A couple weeks ago I interviewed friend and entrepreneur Cole Harmonson, CEO of Far West Capital. Cole made a statement that has remained with me, “I look at entrepreneurship as a vehicle for personal growth.”

I agree completely. What better way to mold oneself than by being immersed in the furnace of business? It’s something I’ve personally experienced through my own journey, and the hardest days at work have been the ones that shaped me the most. This is why I’m so passionate about using entrepreneurship as the conduit to impact people’s lives.

The Art of the Flip

I’ve been thinking about what it means to pass these lessons on to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Last week, I took my little brother, Lucas, to a few garage sales to learn the art of the flip (as inspired by Gary Vaynerchuck’s #FlipChallenge).

We spent the hours of 7am-10am on Saturday jumping from garage sale to garage sale finding items that could be “flipped” and sold online.

Here were the parameters:

  • I told Lucas I was letting him borrow $50. Anything we purchased would be resold, so no holding onto any items for himself. 

  • We would split the profit 50/50 once the initial investment had been recouped. 

  • We would have to mutually agree on the item for purchase. If there was a draw, we would consult the numbers (perform a market research of prices on eBay).

This was the first time I had run this experiment (and I was about as clueless as Lucas), but we ended the morning with a pretty decent haul. The total amount spent was only $40. 

Beyond Garage Sales

There were a few lessons I was hoping Lucas would take away that would help mold his character:

  • Delayed gratification – Lucas is in 5th grade. Naturally, he’s drawn to things that provide quick entertainment value (e.g., video games). The concept of not being able to keep anything meant thinking beyond the short terms “fills” and rethinking what could produce long-term value.

  • Negotiation – I let Lucas negotiate with the seller to determine price. He also helped me with repricing items for the “flip.” It was interesting to see him understand the concept of bundling. Instead of selling 3 Xbox controllers for $15 apiece, if someone was willing to buy all 3, he would sell them for $30.

  • The power of earning one’s keep – This is a big one. Lucas has big dreams and aspirations which I want to support. Operating in a capitalist society allows many of these opportunities to happen. Rather than relying on Mom for allowance or waiting on birthday money from the grandparents, I wanted to teach him that he could create opportunity for himself. 

After the weekend, I asked Lucas what his personal takeaways were. I was blown away by his insight:

  • Not every stop will be a win. Move on. — We went to 6 garage sales in 3 hours. Some had slim pickings, especially towards the end. Lucas got good at understanding when we should stick around or move on to the next thing. He told me, “It’s okay if you don’t make money. It’ll happen once in awhile.” Enjoy the process.

  • Know your seller. — In garage sale #2, the seller clearly understood the value of her items. There was an unopened nerf gun she was selling for $30. There are some sellers whose primary focus is to get rid of stuff, and then there are sellers who are looking to make money. Know your seller’s motive, and if it’s in alignment, that’s when the best deals are made. 

  • Do market research to know if something is worth buying. — There were many times neither of us knew if something was of value. We quickly pulled it up on eBay to verify if it was worth the purchase.

  • Plan ahead. — Prior to heading out on Saturday, Lucas and I spent an hour looking online for garage sale postings and what the ideal route would be to maximize time. Planning ahead allowed us to save hours of execution.

  • Always ask. – Towards the end, Lucas was pushing a hard bargain with some of the sellers. He would ask if we could bundle some of the items. Worst case scenario, they would say no. Like I told him, it never hurts to ask.

Flip or Flop?

Overall, this was a fun experience and an even better time hanging with my little brother. Here’s the spreadsheet of what we spent vs. what was sold. As you can see, we’ve done pretty well over the past week. We spent $40, and will make over $100 profit when all is said and done. For a fifth grader, that’s not bad for 3 hours of work.

I’m sure Lucas will have plenty of opportunities to make more money in the future but I’m glad I could play a small role in the development of his entrepreneurial journey. Who knows, the kid may be the next Steve Jobs.