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Growing Up in Brooklyn: A Journey to Entrepreneurship

By Keith Orlean

An Entrepreneur Grows in Brooklyn
Entrepreneurship started in Brooklyn

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York in the late 60s and early 70s was an experience that shaped me into the person I am today. As a pre-teen, my first step into entrepreneurship—although I had no idea at the time what that meant—was going door to door, ringing doorbells to convince homeowners to pay me to shovel snow for a fee. I loved the idea of earning money and feeling the freedom of buying things that my parents would not buy for me because it was not essential or we could not afford it. I quickly learned that if I wanted something, I would have to work for it.

Brooklyn is a unique place that has its own culture and energy. Life on the streets of Brooklyn was tough, but it also taught me valuable lessons about business and entrepreneurship. I learned how to communicate effectively with adults and how to "close the deal" when the opportunity presented itself. Wheeling and dealing was a part of life, and I was determined to be successful.

There is something about Brooklyn that fed my desire to be successful. It's a place where people hustle and work hard to achieve their dreams. The culture is unique, and it creates a sense of community and belonging. The streets are filled with small businesses and entrepreneurs, which inspired me to start my own business. I wanted to be a part of the Brooklyn community and contribute to its success.

Growing up in Brooklyn in the late 60s and early 70s was not always easy, but it taught me the value of hard work and determination. It was a time of change and upheaval, but it also provided opportunities for those who were willing to work hard. I am grateful for the lessons I learned during that time, and they continue to shape me as an entrepreneur today.

My entrepreneurial spirit continued to grow as I started babysitting for a family in my neighborhood, which gave me the opportunity to earn money on a regular basis. I always loved kids and taking care of younger children taught me how to be responsible. It was a great feeling to have the power to control my own finances.

Unfortunately, my father passed away when I was just 15 years old. This tragedy forced me to learn survival skills earlier than I should have. I had to find ways to make ends meet and not depend on my mom. I took on odd jobs, like working at a local supermarket and a dry cleaner. I knew that I had to work hard and earn in order to support myself.

At the age of 19, feeling a bit lost regarding my future, it was recommended by my girlfriend at the time whose brothers-in-law had opened an optical store, to attend school to become a licensed optician. The benefits immediately were realized as I became an apprentice at their store. I quickly realized that my sales and people skills were valued and that I wanted to pursue a career as an optician. Going to school and working was challenging, but I loved it and was determined to succeed. After three years of hard work and dedication, I became a licensed optician at the age of 22. I then worked at the store for five years before I became a partner in a second location opened by my employers at the age of 27. Although there was no financial risk, going from employee to employer provided new challenges that would serve me throughout my career.

Life as an entrepreneur has been quite a ride as it certainly has its risks, but the rewards are there. Patience is one of the key areas that I have needed to master as there is no guarantee of success or how long it will take to reach your goals.

In conclusion, my life growing up in Brooklyn was an experience that shaped me into the person I am today. From my first job shoveling snow to starting my own business, I learned the value of hard work and determination. Brooklyn is a unique place that fed my desire to be successful, and I am grateful for the lessons I learned during that time. I hope to inspire others to work hard and pursue their dreams, just as Brooklyn inspired me.


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