‘Beer Cans and Bees’:

5 Business Lessons I Learned From My Mother

{a story about collecting beer cans}

I grew up in low-income housing in Douglasville, GA.

The mentality of poverty was common-place, except for one smart woman I know…My mom.

A neighborhood clean-up project, was disguised as my first entrepreneurial endeavor.

With my mom as my first business partner, (I’d collect the empty soda and beer cans to collect return deposits; she’d provide the XL brown and clear garbage bags).

Together, we’d store the findings behind our apartment.

The beer cans drew in the bees.

So, beer cans, bees and all the cans were collected, wrapped, and stored in garbage bags behind our house until a mass can collection day.

Can collection cash-in day was when my mom and I would haul my bags of cans – I always had to wait until I had several bags  of cans collected – off to the local grocery store parking lot where a big tractor trailer was housed and stood tall on what I remember looking like kick-stands on a bicycle.

This is where the bags of cans were weighed, and I was paid (something like $.25 a pound) based on the weight of the bag.

So, of course, the heavier the bag of cans, the better.

Only the neighborhood “bums” and “ho-bos” were doing this at that time — late 80’s — they were on to something!

Lessons Learned from this experience:

1) I was taught how to afford it. My mom was a single-parent of 3 kids, so when mom “didn’t have it”, she taught us how to ‘go get IT’!

2) Perseverance. The overall project goal (for me) was heavier trash bags FULL of collected cans. For mom, it was a contribution to keeping the neighborhood clean. Both of our wishes and desires were granted! We both were happy; Me with money, and mom with doing her part to train me on the importance (and the payoff) of giving back to the neighborhood and my community – in a sense, she sent me as her representative! – it was her way of giving back.

3)There is always SOMETHING you can do to make your situations or circumstances, your community, and ultimately the world a better place

4) Patience. It took days, months, and weeks at a time to collect the amount of cans that would mean a BIG payoff for an 8 year old kid. The amount of money didn’t matter, as long as I knew payday was coming!

5) There’s ALWAYS MORE where that came from!

  • People always threw cans on the ground in my neighborhood
  • Sometimes the smashed/”smooshed”/pressed down/compacted (usually happens when they are stomped on and crushed together) cans were nearly buried in soil, which meant they had probably been there for a long time

In my learning, I saw that this was a repeatable process that contributed to such worthy causes; global impact (recycling), neighborhood cleanup, my piggy bank, and my mom’s heart to help.

Imagine this project today versus how it was in the 80’s. The tweets, the pics, the facebook posts, the payout…I think the only problem would be getting today’s youth interested on such an impactful, noble, and worthy cause! – Thank you!

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