Sunday, January 26, 2014

Entrepreneurship Part Two

My wife, also, wants to start a business after she retires.  Her passion is cooking - more specifically baking - even more specifically baking cream pies.  Chocolate, butterscotch, coconut, banana, lemon, lime, peanut butter, if it can be made into a cream pie she makes a delicious version of it.  We live in a small town, though, and the local market for baked goods is limited, even for those as good as hers.  So, the logical step is to expand the market by using the internet to sell region-wide, even nation-wide.  Polly has a friend who has gone this route, developing a successful fudge business with customers in several states.  Our problem is, though, that fudge ships fairly easily, cream pies, not so much.  An equally significant  problem is that to sell cooked food you must have a health department-approved kitchen, which basically means a commercial kitchen, and we don't have one.

So, our plan is to start small, first by creating a product that ships easier and cheaper than cream pies, then by finding a commercial kitchen to rent.  Once we establish a market, we can then expand into the business we envision.

There comes a time in every small business that in order to grow beyond a start-up, capital must be raised by taking on debt such as a small business loan or second mortgage, or bringing in equity investors.  Assuming of course, that most stroke survivors don't have personal savings to inject into the business.  If you do, you have my admiration; you are a better manager of your personal finances than I am. We are far from that point in my wife's business, and in mine, but it doesn't hurt to discuss possibilities, and besides, it's just plain fun to envision what could happen if you plan well, work hard, and stay smart.   I love the idea of starting my own business, and I think more stroke survivors should consider doing it. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


I know conventional wisdom tells us to avoid it as much as possible, especially after having a stroke.  We’re told that it causes all kinds of health problems, and that it can interfere with recovery.  But really, how much of it can you realistically avoid?  Even if you don’t work after having a stroke, you still have to live in the world, with all that that implies about acquiring housing, food, and transportation, while living in poverty, or near-poverty, which is about as stressful as it’s possible to get.
I’m lucky in that I’m able to work, but that presents a whole different set of stressors.  My position at the state housing agency is different from anyone else’s.  It’s my job to create new housing programs for people with special needs, and also to advocate for their inclusion in all of our mainstream programs.  So, while everyone else spends their time ensuring that our housing projects have low vacancy rates, generate high levels of cash flow,  and are well-maintained, I promote projects that typically have the opposite of these.  This is because people with physical or mental disabilities usually have very low incomes, frequent hospitalizations, and have difficulty maintaining their units. This inherent conflict constantly puts me in opposition to agency management.  It’s a tough, but very rewarding job, and the stress is constantly at a high level, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

In the  27 months since my stroke, I’ve consistently sought out stressful situations.  Working, driving, especially going long distances by myself, often at night, was nerve-wracking at first.   Deciding to start swimming again, which meant getting changed, walking on the wet pool deck, and showering on the slippery shower room floor, was terrifying, and I almost backed out several times.  But each time I tried something new and stressful, I was glad that I forced my self to go through with it, and each time I discovered that the second time doing it was easier than the first, and easier still each time afterward.
I have a feeling that we need stress in our lives to some degree. It’s the physical stress of exercise that makes us stronger, makes our muscles grow.  So, too, I believe, the mental stress of new experiences, new challenges, helps us get stronger mentally, helps our brains grow in some sense of the word.  Of course, too much stress, either physical or mental, can be harmful.  But with either type, if you start out small and build up to higher levels, the result will be a stronger body, and a stronger brain.