Student Spotlight: From Boredom to Business: My Business Experience

January 30, 2015

Maximilia Akakpo

Maximilia Akakpo

In 2009, back in my home country of Togo when I was still a teenager, I started my own business selling homemade popcorn and toffee candy. What made me start my business? Honestly, it all started because I was feeling bored at home and wanted to be active.

Back in my home country in the summer, children sometimes go on vacation in different places, but most of the time they create their own little business in the summer so they can have at least a little money of their own before the school year starts again. In the summer, everybody gets busy. People leave their house at nine a.m. and come back at five p.m. However, my parents, who at that time were already living in United States, forbade my sisters and me from doing such things. They told us to ask them for money whenever we needed it. Waking up in the morning and not seeing anybody at home--not my cousins, not my aunt, not my friends to hang out with--got me bored. I decided to keep myself busy by starting a business without my parents knowing about it.

Problem was, I had no idea what business I wanted to create. Then one of my cousins, who had a lot experience with businesses, came up with the idea that I should sell homemade popcorn and candies. She even suggested that I could take my stuff and hers, and we could go sell them from house to house for fun, instead of staying home. She also suggested that we could go sell our stuff in the flea market. I liked her idea, and we went to buy the ingredients for my business. I made the popcorn and put them in cellophane plastic bags with popcorn stickers that I bought. I put two candies in each popcorn bag. I did the same with the toffee candies; after I finished cooking them, I put each into small plastic bags for sale. I started selling my stuff in the flea market, but later I changed my mind and set my business outside our house because not only did it give me more free time, but also I got more customers.

Who were my customers? What was life like in my community?  Well, I was born in the capital of Togo, and the capital is frequented by many people, for example, tourists and people from the other places of the country who come to buy goods and services. The district I lived in is also very busy. There are many residents there, stores, beauty salons, homes, churches, and restaurants. The atmosphere is lively. People play soccer and other games all the time. There are a lot of children, and since children like treats the most, that area was the best area for the success of my business. People bought so much of my stuff that I had to make more popcorn and toffee every two or three days!

What was the most difficult part in my business, you might ask? It was no doubt the first time I made the popcorn and the candy to sell. I got the help of my cousin and my sisters making it, but it was still difficult. I made the popcorn and the candies in any size I wanted, without thinking about my purchase price and my benefits. I made them all big sizes. However, I learned from that. I learned that in starting a business, you have to calculate your purchase price, your return price, and your profit (gain). The second time of making my popcorn and toffee candy, I calculated in advance the total money I should make. I added my purchase money to the gain that I wanted from my business to find the total money I should make from selling my stuff. From that, I knew the size that my popcorn and candy should be in, in order to fit my math. Thanks to my first bad experience and the lesson I learned from it, I always knew in advance the amount of gain I would get each time I made my popcorn and candy. Also thanks to that experience, I always got a pretty good amount every time my stuff sold on the market and I calculated my total amount made. From that amount, I took out my purchase money, which I used to go buy new ingredients, and was left with my gains profit, which I saved in case I needed something and didn’t want to ask my parents.

The most rewarding part of having my own business was that I had fun with it, and I learned from it. It gave me a good experience on how to start a business, what to expect, and how to manage it in order for it to be a success.  With all my income made, I paid my ticket and my little sister’s ticket for a summer trip in my Girl Scout troop. I also paid for my Girl Scout uniform and other little needs. I could have asked my parents for all that money, but I am glad I paid for them from my own savings.  For me, that is an example of being able to depend on myself.

Even though I loved my experience, if I would have to change one thing about it, it would have to be making my business bigger. I mean, I would like to have sold more than just popcorn and toffee candy. I would have sold other things, too, and made my little business into a big business, but of course by doing it one step at a time and with intelligence. With my popcorn and toffee candy experience, I experienced what daily life is really like for workers. I experienced living in a business world. It was a great experience, and the best part was when my parents finally heard about it. They were actually proud of me instead of being mad. My dad still talks about it now, and that made my experience more exciting. I don’t regret that experience and never will.