“And then, I made it home all safe, but I was scared to walk on that road every again” my father told me with a flourish of the hands, finishing up a story about his childhood. With my seven year old eyes glued to his animated expressions, I couldn’t help but feel amazed. Like many other kids around the world, I loved stories, especially the ones my parents told me, describing the incredibly different living circumstances of their youth.
My dad had just finished his third encore, and my eager fists were pumping against the bed sheets in hopes that he would tell me one more. This story time went on until I was in late elementary school. At some point, my dad resorted to telling the same stories again because he had run through all of them, but I still sat there each night that I could listen to them in rapt fascination.
Unlike most kids though, I never grew out of that story phase. In middle school, while my friends were playing Minecraft and talking about their latest kill count on Call of Duty, I was working on a script for Hollywood. Looking back now, it was crude. My first “story” was about buying a friend on Amazon and not being able to return him. In retrospect, this was probably a way for me to release repressed emotions about my best friend moving away, but instead of moping about, I wrote. And I kept on writing. From 5th grade to 8th, I wrote around around over a hundred short stories and novellas. Each week, I went through books upon books looking for something that would pique my interest and provide inspiration for my next big best seller. One of these stories was a 30 page masterpiece I cowrote called “Case of The Missing Baby”, a mystery about disappearing babies and a portal through to another dimension. Another one was called “5th Grade Blues”, a diary style novella about a student, his ghost friend, and their various hijinks throughout elementary school.
None of my stories ended up being published, but I was ok with that.
Outside of those short stories, I also managed to write 5-6 different scripts for short films that I made and submitted to the school film festival. I managed to win twice before the contest was shut down because there weren’t enough entries. Middle school me was renaissance me in a way. I lovingly embraced my pursuit of creativity, and my parents cheered for me.
And then came high school. Something changed.
In ninth grade, I managed to only read 4-5 books. Instead of filling my time pursuing the joy of creation, I saddled down for Netflix binge watching and surfing the web. If I used to be Leonardo Da Vinci, I was now Doldrums Dave. I was still into stories, but now they were on the screen in front of me playing out in an endless stream of mindless entertainment. By the end of my freshman year, I had developed a love of multi-season TV shows and… business.
Surprisingly enough, business became something of a turning point for me. Just like my dad had influenced me through my youth with his recollections of his childhood in China, his experiences running his own little company gave me the motivation to look more into entrepreneurship. Starting from middle school, my dad had quit his job as an engineer to pursue his true interests which were in sales. His company never took off, but the piles of lean startup books and Inc. Magazines around the house were jet fuel for my passion to keep creating and bringing useful products to people around the world
For the summer of 2017, many of my friends were out and about jumping off old abandoned bridges to cool off, cranking out the hours on their favorite video games to relax, or vacationing. I am proud to say that I was… not doing anything. In fact, for the whole month of July, I just sat in the house thinking about how lucky I was to have air conditioner. Guess what I was also doing? You got it: I was watching Netflix. But by the middle of the summer, I was getting fed up. While it used to take me an hour to get sick of playing a game, it had taken me a full year to get sick of sitting around and doing nothing. I felt horrible.
The next, generally mundane moment, is ingrained in my mind. My dad was eating a package of King’s Hawaiian Rolls, and he was pointing out to me the interesting story about the family business that was written on the back. Alternating bites of the sweet bread and commentary on the package, he noted how it would be so interesting if we could collect all the stories from these packages and make a website that aggregated them in a nice, easy to read format where you could search up a company and get a short blurb on how they were founded.
While my dad was explaining his revelation to me, my mind was taking it into a completely different direction. I was plagued with inaction, but now I had a way to get to action. And I loved business! Now I had an excuse to talk to the best of the best! A few days later, escaping from the sweltering heat of the summer, I entered my favorite alcove in the local library and set up a basic WordPress site to get started.
Businesses With Stories had officially begun.