Second-Income Entrepreneurs True Heroes of American Economy
Many of us grew up with parents who worked all of their lives at a 9-to-5 job. They had careers in manufacturing, service industries, retail, the energy sector, health care, office professionals or they were public servants.
Over the last 50 years, labor unions and a quickly expanding technology industry demanded that benefits were part of competitive compensation packages for their members and employees. As a result, local, state and federal governments had no choice but to raise wages and improve benefits to retain and recruit qualified employees and managers.
The careers our parents enjoyed helped them afford the necessities of a modest but stable middle class life: the mortgage, health insurance for their family, a retirement beyond social security, some college funding, and a family vacation … maybe two.
But the extra activities, weekend trips, and a second or third car all came from income our parents earned from second income opportunities. Many of our moms and dads had a second job. Some provided services to others like landscaping, lawn care, tree trimming, babysitting or child care. For a short time, my dad tried his hand a being a locksmith. My brother and I thought that our dad being able to pick locks was pretty cool.
When they got home from work or on the weekends, some of our parents bought and sold products — antiques, vitamin supplements, collectibles, clothes, kitchenware, flowers, vegetable plants for gardens, etc. For many years, my mom sold Dutchmaid brand women’s clothing out of our basement. She was also a seamstress who would make women’s clothes from patterns.
Those who liked to bake and who enjoyed the kitchen sold their jams, jellies, cookies, cakes, and pies to neighbors and the local restaurant. Both of my grandfathers were always supplementing their incomes from the B&O Railroad or Adamston Flat Glass with odd jobs after work and on the weekends.
Still others built or made “stuff” and sold it to family, friends and neighbors. Crafters seemed to make pretty good money during Christmas time and craft shows and farmer’s markets during the year still draw the attention of dozens of homemade and handmade creations of all kinds.
Many teachers and school service personnel use summers off to try their hand at second income opportunities. Several school employees that I know use the summers to paint homes or do handyman jobs of all kinds.
And those who are really adventurous generate second income from real estate. They own a rental house or two. Some buy, repair and sell homes and apartments.
I’m not sure that I ever heard the word “entrepreneur” until I went to college at Marshall University in 1981. The title of “entrepreneur” was first used in the early 1800s in Europe. By definition, an entrepreneur is a person who starts a business enterprise to make money. Seems simple enough. It wasn’t until my third year in the MU College of Business that I realized that the people like my parents who were generating second incomes really were “entrepreneurs”.
Over the last 40 years, I’ve tried my own hand at a number of second income opportunities — campaign consulting, writing, real estate, newspapers, a bar, a coal refuse mining operation, a trucking company, business coaching, and a talk radio show. My sister and I even tried to sell soda/beer can koozies one year at local fairs and festivals.
And entrepreneurship is contagious! My parents learned to be “entrepreneurial” from my grandparents. I was inspired by my parents and my son learned to make his own money from his mom and me. Ben started out with a lemonade stand in the yard and by selling his old toys at our annual yard sale. That grew into buying and selling Mighty Beans and sports cards. At age 12, Ben caught the photography bug and never looked back. He turned his part time passion into a full time career with his sports photos now being seen all over the world.
After my own career and experiences, I’m wondering why more isn’t being done to promote second income entrepreneurship. Many of the world’s leading advances and innovations were created, manufactured, or dreamed up outside the normal work day. Opportunities to encourage entrepreneurship are growing in our schools and within the business community. But the same opportunities, resources, and energy aren’t being dedicated to second income entrepreneurs who are working 9-to-5.
Mike Queen is a resident of Bridgeport, West Virginia and a graduate of Marshall University. He serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff & Director of Communications for the WV Secretary of State’s Office.