Tuesday, August 02, 2005

We have been visiting Elyse’s parents. We arrived in the early afternoon yesterday and are leaving in the morning. They have a small farm at the edge of a town and both work off the farm, he in a local factory and she in a grocery store. The house is modest and as an American it is difficult to imagine they raised four children in it. They are happy but concerned about the future. While they appreciate the freedom they have today they miss the surety that life had under Communism. I don’t know how prevalent this is but Jana’s parents expressed similar feelings.

For now they spend their time working and doting on their grandchildren. They are proud and happy for Elyse and love Michael. They think it is wonderful that two of their children will have gone to college.

They are nervous and excited about coming to the US. E will meet them in NYC and they will spend a few days there (including a symbolic trip to Ellis Island, which is something E did when she arrived with M, ancestors entered the US through Ellis), then they will go to DC and finally ending up at Mike’s folks for Labor Day weekend for the bridal shower.

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About a year ago I decided to keep in closer touch with my grandparents. It was the realization that they would likely not be around long and my need to know them better is what made it important. What prompted it were a few interactions with elderly neighbors.

I began calling them weekly and in our conversations found out that they used email and that both my grandfathers were dabbling in the stock market on-line. Though they admitted that it was a much a pleasant way for them to spend a few hours as try to make money. Since they were internet savvy I suggested we set up a discussion group where I could pose questions and they could give responses. Subsequently two of my cousins have joined us.

Those of you who have been with me for a while know of my interest in building a legitimate career. This desire is complicated by my realization that I don’t want to work for someone else and that freelancing might allow me to make ends meet but it’s not likely to result in a comfortable life. My thoughts began to drift towards the idea of having my own business and this was music the ears of my grandfathers.

Both men were in managed and grew their families businesses. My father’s dad in manufacturing and my mom’s in banking and insurance; both sold the businesses in the 60’s due to changes in the economy and a lack of interest among their children to follow them. Later both went on to be executives at other companies. Dad says that both men were disappointed none of their children went into business but they have hopes for their grandchildren.

When I was eleven my family arranged a large all family party at a hunting-fishing resort in the mountains. I have a vivid memory of them holding forth and telling stories of their lives in business to my older cousins. They had them enthralled, but what seemed to move my cousins the most were the stories of the hard times and the failures, which in retrospect I believe was an intentional attempt by both men to impress on us that life isn’t easy.

While in Marrakech I settled on a business idea and ran it past Michel. We discussed it a bit and it was of his opinion that it was worth pursuing and mentioned a couple of companies that were similar in the US and other parts of Europe. Being the devious and manipulative soul that I am, when I returned to Paris I contacted the CEO’s of two of these companies presenting myself as a freelance writer who was interested in profiling their companies for an internet newsletter. All that was true as far as it went, I have been writing for a several newsletters (it pays about enough to buy a nice lunch) and I did write about them and it was published, but I left something out.

From the beginning I knew my idea would require funding and my grandfathers helped me figure out how much. Pretty much we used the idea as a case study on how to build a business plan and things looked pretty good on paper. But…something I learned in the interviews gave us pause. It seems that large corporations in a related area have taken interest in this niche and have launched pilot programs. None of us were sure how much of a problem this would be to my being funded. So I took a draft to my brother-in-law, Robert and to Jacques, who were both of the opinion that venture capitalists would shy away from this industry till things were sorted out.

Jacques asked me why I was interested in starting a company that needed outside financing and all the attendant hassles. We talked about it for a while and then he surprised me by being real blunt, “You’ll fail,” he said. I got defensive and angry. He calmed me down and explained what he meant. He had a point and then he made a suggestion. “I have a thought of something you would be good at, and you could build it with a small amount of cash,” he said. “What?” “A service business.” He couldn’t resist a smirk, “Not an escort service, a series of business services.”

He went on to describe what was needed and why, what existed and why the current providers were not meeting the needs of changing businesses. “Can I expect an opportunity to do business with your companies? I asked. “That would be up to my managers, you’d need to meet and exceed their metrics.”

That was in May and I’ve been working like crazy to refine his ideas and organize them into a “product” ever since. Much to the chagrin of Dmitri, who is getting tired of me staring at my computer and making calls when I have a decent signal.

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I couldn’t resist and asked Jacques how his friend was. “She’s fine” he said, “but we are no longer together.” “Might I be seeing you professionally?” I inquired. “We’ll see,” was his reply.

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My living situation when I return to Paris has resolved it self temporarily. I’ll be plant sitting for an acquaintance while she serves as a visiting professor.

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Well I guess it’s about unanimous, I shouldn’t fantasize about having a baby with D. The baby post was sent as an email to about twenty friends; their response can be summed up in Christine’s, an animation of rolling eyes.

I had been in a tizzy about this, partially because I had no one to talk with it about which would have broken the obsession. Writing it down then reading it back made me realize how foolish the thought was. And no, I couldn’t talk about it with D, our relationship has a ways to go before we complicate it with talk of babies. I’m hoping we get to that point.

Kim

4 Comments:

Blogger Thaϊs said...

They miss not only safety and stability, although those became exaggeratingly important in uncertain times. Many people also often miss the sense of recognition, accomplishment and power that the Soviet Union entailed. The closer to the central part of Russia you get, the more prevalent is the imperial way of thinking.

4:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with what T is saying above, this is not an uncommon sentiment there.

But all the business talk is a very welcome development. I hope you can pull it off, and I know that being your resourceful self you can do it, if you are diligent and persevere. So Good Luck in all your new ventures Kim!

[I'm also glad you are taking the advice from strangers (and friends) to heart on the question you posed previously about a child.]

Cheers, 'VJ'

6:02 AM  
Blogger Pete from Cal said...

I've been wondering what happened to your marketing gig since you stopped telling us about them a while back. Glad to see you have other business ideas that you are exploring. Knowing the drive and tenacity you possess in your endeavors, I'm sure you will do well! Best of luck! :) I'm curious as to how you run into Jacques again. Of the clients you've told us, he is one of my favorite. :P

8:47 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Pete: I sent Jacques an email with a one page synopsis of my idea and bullet points of the primary opportunities and risks. And asked him if he felt that I could find the needed seed capital.

I received a phone call from his aide offering me the opportunity to meet. M.____ could see me for 20 minutes at 6:50AM. I took the appointment and he was still 30 minutes late. But I got 30 minutes also.

Kim

2:04 PM  

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