partly what eventually led him down the path of being a small business owner himself and, by extension, what led me to my freelance writing career today.
So, the story goes that Jimmy Pattison came from a family of rather modest means, so he took it upon himself to make some extra money. As a kid, he’d do things like head out to the local fields and farms to pick berries and fruit during summer, for example. He also took on a newspaper delivery route, among several other gigs and jobs along the way. But he also set out with his own humble small business as a teenager too.
He made the astute observation that buying things in bulk is usually cheaper on a per-unit basis than it is buying smaller amounts. We see this is relatively obvious these days, but not many people actually take entrepreneurial action based on this knowledge. Pattison did. He would buy giant bulk bags of flower seeds and the like, dividing them into much smaller bags that he would then sell door-to-door.
I don’t have the actual numbers, of course, but let’s use today’s dollars to illustrate this using a hypothetical example. Let’s say a massive bag of seed costs $20. From that massive bag, you can make 200 individual portions that you can then sell for $1 each. And let’s say that you can bulk buy 200 little bags for $5. Given this, it means that for a total cost of $25 (the big bag of seed plus the cost of the small bags), you can bring in $200 in revenue, resulting in $175 in net profit. That’s a 700 percent return on investment!
The Real Take Home Lesson
I can never be completely certain why my dad enjoys telling that story so much. Maybe it’s because it’s so inspirational and it shows how a humble kid from East Vancouver can grow up to be a billionaire. Perhaps it’s because Jim Pattison demonstrates that your dreams can become reality if you’re savvy and willing to put in the work.
For me, the biggest lesson here is that you just need to come up with creative ways to work with what you have. As a teenager, there’s no way that Pattison could buy a car dealership. It would be impossible for him to open up any sort of real traditional business, but he saw an opportunity and he was able to capitalize on it. Splitting a big bag of seeds into several smaller bags is hardly a novel idea, but it proved to be profitable and it helped to sow a prosperous path for him to follow.
Oh, I can’t make it big on YouTube. I can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on equipment or hire professionals to produce, direct and edit the videos. But you can start vlogging for $200 or less. So, start there. Just like starting a blog, getting into Internet marketing, publishing an ebook, or whatever other ambitions you may have, use what you have, put your unique spin on it, and go out there to sell some seeds.