Candy Bars and the Taste of Business

Two things fascinated me as a kid: candy and the thrill of building something of my own.

I would spend my days shoveling gummy bears into my mouth while simultaneously planning out my next big project. Building a treehouse, making bicycle storage cart, collecting aluminum cans to cash in, anything was possible.

One blazing hot day in the summer 2006, I found myself staring down at my hand. $7.00 dollars. Laying in my hand, slightly crinkled, was $7.00 dollars. My weekly allowance. Not different from the last week, but for that week, something didn’t sit right with me about it. I wanted more money. 

I loved books and I loved video games. Books and video games costed money and I knew I wouldn’t get a lot with $6.00 dollars a week. It would take weeks to save up for something, then I would spend the money, and then what? Have nothing once again. It didn’t sit well with me. So I set out for something more.

In summer 2006, I opened up my first business, a candy counter store inside of my mom’s assisted care facility. At the tender age of 12 years old, it felt like a huge deal to me. I had spent around $30 (a month’s worth of pay!) on signage, decorations, menus, and so on. Using Microsoft Publisher on the computer at the library, I designed menus, logos, and other materials for the business.

Colin Ashby cafe
On June 23,2006 Colin’s Cafe was born.

I sold a variety of candy bars, chips, and sodas in the little room I called my business. Every few weeks, when the town grocery store would have the candy bars marked down to 3 for a dollar, I would rummage a bunch together and buy them. My pricing at the cafe was 0.75 cents for candy bars, 0.75 cents for 12.oz soda, and 0.60 cents for a bag of chips.

With the business up and running, I started to bring in money (which, as a 12-year-old, I thought was good money). My brothers, sisters, and parents one by one started to ask me what I was going to do with the money I had. My mind would reminisce back to the thought of the copious amount of books, video games, and other gadgets I could buy. Instead, staring down at the cash, something changed and instead I put the money aside. I opened up my first savings account (or as I liked to call it at the time, my business account). Every week, after tallying up the costs and money made, I would take all of the profits and deposit them into my savings account.

Now, at age 21, I can see why I was so keen on wanting to save my money: because everyone else around me wasn’t.

Looking back on growing up, I remember all the things people around me bought. New cars, pricey home renovations funded by credit cards, wasting money on junk food. It was weird. Me and people my age were told we needed to go to college or else we would be destined to living a life of burger flipping. Buy a new care was rationalized by saving it was being used to build one’s credit. Going to graduate school, no matter what the price tag, was seen as being able to further one’s career. People bought big houses, ones they could barely afford, because bigger was better.

While all of this was going on, I rarely ever heard discussion about retirement planning, budgeting, emergency funds, or investing. As a senior in high school, soon to leave for college, I and everyone around me was told to not worry about student loans because we would just get a job after college and be able to start paying it back.

Colin’s Cafe, my first business endeavor, gave me my first real experience with managing money. Looking back on that experience and the experiences of growing up and going through college, I noticed a lack of basic financial literacy among many people. They didn’t know how to properly save, budget, and deciding between needs and wants.

I’m not a whiz on the aspect of personal finance. So far the only things l really know are about saving, emergency funds, and using side hustles to make more. Investing, IRAs, index funds, and so on, I still have a lot to learn. And that’s the exciting thing, I want to learn more about it, and I want to share it, write about it, and help people become more knowledgable with their money.

Most of all, I want to help people take charge of their money and their life. It’s all about getting started.


photo via Unsplash