Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Guest Post: Success Without College

 Today's guest post is from my friend Courtney at Minivan Mom.  I think we were the very first customer at their body shop.  That is where I first met her husband.  I asked Courtney to tell us their story about how they are succeeding without  college degrees.  Courtney and her husband were both homeschooled and now homeschool their children.  She has some great advice here.  Enjoy her story (and this picture of her adorable family).
Photo Credit: Abbie Gibson Photography
 Education is important.

Preparing for your future is important.

Responsibly maintaining a way to support yourself and others you decide to support is a key element for living a quality life.

Neither my husband nor I went to college, yet I feel that we have a solid future of responsible financial peace ahead of us. I imagine that this is the number one reason we as parents may urge our children to go to college. We want them to be responsible, self -sufficient adults. However, that process is one that can, and should be, started long before they have graduated high-school and is a subject for a different blog post altogether.

Whether it was because my parents themselves didn't have a college experience, because they don't condone student loans, or simply because they couldn't be financially responsible for my five brothers and sisters extended educations, there simply wasn't any talk of college in my home.

For me it's as simple as wanting to grow up to be a mother and manage babies. This is all my younger self could imagine doing.

My husband,also home schooled,was encouraged to get a job. Not by way of a college degree, or in a following your dreams kind of way, but simply a pay the bills sort of job. Now because my husband is who he is and because of his interests and abilities at the time, this worked for him.

He found a future possible employer and enquired about a job. He had to go back several times to remind them he was still interested and waiting to hear something and also that he wasn't going away when they finally hired him.

Persistence is probably going to be a key factor in establishing a career outside of college.

This job was at a body shop and although he was interested in body work and knew the basics he was brought on as a janitor, more or less. He took out the trash and swept the floors.

It wouldn't hurt to add a hefty dose of patience to the list of key elements.

Because he loved the environment and because of his willingness to learn and probably a lot because of his inclination to teach himself he was soon asked to take on more responsibilities. At the first shop and at several others after,this included body work, paint work, welding, ordering parts, managing customers, and so on.

Little by little he learned almost every aspect of what it would take to own his own shop.

We never set out with the goal of owning a body shop, but that is what has happened. We had to do something and there were babies mind you. The goals we did set out with were financial ease at an early age and free time to spend raising a family and pursuing interests that, we've learned, are fluid.

One day an opportunity of taking over a local body shop, quite literally, pulled up at our doorstep. My husband’s reputation had gotten around and a couple ready to retire asked us to take over their business. We agreed to purchase the equipment and decided to keep the location, but we established our own name.

Managing a shop is a much different thing than owning a shop.  Owning while managing is quite a feat and so when my husband didn't know something, he asked. He has found resources and a wealth of knowledge from many sources ranging  from the people in our community to small business workshops offered for free in our local area. He also attended workshops more geared to shops like ours. If that didn't answer everything, there was (and is always) google and youtube, both of which have been extensively and thoroughly utilized.

The opportunity to have our own shop came just after the birth of our second child. Our starter shop was good for about two years and provided a lot of experience to my husband for learning the ins and outs of  owning and managing and working in his own business.

We outgrew the little shop just as our third child was born. Here we had to make a big financial decision. We decided to use loans and purchase a bigger and more functional property. Along with that came mandatory city upgrades which meant bigger loans. While the construction was being done on the big shop our little shop needed to stay open. This in itself was a huge feat. The time came when we had approval from the city to open our doors and we set a date. We opened for one day ,had zero customers, and that night there was a storm. Adding madness to mayhem a tornado destroyed all of our brand new city required updates and about half of all other updates. Insurance did not cover all of the damage and that meant more loans.

Now with four children and eight years into this process, we have decided it is time to buckle down and make some headway to pay back those loans so we can proceed with the freedom and independence we talk about so often.

About a year ago we moved our family into an apartment that came with our shop when we purchased it. We wanted to take away every expense possible and blast those loans. We have a pretty solid plan that should allow us to be debt free and own a self sustaining business that we need only own (thus freeing a substantial amount of time) before we are forty.

We like the flexibility that being our own boss affords us. Sometimes it's tough making decisions, such as expanding our business when our business indicates it's time before our bank account reflects as much. But in time we will get the result we are after regardless of it being the way we imagined in the beginning or not.

We've often felt that we should have gone to college, like we missed out on something. But then we think about it and realize that for us right now it's not about what we do everyday but what we want in the future that matters.

And we are happy living life sans college.

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