Just got a call earlier today about one of the locations for my machines closing down. Unfortunately, the previous tenant went out of business and was unable to make rent payments to the commercial owner. The location was slow but steady due to a lack of other candy options and the fact that most customer stayed for over an hour (it was a billiards hall). What sucks about this is that I can’t just go and grab the machines – I need some form of documentation that I own them. I am renting them from someone who in turn bought them used, so there is no original receipt or anything – I only have the keys to prove that I own it. I am hoping to negotiate something with the landlord over the next week to prove the machines are mine and pick them up, but I may end up out of luck. As I said, they are machines I rent, so I will be liable for their loss to the tune of about 300 dollars up front. Keep in mind this is a 1200 dollar a month business with only about 500-600 in profit after rent, candy costs, commission to site owners, gas, and various random costs. Ah well, such is business! I will need to find a way to better document my ownership of the machines, or try to do a better job communicating with the store owners.

Anyone have start-up stories of incredibly annoying and spontaneous costs that come out of nowhere to hit your pocketbook/bank account? Please share, and share what you’ve learned!

A Wake-Up Call

A new Pew Research Center poll shows that more than 2/3 of the nation distrusts the federal government, large corporations, banks and congress. Who do they trust the most?

According to the just-released study by the highly respected Pew Research Center, small business is the most trusted institution in America. More than churches. More than colleges. More than technology companies. And certainly more than labor unions or large corporations.

So why does the entrepreneurial class not have more power or influence in our society? They create jobs and represent the common man trying to make his way on the economic battlefield. But they have little time to try and win political influence because they are too busy working to overcome the deck stacked against them. Along with being the most trusted institution, small businessmen are also thought to be the group with the least attention given to them by the government.

But we’re neglected. When asked about which groups were getting too much or too little attention from the government, Americans felt small business was getting dealt the worst hand. Hey, elected officials, listen up! Small business is one of the few groups Americans want to get more government attention.

Of course, this will never change because labor unions are a much more surefire voting bloc and large corporations are a reliable campaign contribution. So it goes in the great Republic. This is a good reminder of our mission here at the Underground – to help reignite the animal spirits and provide a voice for entrepreneurship and inertia for an economic revolution. I am one of the last people to advocate lining up at the government trough, but I also believe government on every level has made it a much more difficult task to get a successful enterprise up and running. Action by inaction would be the best way governments could help us out. In fact, government and many of these other favored groups have interests quite contrary to that of the entrepreneur. For example, see Trash Collecting Entrepreneur Squashed in San Francisco from Mish’s Global Economic Analysis blog. The entrepreneur can perform tasks much more efficiently and at a much lower cost than the bloated public labor unions. But of course, political power is all that matters in the United we Fail Bailout States of America, and so of course the labor rackets will have their day to make sure they can get their lifetime pension benefits and bloated salary on the private sector’s tab.

Some Excellent Links

First, some Daily Reading (which I will add to my Blogroll is always a favorite – alternative financial and economic news with an anti-establishment bent. Our focus here at Entrepreneurial Underground is on the decentralization of political, economic, financial, information and social systems, which is inherently anti-establishment. Read ZH daily! – this forum used to have one of the best forum post i’ve ever read – Bartering and Horse Trading. It was 26 pages of some of the most mind-expanding advice I’ve ever read. The premise to take basic skills of deal making and social networking to become a used goods trader … but it went FAR beyond that. Its ultimate premise was to realize that there are ALWAYS opportunities of every sort and that the key to success is to persevere and keep looking for good deals – of any sort. If I ever find a copy of it, I will be sure to post it. – Mish Shedlock’s economics blog with a focus on the recession and financial crisis. Very good reader discussion and very good coverage of the economic crisis all from your local government to Asia and Europe.

more to come

The Beginning

Getting the first post out of the way – I suppose I will start with some anecdotes and personal experiences that I’ve had thus far. My goal will to eventually start conducting interviews with local entrepreneurs and get other perspectives, but for now here is my own. I work as both a tutor and a vending route operator. You see those gumball and candy machines placed at restaurants, grocery store, bowling alleys, coin laundries, break rooms, etc…. I am the person behind that operation. Its a good time investment, as startup costs are low, income is nearly limitless and operating costs can be kept down with intelligent planning and logistics. It is a great source of income on a per-unit-time basis. The benefits that can be captured are also nonlinear –  you can double or triple the income of a route with less than 50% increase in operational costs. I will share more about this as time goes on and will start documenting and collecting data  – I am a statistician after all.  Expect presentations over the summer.

I also do test prep as a part time job. It’s a very good hourly wage and I enjoy it – quite rewarding. I would recommend it – I started doing it on the basis of a quick tip from a friend. Turned out to be a great choice of part-time jobs, and is by far the best part time job for a college student. It is also a nice fall back if current job market conditions do not improve before I graduate (more on that later.)

I value flexibility of time and believe time management and the capturing of nonlinear benefits from proper time and money management. This will be a major theme of this blog. I believe small business, low start-up cost, vertically integrated, high tech micro-entrepreneurship will be the recovery leader if there is to be one to bring long-run growth back to roost. Social networking, specialized, low cost service firms and technologies such as cloud computing allow for more flexible business models with options to balance operational and fixed investment costs that help keep costs sometimes orders of magnitude lower if properly utilized. This limits risk and helps keep the entrepreneur afloat for longer. When hardships come, humans are an innovative and resilient species. There are always opportunities, and there are always bright minds able to discover and monetize these opportunities. I hope that Entrepreneurial Underground can be but one element of this innovation revolution that is necessary to jump-start the economy and give power back to the people.