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Memphis Daily News
Early Lessons For Aspiring Entrepreneurs
February 22, 2018
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

The entrepreneurial dream was to have my own business. I always had jobs, but I wanted the freedom to do them in a different way. I wanted to exercise the creativity to do them my own way.

It didn’t matter what the job was, I liked mentally dissecting the way it was being done and putting it back together in a way that would make it seem more doable, more efficient, more logical and more enjoyable.

One of my first jobs, at about 10 years old, was shoveling snow for my neighbors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although seasonal, the job had great potential for earning money. At that time, the only advance notice you got when it was going to snow was when it started snowing. The competition was fierce for the snow-shoveling jobs.

When the snow stopped, the neighborhood kids would race to their neighbors, ask for the job, shovel the sidewalk … then race to the next place, ask, shovel and race … ask, shovel, and race … and on and on. There had to be a better way.

I was not that good at shoveling, rather slow actually, but I could get the customers. My four brothers, on the other hand, were stronger and faster at shoveling snow. I recognized the opportunity for a partnership with them, and a better, more organized approach to the business of shoveling snow.

So I started my first business. The next winter, prior to the first snowfall, I visited with all the neighbors and signed them up as customers. I made up the schedule and assigned each of my new partners with a list of customers. We virtually eliminated the competition.

And just to make sure we had that all-important repeat business, I dropped off a thank-you bag of chocolate-chip cookies to each customer after the jobs were finished. It was a lesson in entrepreneurship and a financial win-win.

I never had any intention of making a career of the snow-shoveling business; however, I did learn about the business of doing business. I was fascinated with the operations and the importance of maximizing individual talents for success. I realized when your passion for what you do intersects with your passion for how you do it, you’re living your dream. Snow shoveling was not my passion, but education is. As a teacher, principal, superintendent of schools or consultant, what I do is as important as how I do it.

When your passion becomes your business, to continue to do it, you must own how you do it. To be an entrepreneur, you must be able to see what’s coming, to read the signs and adapt to unexpected changes in the environment.

To stay in business and continue to do what you love, you must be able to move quickly, be decisive, and reinvent yourself and your business when necessary. You must be a lifelong learner, able to go with the change flow and prepare for a world that doesn’t exist.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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