Everybody has learned a hard lesson at least once in their lifetime. Here are a couple of my own:
When I was a teen aged boy, I started a local neighborhood newspaper in my home town using an old hand-cranked mimeograph that my grandfather had bought for me.
I would type stencils with one finger and would print four pages of local news every week and hand deliver them, door to door in our town. The local merchants would pay a small amount of money for mentions of their businesses.
Eventually, this little paper attracted the attention of the organized local Businessmens’ Association and they bought me a mailing permit and committed to buying space in the paper each week and so, we started mailing the paper to every home in the community.
As time went on, the paper grew and my dad signed the contracts so that I could have a multilith machine on which to print the paper. This machine provided much clearer type on the newspaper than the mimeograph. After that, we got a small “Offset” lithographic press and could then print pictures as well as type-written material.
I was doing all this and going to school at the same time. Since I was a minor at the time and could not enter into legal contracts, my dad signed for me for everything I purchased for the paper and for every agreement that was made with merchants and other advertisers.
The time came when my little paper attracted the attention of the community relations division of a large local manufacturer and from that attention arose other contacts that resulted in a lot of mutually profitable arrangements for the paper and for me.
By the time the year 1954 rolled around, I was knocking down a personal profit of somewhere near $300 a week with the paper and with all the brochures and business cards and other printing that I was doing.
One day I was approached by a group of local residents who were new to the community and they wanted to pitch in and help me with the newspaper. They offered to act as advertising sales people, they offered to collect news articles and write them up for me, they wanted to do a lot of things so they could contribute something worthwhile to their new community. I welcomed these out-of-towners with open arms and I was grateful for their help.
But the time came when my new “Friends” decided to start their own paper in competition to mine and they sold the local businesses on the idea that I was a kid and would not continue with the paper as I matured and that they would always be there with their paper which they called “A Free Service To The Community.”
They waged an aggressive campaign to undermine my paper and were successful in doing so. I folded up, stopped publication because the advertisers chose them over me and could not support advertising in both the papers. The strangers had won that battle. It wasn’t long before their “Free Community Service” became a paying proposition as they started charging for subscriptions and the whole nine yards.
I learned the hard lesson that in business you have to be careful who you trust and you have to have measures in place to protect yourself from just such vultures as the ones who took over my newspaper and put me out of business.
The story does not have a bad ending however. When I became of the proper age, I was able to borrow money to start a printing company of my own and obtained the friendship and support of a large national advertising specialty and printing company.
It wasn’t too long after that that the “Friendly Helpers” who had screwed me went totally bankrupt and out of business. Their little association of helpful neighbors bolted from the challenge of business and faded into their little social fantasies … coffee klatches and something called “Community Unity” that tried to coerce the local council into building new parks and sidewalks and roads and so forth …and who got themselves kicked out of a lot of council meetings because of their pushiness …
Today I can’t find a trace of any of them. I don’t know where they went and I don’t care where they went because today I could probably buy all of them.