Today I am officially a full-time small business owner. After years of working multiple jobs, late nights, early mornings, and weekends, it feels a bit like it came out of nowhere.
But when I look at my family, it really isn’t a surprise at all. I am a fourth-generation business owner.
I grew up with a mother who owned and ran a business out of our home from the time I was three years old. My mother always told me stories of how fun her father’s shoe shop was to hang out in. And how she used to help clean his shop for her allowance, just like I helped her for my allowance.
My grandmother was probably attracted to my grandfather because her father had immigrated to America in his early twenties and ran multiple businesses throughout his life, including a roller rink and a shoe repair shop.
My whole life, I’d watch my mom stay up late at night doing book work, getting up early in the morning to prepare the curriculum, and helping her disinfect all of the toys for the daycare on the weekends.
There are times now, I’ll find myself on my sofa at 10 pm entering expenses, eating dry cereal out of a little snack bowl with a crime show on in the background just like I watched her do time and time again.
All of this is to say; I have built my entire business around preserving the legacy of my clients. I am so grateful my family has preserved their legacy. I can look back at photos of both my grandfather’s shoe repair shops, read journal entries and letters my great-grandfather wrote in the 30s and 40s, and listen to my family talk about all the ins and outs. All because someone thought to preserve those aspects of their life.
We don’t know what aspects of our lives will become our legacy. I don’t think my great grand-father had any idea when he stepped on a ship as a teenager to come to America, that in 80 years, his life would inspire his great-granddaughter, who has her own business. My grandfather probably didn’t think his humble shoe repair shop was worth an entire photo album on my family’s living room shelf. But it is.
Just over two years ago, I went on a road trip with my grandmother to visit her sister in Vermont. One cold, early Vermont morning, I was sitting with my great-aunt in her great room, looking out the windows at the sun starting to peek over the mountains in the distance.
She started to tell me about how since she was older than my grandma, she often was left in charge of babysitting her. She had a very specific memory of Victory in Europe day. My great-grandfather had opened up the roller-rink he owned for free in celebration. My great-aunt Coppy, was reluctantly stuck at home babysitting my grandmother. But she told me she was so happy that the war was coming to an end. She just sat outside, rocking my grandma, watching fireworks in the distance.
This story has stuck with me for a lot of reasons. But with the personal significance of this week, it also has me thinking about how instrumental small businesses are to fitting our personal history into world-changing moments.
It makes me think about how many people decided to still celebrate their love in 2020 in a backyard with a few family members and a photographer. In 80 years, those images will mean more to your great-grandchildren than images of empty cities in their textbooks.
Our everyday moments make up our lives. We have no control over what parts of our daily actions will motivate others, which is why it is so important to document our lives.
Over my 24 years leading up to this, I’ve seen enough photos and hear enough real-life examples to make this next move into being a full-time entrepreneur a no-brainer. I know I’ve got the family history, ane experience behind me.
I can look at photos of my grandparents’ businesses, I can remember important moments in my mom’s business and how she worked hard to get there, and I can apply it to my own life.
So here’s our reminder to take the photo of your desk. Heck, print it out even. Keep telling the same interesting stories over and over again, so they get ingrained in the heads of your children and grandchild (even if they roll their eyes on the 5th time). Take the time to ask your parents and aunts, and uncles questions about their life, even if you think they might be dumb questions.
Take photos and videos of everything, print them out, write notes on the back. Because, little by little, you’re building your legacy.
I’m so incredibly grateful my family has preserved their story. Because it has empowered me to spend all day every day preserving my client’s stories.