I sometimes appeal to the clients of my local massage studios through my Facebook page or our newsletter to find people who would be interested in working at the front desk part-time. I’ve gotten some great employees this way who love what we do and want a fun evening or weekend job.
A few months ago I had a client respond by email that she was interested in starting a business one day and would love to help at Lunar Massage because she wanted to learn the ins and outs. I was super-flattered that she considered my business worth emulating and excited to have someone around who was interested in the big picture of running a business.
I don’t have a co-founder or business partner, so for three years I’ve been the only one at my company who thinks about the meta-issues. I jumped on Anne’s offer to work in exchange for massage and said I’d love to talk to her about the entrepreneurial process and bounce ideas off of her.
In just a few months, Anne had added a ton of value to Lunar Massage. We now meet outside the studio as well to work on optimizing our processes and developing new marketing strategies and management layers to the company. She’s a hard worker with lots of energy and great ideas.
Now I wish I would have done the same thing before I started. I could have easily gotten a part-time job at a massage establishment to see how the industry worked, or tried to apprentice myself to a local entrepreneur I admired. Since I didn’t, I had zero experience before I hung out my shingle. I still made it, but the first twelve months (the hardest phase of any business) were probably harder than they had to be.
Anne has not only “apprenticed” herself to me. She has a day job as a research assistant but because of her interest in starting a business someday she has worked at several other businesses on her evenings and weekends, including the local pedi-cab company. She learned how to do basic bike fixes and now teaches workshops to pedi-cabbers on how to fix a broken chain or a flat tire while they’re out on the job.
Consider apprenticing yourself to someone who has skills you want to learn. The value of your free time could be great for them, and your rubber-meets-the-road exposure could be hugely worthwhile for you. Higher education makes you good at school; it’s not good at giving you actual, marketable skills. Skip the high tuition fees and years out of the workforce and go acquire some skills yourself.
Joanna Robinson is the Owner of Lunar Massage, a growing chain of massage studios in Washington D.C. She is a former Membership Director and now Board Member of AFF.
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