"What business are you in?"
It was an innocent question from James, the kind, starched-shirt banker who was helping me close out my business checking account last week.
"Hmmm . . ." I hedged, drawing the word out a while to buy time to think.
I know what I do now. I write. I edit. I speak. Suddenly, though, I couldn't remember what wares I'd been hawking when I opened the bank account 10 years ago.
"Ummm . . ." I stalled, "That's a good question. I'm a writer now, but when I opened the account, I was probably selling something."
Was it custom magnets for wheelchair-accessible vans? Personal puppets that matched their owners, like American Girl dolls? Jingle bell necklaces? Wonder Woman figurines strung as weird, bulky necklaces? Hand-painted toilet plungers? Because so many of my work-at-home businesses had failed, it was suddenly hard to remember how I'd begun.
I continued to babble, "I'm a stinky business person. I really shouldn't be allowed to sell stuff."
It was the first useful thing I'd said to James.
Now, as I mentally scanned the two-decade-long entrepreneurial train wreck, I realized that I actually had learned something about being a work-at-home woman.
Time is money
My first business—featuring a stick-figure logo that looked a lot like me grinning and waving "jazz hands"—was Starstruck Creative Clothing. In 1991, I cleaned out every San Diego thrift store of denim jeans, jackets, and overalls, then dyed these garments rich shades of purples, pinks, greens, and oranges. I then embellished them by stitching psychedelic fabric from groovy 1970s dresses onto them. I'm not going to lie: These one-of-a-kind creations were delicious.1