First taste of being an Entrepreneur
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That really started during my time studying at the University of Waterloo back in the early 70s. I tried hard to make sense of all the mathematics thrown at us during the first year of electrical engineering. As part of the program, they tried to teach us how to use a slide rule for complicated mathematical calculations, but I just couldn't master it. Electronic calculators had just arrived on the scene....I figured they would be my saviour. The Eatons "Rapidman" had just broken the $100 price barrier....it was retailing for $99.99, but it only had 4 functions.....add/subtract/multiply/percentages....and it couldn't even divide. That was no good....I had homework to do & needed something with a lot more functions than that. I just couldn't get that slide rule stuff through my head, so what would I do? Reading through the local paper, I saw a Lloyds calculator advertised with a host of engineering functions, including division, all for only $79.95. I thought...this is great....I can whiz through all my math quickly now.....forget the darn slide-rule! I went to the office supply place to check it out.....it was just as advertised....with way more functions than the Eaton's calculator & for $20 less as well.
I told the owner, Doug McKenzie, that I could sell a 100 of these to the engineering students.....it was really more of an "off the cuff" remark, than anything else. He took me seriously.....he said "here's what I'll do.....I'll sell them to you at my cost of $30 plus $5 profit....I want you to sell them for $89.95......$10 more than what I retail them out at....you'll make $55 on each one.....you'll be in business for yourself". I said "I can't sell them for $10 more than you....students will feel that I've ripped them off." He said "You get an extra $10 for customer service.....you are going to deliver the calculators to the students....they are saving on the gas & time to drive from Waterloo to S Kitchener & back." My response was "how will I go about selling them?" There would have to be some kind of a plan.
He told me how I would market the calculators.....describing how I would photocopy the literature to make simple one page, one sided, black & white flyers with my phone number at the bottom, on tear-off strips. He then told me when I got back to the campus residence to post these flyers everywhere.....in the residence.....in the engineering buildings.....in the library......any & everywhere engineering students might pass by. He gave me a box of 100 calculators "on consignment", took 25% down & asked me to sign the sales order, making it a legal document. He assured me I'd have no trouble selling them. He said I'd need a telephone answering machine to take all the calls, so I bought one as well.
Off I went......I spent several hours doing up copies & stapling them to bulletin boards around the university. To my surprise, as I arrived back to my room, my phone was ringing....my first customer...I turned right around, went back out & made my first sale. Of course, it was an engineering student....he said he had friends who would be interested as well. I got back to my room & again the phone was ringing....another customer & sale. It went like that all week.....in less than 7 days, I sold all 100.....making total revenue of 100 x $89.95 = $8,995....that was a lot of money in 1973. It was sure exciting. My expenses after the cost of the calculators were less than $100...the flyers cost next to nothing & I delivered practically all the calculators on foot throughout the residences on campus. A great net profit of over $5,000.
I was all set to get more calculators, but this opportunity was short-lived. The following week, many different makes & models started coming out, every one offering more & more functions for less money.....now available everywhere......the window had now closed. In one week, I had received a "hands-on", basic education in "business modeling 101".
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