I’m still reeling from your recent remarks about small business owners in America. With one sweeping generalization, you stated that those of us who have had successful businesses did not earn that success. Instead, you insist that someone else made it happen for us. I’ve written to tell you my story in the hopes that you will see the foolishness of your unproven assertions.
Back in 1989, I decided to pursue a PhD in Criminology. I was nearing the end of my Master’s program in Psychology. I had a teaching assistantship that paid a mere $345 per month. I knew that I could not live on $345 per month for the minimum of three years I would need to finish my doctorate. I also knew that my parents would not be able to extend the same financial support they had so graciously extended while I was working on my Master’s degree. So I devised a plan to start a new business with just $1000 of initial investment.
My grandfather had passed away in December of 1988. In the late spring of 1989, my grandmother mailed me a check for $1000 that had been part of a life insurance policy payout issued upon my grandfather’s death. In the late summer of 1989, I met a graduate student by the name of Shannon Ruscoe. He had been playing tennis with my roommate Harry Wilson the day I met him. I was sitting in my living room playing a song by James Taylor when Shannon started singing along. After just a few minutes of listening to Shannon sing, I knew my life would never be the same again.
I called Shannon later that fall and asked if he wanted to get together and rehearse a few songs. We did. Within a few weeks we were hanging out at keg parties in places like Starkville’s College Station apartment complex. After a few beers, I would go to my car and get my 12-string. As our repertoire increased, so did Shannon’s confidence as a singer.
After a few months of getting to know Shannon, I laid out a plan. I found a beautiful Alvarez six-string with a cedar top and black jacaranda back and sides. I realized I could buy the guitar and install a Martin thin-line pickup under the bridge for just $700. With the remaining $300, I told Shannon that, for just $30 per night, we could rent a PA system from our friend Jim Beaty, the owner of Backstage Music in Starkville. The idea was that after playing free ten times we could start to earn a living as musicians.