Dody Johnson

A Six Year Old Business

A Six Year Old Business


     How do you teach a pint-size six year old girl to provide for the family?  You fill her red wagon with tins of butter cream candies and tell her not to come home until they're all sold.  While my father climbed the corporate ladder to his success, he explained the basics of business to me.  "Dody, you will never lack for food or a roof over you head if you learn the skills to sell.  When you're an adult, you may find yourself between jobs, and if you can sell, you will never have to worry about paying the bills.  You will be compensated for your hard work."

     I had no idea what my father was talking about and it didn't matter.  On Saturday mornings during the summer, Artie, my older brother and I stood in the garage while Dad filled my red wagon and Artie's canvas bag with tins of candy. 

     "Dad, that's a lot of candy to sell.  I won't be home until dark," my small voice lets out.

     "If you sell it all today, you can play tomorrow.  But remember, You will sell tomorrow what you don't sell today."

     Dad yelled to me as I walked down the sidewalk pulling my inventory behind me,

     "Make me proud."

     We always had to sell to new people, so each time I went out I ventured farther from home.  Dad was a stickler about not selling to people we knew.  "You'll never learn powerful selling skills by taking money from friends and family.  The best way to learn is cold calling, door to door talking to strangers."

     Every step I took towards the front door of an unfamiliar home was filled with trepidation.  Who would open the door?  The moms were my favorite.  They were nice and often bought a tin or two.  The dads were ok sometimes, and sometimes they slammed the door in my face.  I hated when that happened and I had to muster all the strength inside me to keep on going.  The kids were the worst.  They answered the door and then didn't tell anyone I was there, so I waited and waited.  Do I ring the bell again or do I walk away?  I had too much candy to sell, so I rang the bell again.

     In 1959 it was perfectly normal for a six year old girl to wander around the neighborhood knocking on strangers' doors.  We didn't get paid for selling because as Dad put it, "You two are lucky, most people have to pay a hefty fee to receive good sales training."

     The money we earned paid for the candy and the profit went towards the household expenses.  I can still hear my father say, "You enjoy the food prepared for you don't you?  The clothes you wear are lovely, and I'm sure you appreciate having a warm house to live in."

    Artie and I went in opposite directions to sell our candy and came home each Saturday, late in the afternoon with an empty wagon and canvas bag.  We had two motivators to get the job done in one day.  First motivator was, Artie and I raced to finish the task and turned it into a contest.  The winner was the first one home with all goods sold.  Artie always won, but he was three years older than me and more experienced.  The second motivator was not having to sell the next day.

     During the week, when we finished our chores, Artie and I pulled my wagon around the neighborhood looking for treasures in the street to sell.  It was fun peddling our own inventory.  Our biggest seller was broken colored glass.  We sold each piece for five cents.  We sold bottle caps for a penny, necklaces and bracelets for a dime, and sometimes we even found money.  Our selling approach was a little different than my father's.  We sold only to people we knew.  When we ran out of unique items to sell, we sold lemonade on the front sidewalk.  The same stand we used to sell lemonade was also Artie's comic book stand.  He sold his old, worn comic books and traded some for books he hadn't read yet, and I was his comic book assistant.

     I totally understood this work thing after my first summer on the job.  I worked hard and sometimes I liked it, sometimes I didn't.  The best part was being rewarded for my hard work.  Once a week Artie and I rode our bikes to the candy store with the money earned from selling our treasures found in the street.  We purchased whatever our hearts desired.  I guess you could say I was well compensated.