Why Did You Start Your Business?

I started my business essentially on a resentment.

I came to California in April of 1999 to clean up from drugs and alcohol. After completing a 6 month rehab program I started sending my resume out. The good news was that I had an accounting degree and a previous job working as an auditor for a government program. This meant my chances of getting a job were pretty good. Turns out my father was right – my accounting degree was something I would always be able to fall back on. When faced with the choice between accounting and finance as a major, my father’s advice was what pushed me towards accounting.

I got a job through a temp agency. Beryl Smith, whom I am still connected to today (on Facebook) was the agent who helped me. She was perfect. I was so nervous, and I wasn’t yet sure if I should tell people I had just gotten clean and that I was fresh out of rehab. Beryl made me feel so comfortable and she had no idea why that was so important.

The first job was working at an office building on the corner of 5th and Santa Monica. The company was a hedge fund and they wanted a financial analyst with an accounting background. This was my first work experience sober and it was awful. No fault of Beryl’s by the way. The woman I reported to, Shila was very friendly with Bill, who worked alongside her. She was down spoken, condescending and at times she down right berated me. My self-esteem was still recovering. Drugs and alcohol will take their toll on that part of you and it takes some time to recover. The result was that I was eager to please and when someone treated me poorly it made me want to try harder. It seemed the harder I tried the worse it got. I once tried to correct a mistake of mine that she’d pointed out, and she grew even more furious with me. In fairness she had asked me not to, but I felt so bad about screwing it up I was hoping to save it.

Fresh out of rehab I didn’t have any money. I was living in a sober living and if memory serves this job paid about $16/hour. I had to make this work. My family and friends were betting on me and I desperately wanted to make sure I didn’t let anyone down. Least of all myself.

As much as I wanted to have lunch at the really cool places on the 3rd Street promenade I couldn’t afford to. I was watching every penny – literally. I made a spreadsheet (of course). I had it down to a daily amount that I could afford to spend. When I would come home every day I would open this spreadsheet on my computer in my small room at the sober living. I would take the receipts out of my pocket for the coffee and bagel I might have had that morning for breakfast. I would add up the receipts, plus the cash in my pocket and enter that in my spreadsheet to make sure I didn’t go over. If I did it meant I had to spend less the next day. I literally had my budget down to a daily basis. I had to at this stage. I was too nervous I would screw it all up.

In order to save money I would buy some groceries and brown bag it for lunch at work. One problem though. When Shila and Bill decided they wanted to go out to lunch I had to leave the office too. They never invited me to join them. Shila explained that they had a policy that since I wasn’t an employee I could not be left in there alone. During these times I would literally have to sit on the steps outside the office building and eat my lunch. I felt like I was homeless.

All in all I was treated horribly by these people I barely new. I hated them. I remember sitting on those steps with tears in my eyes, eating my PB&J and thinking that I did this to myself. If I hadn’t screwed up my life with drugs and alcohol I would not be there. I know better now, but like I said.. my self esteem. As I sat there I thought to myself that someday I might have my own business, and if and when that day came about I would NEVER EVER treat people this way.

The next two jobs were not much better. Maybe worse because in each of the next 2 cases, I got along famously with the bosses until they too pulled the “boss card” and berated me for making mistakes that I of course didn’t know I was making. I began to wonder, what is wrong with these people? ESPECIALLY when we have a rapport with one another, how could they – I would NEVER treat someone that way! Why can’t they teach me, and help me get better at my job? Then I would be out of their hair and it would actually make their lives easier in the long run!

After 3 jobs in a row of this, and during Job #3 I reached a point where I just broke down. I was about 3 years clean and 31 years old and there I was driving down the 10 freeway to the 110 to the 101 back to my little apartment in Hollywood and I was balling like a little boy. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong and there was always that looming thought. Was this all really worth it, or should I just return to my old life? At least it was predictable and I knew what I would get – even if it was painful, this honestly seemed much worse on many levels.

I asked my therapist (whom I still see to this day) what I could do. Reality was the common denominator in all of this was me. So there must be something wrong with me. He assured me there wasn’t, but I didn’t believe him. It didn’t matter because the next thing he said literally changed my life in that moment. It was a direct response to my question about what to do with the qualification that I couldn’t just quit my job. He told me something so simple. Especially on the days like the one where I was balling on my way home, I was to go home and sit at my computer and work on things I really enjoyed.

I was beginning to learn how to make websites, and I really enjoyed that. I of course loved to work in Microsoft Excel, but where to find projects to work on? Craigslist! I started putting ads offering my services in MS Excel Design. Then I started creating the very first version of the nerdenterprises.com website. This was in 2003 and this is literally how my business got started.

I remember getting my first call. I was on my way home from the CPA firm. Someone left a message based on my ad on Craigslist. That became my first client. Little by little I picked up more work. I would leave the CPA firm at lunch time to meet with a client about a project. It felt so good. Now when the boss would berate me I was smiling inside and thinking that nothing was permanent. I would make him regret the way he treated me. Eventually that didn’t even matter to me anymore. I saw the light ahead. The freedom came from knowing I wasn’t “stuck” anymore. Every time I left that firm feeling crappy I worked that much harder at home that night. My boss’ wretched behavior was my fuel for moving closer to being on my own. Nowadays when things start going badly I remember this experience and what it taught me. That nothing is permanent and I can always change things. I have that power. So do you!

One day I woke up and realized I had a business!!!

So why did you start your business?

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