Labor Day has unofficially come to be known as the last weekend of summer. However, Labor Day holds a greater significance than just the last paid vacation day of the summer season. Labor Day is an observance of the contributions that workers have made and still make to this country. Today is dedicated to the strength and perseverance of the people who have made America what it is today — YOU and ME!
In thinking about the significance of Labor Day, I am reminded of my first job and how it has shaped me, my career, and business ambitions to date. My first official foray into the world of work started in my family’s business; a beauty supply store that my mom started with the help of my dad.
After working for years in the legal field as a secretary, my mom decided she had enough and wanted to start her own business. Starting a business was new territory for my family, and it was a thrilling, often stressful, but ultimately highly motivating experience.
I was 16 years old when my family launched their business. As someone who had not previously had any exposure to the work world, working with my family was like an immersion course. When you work in the family business there is no such thing as only having one job. You pitch in anywhere and everywhere help is needed. I helped with everything in the store. I ran the cash register, re-stocked shelves, worked with vendors, and helped to generate sales right alongside my mom.
While the tasks were much like any you would find in a retail store, there is something so much more intense about working in a business your family owns. For one, you are more personally connected to every sale you make or don’t make, as the financial success of the business directly affects your household.
As a beauty supply store and salon, our customers were primarily women. It was in their company that my passion for business, building community, and empowering women was sparked. It became very clear to me early that we weren’t just selling products. As the only black-owned beauty supply store in the area we were also an essential part of the community.
I learned so much from our customers, and watching my mom work the business. Without any prior experience or formal business degree, my mom turned an idea into her own enterprise through hard-work and dedication. Her actions taught me so many lessons about what it takes to be successful, and I gained so much insight into how business works . My mom provided me with the greatest example that dedication attached to purpose can create something truly great.
Fast forward to now, I currently earn my living working in human resources. My career allows me to help shape the success of businesses by working directly with the companies most valuable assets – their employees! I enjoy what I do today, but I will never forget the impact my first job has had in establishing who I am as a worker.
My first job also helped spark the desire to learn more about who I could be as a founder of an enterprise. On a day like today, I am happy celebrate the strength and genius of workers all across this great country.
I hope I haven’t bored you too much with my first job story. I’d really like to hear your stories also.
What did your first job teach you?