There are 2 ways to tell a story
I studied English at a wide spot in a cornfield. For me, the University of Central Missouri was a perfect fit. I loved reading the great books under the vast midwestern sky, the pace relaxed and inviting. After I got my Bachelor of Arts with an English major and marketing minor, a Bachelor of Science in Education with teacher certification, and a handful of credits toward a Master’s degree, I moved to London to see what would happen next.
I should have packed an umbrella. In London, I ended up working for Austec, a reseller of COBAL and FORTRAN, and I was fortunate to travel all over Europe.
My next stop was Kansas City, where I worked for Sprint in international marketing. One of the projects I developed helped employees understand foreign policy and how those issues impact business. The flagship program of the Foreign Policy Association, t’s called Great Decisions, and my adaptation of it was the first time it had been launched inside a major corporation. Its success got the attention of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and they made me an offer that compelled me to move to New York.
At PriceWaterhouseCoopers, I joined the consulting division in International Strategic Planning and worked on all sorts of interesting projects, including an expansion of the work I had started with the Foreign Policy Association. Then I met a guy on a plane…
This guy was a catch, so I reeled him in. Of course, it meant that I had to give up that cushy job and moved to San Francisco. But who doesn’t like California?
PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the Foreign Policy Association, and a few other clients kept me on as a freelance consultant when I moved to California. But Gary and I wanted a steady source of passive income. Before I knew it, I had swapped my New York corporate wardrobe for the unclaimed lost and found at a coin-op. That’s right. We bought a laundromat.
A commercial laundry? Why not? We had the machines. We wanted employees to keep the place clean and safe. So we decided to take in hotel laundry. This business grew until mountains of sheets and pillow cases required us to have staff working around the clock. Alas, some of those staff members were dishonest.
Gary and I developed a security system that allowed us to monitor our business from home. That technology is commonplace now, but at the time, it was cutting edge. After we got the system up and running, we realized that every small business owner in the country would want one just like it. To narrow our marketing niche, we concentrated on fellow laundromat owners, called our business LaundrySPY.com, and sold systems all over the country. Eventually, we were in dry cleaners, huge commercial laundries, and even Domino’s Pizza. Those pizzas need to be protected too.
It was the height of the dot.com bubble, and the only space available to rent was an office at the Petaluma airport. Gary bought a plane, but a lot of times it was too windy or too foggy to fly.
Things were hopping. We had the coin op laundry, the dot.com security system, and the commercial laundry. By this time we had purchased several fixer-upper residential rental properties too. If we were awake, we were working.
And Baby makes three. When we found out we were pregnant, we decided to start peeling off some of our businesses. We sold LaundrySPY and the commercial laundry, kept our rental properties and the coin-op laundry, found a walnut orchard over the internet, bought it, and moved. Then our sweet baby girl was born.
Walnut trees don’t require much work, and cursing at the squirrels gets old after the first few times. We decided to open a flight school at Lampson Airport in Lake County to take advantage of the fog free skies and moderate winds. To help market the flight school, we bought a World War II Stearman Bi-plane an gave aerial tours too. Students came from all over the world, and after 5 years, we sold the business to a guy from France.
After the flight school, we took some time off. I spent a week at the Culinary Institute of America playing in the kitchen, and the whole family spent six months in Costa Rica. Gary and I coach other entrepreneurs, and we take on small business projects of our own. We still regularly invest our resources and fill our time with interesting projects.
If you have a project that could use an infusion of out the box thinking, call us. We’d love to work with you.