My First Business

Over the years I’ve owned several businesses and co-founded a startup. This is the story of my very first business.

Unless, of course, the statute of limitations has not run out… In which case, the following is a complete work of fiction. Really.

So one Spring day Helen’s boyfriend Anthony showed up at the house, and he gave me a sheet of paper that would change my summer.

It was a list of fireworks and pricing.

Now, fireworks were illegal in the Bronx so you couldn’t buy them in stores. That never, however, seemed to dampen the barrage of rockets and explosions you’d typically hear in the run-up to July 4th and on the night itself.

So, unlike other years, I now actually had a place to buy them – Anthony’s family was selling them out of their basement.

I quickly shared the list with Andrew, and we soon noticed an odd pricing discrepancy. You could buy one of a particular rocket for $1, but get a dozen of that same rocket for only $8. We quickly realized that if you bought a dozen and sold eight, you’d end up with four free rockets.

We saw similar opportunities all over that price list. And in our neighborhoods, kids didn’t have $20 to spend on fireworks in bulk but they certainly had a buck or two. We could really do this, and end up with a bunch of free fireworks for the 4th.

My first business was born!

Andrew and I pooled our available cash, grabbed a small duffel bag, and headed over to Anthony’s house. (We had to walk, since we were still in our young teens.)

Anthony’s mom greeted us at the door, and she took an immediate liking to Andrew. “What a cute face!” she’d beam, while slipping some extra free stuff into our bag.

We slunk back to my house via the park, acting like we were smuggling the Holy Grail or something (not realizing that the cops didn’t give a rat’s ass about our penny-ante shenanigans.) We busted up the packs, got some matches, and hit the neighborhood.

Now, food sellers know a great way to advertise is to give out samples. We weren’t going to do that, but the next best thing with fireworks was to shoot some off. That always brought kids running.

So we put the word out that we were selling them and business took off. We went back to Anthony’s house repeatedly (always with Andrew, so his cute face would get us free stuff) and ended up buying all sorts of different things we might not otherwise have gotten.

And when July 4th came around, we had maybe $200 or more worth of free fireworks. (Plus about 50 boxes of sparklers, which were throw-ins on some of the packages we’d gotten.)

We had a great old time firing off that stuff. We spent maybe a whole hour just on firecrackers, and that was lighting them off a pack or two at a time. Then we had something that looked like a mortar – a heavy cardboard tube mounted on a flat piece of wood, that shot a ball far into the air that exploded in burst of color. Interesting, but not worth what we paid for it.


That was when I noticed that we had grosses of penny rockets, which are boring as hell – they go up with a whistle and bang like a firecracker. So I unwrapped a dozen of them and stuck them in the mortar tube, then lit a sparkler and dropped it in. Presto – I had devised a rapid fire rocket launcher!

We had all sorts of fun with the fireworks until we finally ran out some hours later.

And early the next morning, my dad dragged my butt out of bed to go outside and clean up all that fireworks trash.

But it was worth it.


Here’s a photo of Andrew I dug up.andrew

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