My husband and I want to start our own business… here’s why we can’t

just usMy husband and I want to start a business some day.

Right now, I work a nine-to-five. He works in shifts. Our time off doesn’t overlap a lot. We get a fairly decent pay and we make it work for now. But to be honest? At that rate, we’ll never be able to get ahead. We’ll be enslaved to our jobs for life.

We don’t have a problem with hard work. We know that startups take a lot of work – we each have had a failed try at starting a business – so we don’t mind working long hours. We’re doing it already at our jobs. But we think that having our own thing will let us work those long hours together and also pay more than a dayjob.

Is starting a business the only way to our goal of being together more? Let’s see.

Option #1: earn more money at our jobs

My husband is 35 and doesn’t have a degree. He’s only had experience at blue-collar jobs and frankly, we think he’s already reached the cap on his earning potential. Even if he went for a degree now, he will need four years, so he will be 40 when he graduates – with zero relevant experience. So getting a degree at 40 isn’t likely to help him earn more at his job, or at any job.

Me? I’m 28 and have a broad degree in Economics. I’ve only had white-collar jobs and I’ve always been great at them, but my work history shows I’ve changed a lot of positions, companies and towns. Due to either ambition or circumstance, I’ve started over too many times – the longest I’ve stayed at a job is 2 years, and most of my jobs were six-months. They were all in different areas. Now I’m suddenly 28, and my chances of starting a career now are not great.

We also want to have three kids. We’re expecting our first baby girl in January 2014, after which I’ll go on maternity leave for maybe 6 months. By the time I’m done with my last pregnancy, I’ll most likely be 33 (with several “pauses” in my “career” due to maternity leaves), and my husband will be 40. So the cost of raising kids will be not only a rise in monthly expenses, but also several years of missed professional experience and opportunities.

So right now, the option to earn more money at our jobs seems kinda slim.

Option #2: earn more money through side gigs

I actually have two side gigs: my blog (ha!) and my dance class (haha!). I have to laugh because the money I get from that is just… hahaha! Feel free to point a finger at me and laugh.

I used to make good money off dance classes, but that was back in my home town where we were the first in town fifteen years ago, and where we have a great location. After I moved to my husband’s town 6 months ago, we worked on building a group from nothing. We did, but the earnings were not stable and also there is a plateu point – something like a glass ceiling of earning you can’t exceed. And now that my due date is approaching, I have to stop dancing for several months… and then start over again.

As for my website, I earn close to nothing right now. I think it has a potential to earn more, but ever since I met my husband we were so busy I kind of neglected it. (First it was the sweet dating phase, then planning a wedding, then the apartment remodel, and now the baby.)

I could also teach lessons in English – I’ve done this in the past – so that’s another option. My husband also has some ideas for side gigs.

To top it all off – I’m new to town so I don’t have much of a social network or professional connections. At the local store, I’m still not on a first-name basis with the cashiers. (And my husband doesn’t really know a lot of people, even though he’s from this town.)

But the truth is, building a side gig to the point where it earns at least some decent money is hard. You have to invest a lot of time and it doesn’t always work out. Even if it does work out, side gigs are usually a one-man show – miss a day, miss a buck – and also there is this plateu of earnings.

And if developing a side business takes as much of a tall as a proper business, wouldn’t it be better if we went straight for the proper business?

Option #3: start our own business

This weekend we were strolling the town centre when we saw an empty space for rent.
“That would be perfect for a clothes shop,” my husband said. “It’s a great location.”

He was right.

I spent the next few days thinking about what he said. I didn’t talk about it, but I entertained the thought in my head quite a bit.

Yesterday, my husband brought the idea up again – obviously, he had been thinking about it, too.
“I think we could have tried it if we weren’t expecting a baby,” he said.
“Yeah. The baby will put a hold on everything for the next, ummm, one year?”
“Sure. We could wait. It’s not like we have the money right now, either.”

This got me thinking for a second.
“But honey,” I said, “will we have the money in one year? I don’t think we can save that much in a year even if we lived on bread and water.”
“I guess so.”
“We’d have to save for maybe two years to build some sort of capital we can invest. And when we finally have it, we’ll have to bet two years’ worth of workhours on one single shot. And if we don’t make it, we’ll need another two years before we can take another shot.”
“You don’t know that, little owl*. Maybe in one year, we’ll be earning more through our jobs, so saving for investment capital won’t take that long.”

*Little owl is his pet name for me :) Isn’t it the cutest?

“Well I hope so. But even if we had all the money to start a business – I’m not talking strictly about a clothes shop, but about some sort of money-earning project in general – even if we had the money, we wouldn’t have the time to manage it.”
“We could employ someone, you know. Someone to man the store (if it’s a store). It will add to costs a bit, but at least we’ll know that if the things fails, we’ll still have a steady income from our jobs.”

I shook my head. “I don’t think we could get away just by hiring someone. There’s a lot of other stuff we’d have to do besides manning the store – we’d have to set up a company, deal with accounting stuff, sign renting contracts, and do deliveries. You can’t assign all that on someone else.”
“I know. And you’ll probably be pregnant again while our first child will still be a toddler. Even if you’re on maternity leave, you’ll be pretty busy with the kids.”

We fell silent.

“Come here,” he said and gave me a hug and a kiss – my favorite care package. I cuddled. “We’ll figure it out, little owl, don’t worry. Now is just not the time.”

Option #4: put everything off until better times

For right now, we have a valid reason not to start anything in the business department – our baby girl will be a first kid for us and we have no idea what we’re in for. And since we have zero experience in taking care of a baby, we want to give it all our time and effort. Plus we really don’t have the money to start anything. No business or side gigs in the near future, folks!

On the one hand, I can’t help but wonder – will we ever get there? After we have our first baby, we want to have two more. We will need a home with at least 3 bedrooms + kitchen, and I really hate apartments so I want a house. A one-floor house with no neighbours living above or below us (there are many houses with two to four floors and one family per floor, which is awful). At one point we’ll have to buy a newer car. We’ll have three kids to feed, clothe, and educate.

But on the other hand, I have this strong internal feeling that somehow, we will have enough. I don’t know how exactly, but I’m pretty sure we’ll find a way.

* * *

Yesterday we went out for pizza… kind of. We shared one small pizza and one beer – we’re saving for a startup, right?

I was on my third slice when my husband brought up the startup again. He’d had pretty much the same concerns as me – three kids, buying a house, maternity leaves.

“Our jobs pay enough – at least for now, when it’s just the two of us – and currently we’re actually better off than 50% of the people,” he said and took some large gulps of beer. “Are you gonna eat that?” he pointed at Slice #4.

“Fo, you hun huffit” – I said and reached for the beer.
“You hun huffit, huykit” – I repeated, then used the beer to wash down a mouthful of pizza. “You can have it, take it. You were saying?”

He forked Slice #5. “There are many couples who are worse off than us – where only one person is working, or where they both work but for minimum wage.”
“I know! Or they earn enough but work horrible hours.”
“Yeah. But just because we earn more than them doesn’t mean we earn enough to start a business, you know?”

I changed my mind about the pizza and took a delicious, steamy triangle in my hand. I nodded at him.

“And besides, I’m not sure we even have a good business idea, little owl. Maybe we will, later on. Or not. What if this business thing just doesn’t happen?”
“Baby, I’m not saying we should run a business. I’m not even saying we should start a business at all costs. I just want us to earn more money and work less hours eventually. If I have a job that allows me to do that, heck, I’m not going to walk away from it just so I can spend 12 hours a day trying to make a small clothes shop earn pocket money.”
“That’s what I’ve been thinking.”
“Sure. To me, it doesn’t matter whether we work a 9 to 5, run a business or do something on the side. I don’t care about what others will think of how we earn our living. All I want is for us to be able to provide for our kids and have enough family time. Is that too much to ask?”

As I watched my husband pay the bill on our way out, I looked at my watch. It was getting close to ten PM, it was dark and cold outside. I looked at the staff girl putting the money away. She was very polite but she looked tired. Her kids wouldn’t get to see mommy this evening because by the time she gets home they’ll be asleep.

Then I saw another woman who looked more senior. Was she the manager or the owner? Her kids wouldn’t see mommy tonight, either.

We got in the car. I was going to be driving tonight – not just because my husband had a beer, but because I had asked him to teach me “how to drive like a man.” He was a much better driver than I was, and I actually didn’t feel very comfortable driving. Which is exactly why I asked him to teach me.

We were pretty silent on our way home. We were also tired from our jobs, from remodeling the apartment, and for all the thinking and decision-making we had to do lately.

At home, as I was waiting for him to come to bed, I was thinking about our talk. Almost none of the people I knew had enough family time. Nor money. Almost all of them worked unimpressive jobs, just like us.

Obviously, if we wanted a life out of the average, we’d have to do something out of the average.

This won’t be the last time we talk about this, I thought to myself. There will be many more. But eventually, we’ll figure it out.

We will.

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11 thoughts on “My husband and I want to start our own business… here’s why we can’t”

  1. Change needs acting, not talking. Words are cheap most of the time.

    My wife and I have been talking about businesses for over 7 years now. So have our neighbours. And some friends we know. Thinking and talking would not get you anywhere nice.

    There is another aspect – the more comfy you become in your life, the harder it will get to give it all up.

    To see how you are going to live in 10 years time – find a family who work similar jobs to you and are 10 years ahead. People working hard in their jobs are unlikely to accumulate more than 10% above the average capital accumulated by alike households. I’ve tested this already. However special you may feel – you will stay within the rails of the social group you are in. There are many factors that contribute and regulate this, but this is another topic.

    Your real chance for a change is to act. In fact, you would be more reluctant to invest your hard earned money than invest borrowed money from a bank or business investor. Human psychology :)

  2. Me and my girlfriend are in exact the same situation. We both have jobs that we don’t like but we both don’t have enough knowledge and earnings to start a business of our own… But we keep dreaming and talking about it and waiting “better days to come” :)

  3. Hi Andy,

    Of course words are not deeds. But just because we eventually would like more time together doesn’t mean we want to start a business RIGHT NOW. Or ever. My point was, sometimes just wanting something bad enough is not enough.

    If we went into building a business right now, it would be catastrophic because we have neither the time nor the money. We’ve accepted that and made our peace with it. Sometimes you just have to wait. And that’s not easy.

    I disagree with your theory about “look at a family like you that’s had jobs like you.” It’s not just about what your job is or how much you make, it’s also about what you do with the money you make. Just because someone has a job similar to mine doesn’t mean they are in the same financial boat as me.

  4. We don’t actually hate our jobs. I like my job and he likes his. Could thing be better at work? Sure! It’s always like that :)

    Our problem with our jobs is that we don’t have enough time left to spend together. Also that we can’t pass over our jobs to our children (whereas if we had a business or other investment it would help our children).

    Sometimes, people just make excuses. Other times, there are good reasons why you should wait. Right now I believe we really have good reasons to wait. But hey – time will tell :)

  5. If you want to start a clothes shop, you will need at least 2000 levs. My wife started a small clothes shop in sofia and this is the minimum starting price. This includes the firm creation the rent for the place, some inventory, and some clothes for starting. You can’t do it all yourself, so you’ll need to have a seller at least for part time. If you don’t start to earn some money from the first month, you will need to pay about 300 levs per month as a salary. And that is the minimum(this includes all taxes and insurances).
    My wife keeps reinvesting all the sells in new clothes so at the beginning we had clothes for about 600 levas and now we have for about 1600 levas.
    2-3000levs is not bad, but it is worth it if at the third or fourth month there is some hope for earning at least for living. After this point it is better to give up especially if you don’t have a lot of money.

  6. Hey, thanks for the numbers. We actually think 2000 leva (1000 EUR) won’t get us anywhere. In our calculations, it’s more like 2500-3000 EUR, and that’s just the seed money. Also we estimate labor costs will be higher – there are not many people willing to work for minimum wage and besides, would we want a minimum-wage employee in our shop? What kind of job would they do?

    Anyway, right now we’re still working on the apartment, and that costs us money. We also have lots of expenses coming up with delivering the baby and providing for her. (We’re guessing the second time around it will be easier since we’ll have most of the stuff bought already for the first one ;)

    I think sometimes, you just have to know when to fold, and wait for a better hand.

  7. Todor, 300 levas salary in Sofia?! Wow!

    Raya, what if your next one is a boy, would you dress him in the same baby clothes :-)

    One more thought.

    Sometimes starting a small cute business is an appealing idea – the business model is simple and easily understood and upfront investments are small – seems like a safe bet. The truth however is that it is better to start a niche business in a field you have most expertise in. Or a business where you can apply your skills best. That would give you a great return and shoot you up financially. It is supposed to be easy to start in your field, but it is sometimes the hardest.

    I read a nice success story in forbes recently – two guys started a business with $100 and four years later are turning $10mln a year!

  8. If our next one is a boy, hmmm :)) Good question. I will go for more uni-sex clothes :)

    As for your business example… there’s a reason that particular case made it to Forbes: because it’s RARE.

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