Entrepreneurs on Wheels
“Learn as many things as you can; you just may need it.” – Eric Snow
What’s it like to be Entrepreneurs?
Well, my husband and I have lived without collecting paychecks for the last 20+ years. He parted company with the status of “employee” back in 1981, and we officially became a team of enterpreneurs in 1994.
It was a completely scary time, as I was the manager of a union office that represented social workers and had climbed the ladder rewarded with a good salary and great benefits, including healthcare, dental care, and vision, not to mention a pension and a SEP-IRA. Leaving this job would be like turning off a money faucet.
We were building Mark’s fledgling video business, Crystal Pyramid Productions, and the money I earned at Local 535 was the major funder. I would ride my bike seven miles to work every day, then ride back home uphill, then work at home until two in the morning on video production and distribution.
Since Mark and I were so passionate about mountain biking, we had produced several videos on the sport, and were selling them around the world. That meant I needed to type up invoices, package orders, and get VHS videos ready for mailing. I was also writing up press releases and sending them out to publications and potential distributors. It was a lot of work. And that is what entrepreneurship is all about. But it really paid off in ways I will tell you about, further in the story.
A Mountain Biking Travel-Adventure Documentary
In 1993, we embarked on our biggest project yet, an around-the-world mountain-bike travel adventure to nine different countries. Union business, as my old boss, Larry, used to refer to it, is a “trouble business” meaning that every time the phone rang, it would be an irate member complaining about huge caseloads, problems with insurance coverage, and workplace problems. After fielding the “trouble” calls, cranking out newsletters and meeting notices on a printing machine for hundreds of members, keeping the office organized and supporting all the Union reps, then riding seven miles uphill to get home, I then needed to work another eight hours at home, preparing letters and proposals for tourism offices and potential sponsors.
We “narrowed” the countries we planned to visit down to nine including the USA. We ended up traveling to Canada, Costa Rica, Greece, Switzerland, Wales, Australia, Tahiti and India. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? It really was, except for all the work that had to along with it.
Most of the time there were three of us entrepreneurs traveling; Mark, me and the cameraman. There was no “grip”. We were the grips. We ran through three different cameramen, as each one eventually burned out from all the heavy lifting and moving and running and jumping and lifting and heaving… Well, you get the picture. We traveled with 900 pounds of luggage, including video equipment, bicycles, clothing and other gear.
I remember when we arrived in Athens, we needed two different taxis to carry the three of us and all our stuff to the hotel. Then when we got to the hotel, we had to drag everything up to our rooms in a teeny elevator which required four trips. And THEN, after getting off on the top floor, we had to trudge the equipment up a final floor with two sets of stairs.
Our documentary was an “Endless Summer With Mountain Bikes” and we were a couple of entrepreneurs searching for the world’s most awesome trails. We found some fantastic people who showed us their favorite trails in each country, and riding was a blast. It was the “Take Two’s!” and “Take Three’s!” and “Take Four’s!” that started to take their toll, especially if the scene involved any technical uphill riding. These additional takes usually turned out to be my fault, as Mark could ride just about any challenging piece of trail, but I tended to falter on certain terrain. (In fact, I edited a video highlighting a few of my little crashes in India. I’ll post it here, but only because I win in the end!)
On the Move
We would go off to a country or countries for several weeks at a time, then return home where I could earn more money at the union office to finance our next trip. Sponsors did come through, but a major portion of sponsorship came in the form of hard goods – bicycles, clothing, gloves, watches, etc. The union was kind enough to allow me such leeway to travel because I was a great office manager and they did not want to lose me, although I think they sensed I was on the edge of departure.
So we were constantly on the move, working, traveling, mountain biking, video producing one of the first “reality” shows ever done. It was exhausting.I knew I would not be able to continue in this manner for very much longer. In 1994, as we were finishing production of our documentary, “Full Cycle: A World Oddyssey.” I quit my job at the union and officially turned off the money faucet.
And of course there were nights I would stay awake worrying about how we would make ends meet.
But as time went on, I would discover how taking that leap of faith into entrepreneurship was one of the best life decisions I ever made.