The Social Worker Starts A Business

I always feel amused by my response, “business woman,” when people ask me “what do you do?” It makes me smile inside because it still takes me by surprise. I am actually a social worker by training, specializing in children’s mental health. My only training in business is the innumerable games of Monopoly I used to play as a kid (o.k., I admit it, I have been known to play now and again as an adult too!) But I must say, I used to rule the board! My secret? Buy, buy, and then buy some more! It didn’t matter if it was Boardwalk or Baltic, Reading Railroad or Electric Company! Buy and then trade later — that was my motto! I almost always won! Decisions were so much easier then…

My business partner, Helena, is a teacher by training, and one of my most favorite artists. She designs all of our shirts. I certainly didn’t pull her on board for her business skills–nor for her lack of time— she spends most of her days chasing her 3-year-old twins around town. But I thought my Monopoly skills and passion for revolutionizing pink merged with Helena’s aesthetic could get us to Oprah and Ellen, then on to Paris and Tokyo!


So I’ve been faithfully trying to draw on my monopoly skills in this Handsome in Pink business venture I have going; but it just has not translated–not yet anyways. I can’t afford to buy, buy, buy. There is no end to what I could buy really: advertising EVERYWHERE, bulk tees by the truckload, … a personal HiP jet? I hate to bring attention to further deficits, but honestly, my tired mommy brain hasn’t helped my organizational skills either. Needless to say, I’ve made every mistake in the book. (I wish I had been organized enough to write them down.)


I will try to remember the “best” mistakes. Here’s a real noticeable one: when you visit our website, scroll down in the baby section to those reduced price organic bibs and tees that have either a “tickled” or a dirtbike image in (gulp) NEON PINK. Yep. Mistake. Helena and I, for the record, are not fans of neon pink — even bubblegum pink has its place sometimes, but not neon pink! In the beginning, we didn’t realize the color sheet the screenprinters gave us was not the actual ink color going on the shirts. Who knew? Silly us, right?


We’ve paid to set up a table at festivals a few times where we’ve grossly misjudged the festival attendees (do not remind me about the synagogue holiday sale which was predominantly attended by women over age 80 — three sales the entire weekend).


We (I, actually) applied for business/resale licenses by a shady online company as opposed to just going in person to the city of Oakland (for that, I was overcharged by hundreds). Then there was the company we worked with so we could receive people’s credit-card orders. It was supposed to cost $15/month, but they forgot to mention the rules were changing and it would actually be closer to $200, and even more to “break the contract.” Endless hours of phone calls, emails, and faxes arguing for our money back. And ultimately, WE GOT OUR MONEY BACK! Now we use PayPal, which is a lot less drama.


Probably the worst offense of all has been starting up a business in the heart of the “Great Recession.” Who wants to spend $20 plus tax on a nifty tee that subverts stereotypes? Only those in dire need. Only the parents of little boys who insist on wearing pink! And perhaps people headed to a babyshower where the future mama did not find out the gender of the baby. It’s a niche group really.


Well, thanks for joining me in the adventures of the Social Worker gone Business Woman. I am sure there will be more booby traps to get caught up in. But I am always visualizing that old 80’s game of Atari called “Break Away” where after the paddle hits the ball up through the brick wall over and over again, eventually the ball breaks through and bounces boing boing boing boing on the top of the brick wall, racking up points — PINK REVOLUTION IN THE STREETS! And of course, I’m still visualizing that monopoly of the oranges and reds on either side of Free Parking! Little by little, we will arrive.


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