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August 18, 2011 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Maybe It’s Time for Plan C - since the dawn of the Great Recession, more Americans have started businesses (565,000 of them a month in 2010) than at any period in the last decade and a half. 'The lures are obvious: freedom, fulfillment. The highs can be high. But career switchers have found that going solo comes with its own pitfalls: a steep learning curve, no security, physical exhaustion and emotional meltdowns. The dream job is a “job” as much as it is a “dream.”'

'For some, the unexpected pitfalls can be so treacherous that they no longer consider Plan B a dream job, but a nightmare. That was the unfortunate lesson for Anne-Laure Vibert, 31, who gave up a marketing job in New York, planning glamorous parties for Audemars Piguet, the watchmaker, to become a chocolatier.

A few years ago, she moved to Paris to apprentice with a master chocolatier. Visions of decadent bonbons swirled in her head. Instead, she felt like a modern-day Lucy in the candy factory, hunched over in a chocolate lab packing chocolates and scrubbing pots. If she wasn’t doing that, she was sweeping floors, wrapping gifts, answering telephones or shipping orders.

After four months, she had had enough and called it quits. Her Plan C? She returned to New York and took a job with her old boss, doing marketing for another luxury brand. “It got very lonely, to be honest,” she said.'
posted by VikingSword (87 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, I read this on Sunday. I'll just sit here and duck the spears.
posted by Miko at 4:17 PM on August 18, 2011


hunched over in a chocolate lab packing chocolates and scrubbing pots

jesus, what do they feed their dogs in France?
posted by Hoopo at 4:21 PM on August 18, 2011 [25 favorites]


jesus, what do they feed their dogs in France?

Cake.
posted by valkyryn at 4:23 PM on August 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


Unfortunately working for myself means having a lazy asshole for a boss.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:30 PM on August 18, 2011 [62 favorites]


single quotation marks depress me
posted by Avenger50 at 4:30 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, I'm WAY past Plan B or C. I may not be to the end of the alphabet yet but I'm probably at least to M or N.

My first "job" was fine artist and then to supplement that income added writing and illustrating picturebooks - then novels. Then it was branching out to freelance teaching writing which was the only way I could still keep some semblance of flexibility so I could do my own work and still eat.

Teaching then became the beast that ate my time, creativity and big chunks of my soul. What in the hell would be plan O other than the obvious? Ooh, maybe I could write porn!
posted by dutcherino at 4:32 PM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Back in the 80s and early 90s, it seemed like every comics fan wanted to open a comic store. Some of them did. Most of them closed very quickly. The same for these guys -- the reason to open a cake or chocolate shop is not that you like cake and chocolate. That is a reason to shop in a cake or chocolate shop. The only reason to open a small business is because you want to run a small business. Anything else is just going to make you crazy and poor.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:33 PM on August 18, 2011 [44 favorites]


The endless hustle is why I've never seriously entertained thoughts about striking out on my own full time as a web developer... I know a lot of people who run their own businesses and generally seem the happier for it, but they are always busting their asses.

I've started a part-time business on Etsy, though, and to my surprise it's picking up. It's self sustaining, with some money left over to invest in the pursuit of other interests. I don't see it ever making enough to live off of, but when you're on your own there is definitely a sense of pride and accomplishment that can't be beat.

(Also, what does Ms. Vaubert think an apprenticeship is? It's always been my understanding that you spent a good long time chopping wood and carrying water until you've demonstrated that you're worth teaching. Even if she had started making chocolates on day one, I'm pretty sure it takes longer than 4 months to learn and master everything there is about candymaking and running a shop.)
posted by usonian at 4:37 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can never tell anymore if the NYT is joking. Is there not a single lawyer in all of New York City who left their super-intense corporate job to start a small practice? Not one software engineer who got laid off and wrote a cool, well-selling app?

Chocolate, wedding planning, and Bollywood-inspired teapots*? It's like somebody dropped off a stack of Nolo Press books in a kindergarten.

*Unless they dance. Because I would pay good money for a dancing teapot.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:39 PM on August 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


My plan B is to churn out articles about the blindingly obvious for major newspapers. Sadly there is competition.
posted by biffa at 4:40 PM on August 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


> The only reason to open a small business is because you want to run a small business. Anything else is just going to make you crazy and poor.

My wife: "You love records! You should open a record store!"
Me: "Are you kidding? Have you seen most of those guys?"
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:42 PM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


In New England it's kind of a trope to talk about some couple from the Big City who always dreamed of owning a B&B, and then they bought the ol' Douglas place and opened one, and went out of business within a year.

It does happen a fair amount, enough to provide a steady supply of such stories, but I suspect those are all people who never for a moment imagined what it would be like to work in an environment where you can never escape your business. You really have to want to live, sleep, eat, and breathe a small business.

There are also plenty of people who make it work. Realism is important. So is a business plan!
posted by Miko at 4:42 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Instead, she felt like a modern-day Lucy in the candy factory, hunched over in a chocolate lab packing chocolates and scrubbing pots. If she wasn’t doing that, she was sweeping floors, wrapping gifts, answering telephones or shipping orders

Awwww, poor thing....It's called "apprenticeship" lady. When you are an apprentice, you start at the bottom, and you may have to do some things that require wearing rubber gloves, or waiting on customers. This woman's experience is one example - among 10's of millions - why we're going to see massive dislocation and real unhappiness for the next 10-20 years, until expectations among a lot of so-called "educated" people about what they "deserve" change.

Frankly, I think that fairly nimble blue collar workers - who are used to actually lifting a finger while they work - might be better off in the long run, because they don't expect instant success - i.e. they're used to making money the old-fashioned way - i.e. working for it. Now, lest someone come along and say that it's "work" planning glamorous parties for a watchmaker that sells its wares to insecure rich people who need endless bling to prop themselves up among their peers - I say "yeah, it's work", but how many party planners in a structurally challenged economy can count on a career in party planning.

In fact, this woman's job is something that any intelligent person with basic skills, passion, an innate design/color sense, and drive could do. It's a fluff job with the "perk" being around a lot of "exclusive" products meant for the idle and insecure rich.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:45 PM on August 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


I have to wonder if these people went through their whole lives to this point thinking everyone in the local shop or restaurant just absolutely loves what they do and gets to go home at 5 everyday happy, relaxed, and fulfilled. This seems more like an article about people being really naive about how hard people actually have to work to make much less money than them. They also were probably a overestimating how much they really loved their hobby/areas of interest to the point that thought they could do it every single day for the rest of their lives. And it would only be the fun parts.
posted by Hoopo at 4:47 PM on August 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


Young folks filled with romantic notions about shedding the chains of their white collar lives to find that leading an effectively working class life sucks. Or merchant class. Working class lives are often preferable, as they don't usually have to deal with the headaches and stress of running the show. These folks never really must not have ever actually known small business owners. Being successful in that area requires work.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:47 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Remember, these "small businesses" are truly the kind of small businesses which are the engine of the US economy. The "small businesses" which Republicans are always touting and wanting to give tax breaks to all make a minimum of $5million a year. There's a huge difference, and it's really not these kind of people who see the tax breaks the R's are always promising when they talk about "tax breaks for small businesses".
posted by hippybear at 4:52 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


The only reason to open a small business is because you want to run a small business.

This is, sadly, true. Many (most?) businesses close shortly after they get started. As a result, it concentrates power in the hands of those who are already established, or "know how" to run a business.

In my dream world (I keep it in a shoebox), all of those positive financial benefits provided by the government that have accrued to giant corporations would go instead of small businessmen. By reducing the financial incentive to becoming a bloated megalith on the economic landscape, it would help to decentralize the power produced by the vast piles of wealth that accrue to those large companies, and thus it would help make our financial system less vulnerable to the whims of CEOs and their cronies, while simultaneously allowing more people the chance to make a go of it on their own.

I'm not sure that it's necessarily practical, but it's fun to daydream about. I've got a portfolio of crayon drawings if anyone is interested (please overlook all the pictures of Rainbow Dash).
posted by JHarris at 4:52 PM on August 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


One of the major threads in Griftopia was that the deck is stacked against small businesses in every single way, so they assume the same must be true of big businesses so of course we'd want to get rid of regulation, not realizing that big businesses don't get 90% of the trouble small ones due cause the laws were written to accommodate big business. The game is gamed so far in favor of the big few companies it's insane, what we used to call criminal.

You want to e proud that you're a company of small business owners? Then support small business.


Health care, tax reform, and actual anti-trust action would do more to make the avaerge entrepreure better off than anything else.
posted by The Whelk at 4:54 PM on August 18, 2011 [24 favorites]


4 months? That's it? That's an extended vacation, not "following your dreams".
posted by blue_beetle at 4:55 PM on August 18, 2011 [7 favorites]



In New England it's kind of a trope to talk about some couple from the Big City who always dreamed of owning a B&B, and then they bought the ol' Douglas place and opened one, and went out of business within a year.


I have gotten to witness this SO MANY TIMES in my service industry toiling and from friends, there are always the New Owners who are there All The TIme and don't yet realize that they will get burned out and thats why they should hire actual managers and staff and not try to do everything themselves cause you WILL burn out and you WILL slip up and it WILL effect your razor-thin profit margin.

I've never met a small business owner who was sane, basically.
posted by The Whelk at 4:57 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is a reason why most independent booksellers are crazy, alcoholic, or crazy and alcoholic.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:59 PM on August 18, 2011


You have to be too hard-nosed to run a business properly.

Always somebody tryin' to rip you off. Always somebody whingin'.

Oh, you went mountain biking and your pedal is bent and you want a warranty coz it "just happened" you "didn't fall off or nuthin', honest"?

"GTFO of my shop!"

That's what you have to say to stay in business. That's what my boss had to say just about every day. But nicely, of course. Then there's staff trying to rip you off. Customers straight-out shoplifting....

Like usonian said: endless hustle. But in the many small businesses I've worked for: endlessly being hustled. Crooks everywhere.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:00 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's that or it's the abstentee Owner on the other end who knows nothing about the day to day operations but cause they own the building they can sweep in one a year and try to turn the quietly profitable gay-bar-for-older-fellows into a happening nightspot cause they came in at 5pm on a tuesday and it wasn't selling 15 dollar drinks at a rate of one a minute, firing people and making huge changes that the actual servers and manager follow for about a week before abandoning for things that work.
posted by The Whelk at 5:00 PM on August 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


My mom recently bought the salon she was the accountant for.

Before: Business is losing money, she got a paycheck.
After: Business is barely breaking even, she does not get a paycheck.

It's unclear to me why this was a good plan for her (and it's not like she didn't know the financials).
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:01 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


And we're not taking about the article cause that woman is an idiot, I know chocolate makers. I've met the Ommpah Lumpahs (their name, not mine) it's hard fucking fork with a delicate, fussy-ass product that takes people a second to eat. There's a reason Kee only made like 40 a day and then shut the shop.
posted by The Whelk at 5:05 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love working for tiny businesses. Not sure I'd like owning one.
posted by josher71 at 5:12 PM on August 18, 2011


RONA ECONOMOU was a lawyer at a large Manhattan law firm, making a comfortable salary and enjoying nights on the town

No wonder she got downsized.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:16 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Remember when Tony Blair kept banging on about the third way? For a brief moment I thought "plan C" was just "the third way" rebranded by another bunch of lying politicians trying to win an election.

How's that going, BTW?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:17 PM on August 18, 2011


Being organizationally challenged, especially in money matters, I have never had the urge to "be my own boss." However, in the music business, I have played in three long-lasting jobs. One was run by a drummer who knew he wasn't that talented, but he owned the equipment and kept us working. And in the Seventies, in a Midwestern town of 50,000 surrounded by a whole bunch of small towns with ONE live music bar, and being a union band - yes, you had to pay union dues to play, but the cash paychecks were very generous, compared to today's bar bands' payouts.

The third was the same, but weddings and corporate functions instead of bars. The lead singer and his wife gradually lost all their word-of-mouth business because they would fight on stage. They would literally kick each other over song choice. Plus, the guy thought he was talented. Not.

The second band was a seriously good soul band, with three singing/dancing front singers, some from famous bands. But neither they nor the pianist, guitarist, bassist or drummer had a lick of business sense, so we ended up playing dive bars while the inferior white boy groups got the big bucks.

My question is totally unrelated: Do government regulations really make the life of a small business owner difficult, or is that a Tea Party myth? I have no idea, because I don't have many friends running small businesses, and people in the media are too opinionated to give me an informed answer.
posted by kozad at 5:26 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I work for a boss, I have ONE boss. When I worked for myself, I had SEVERAL at a time (if I was lucky), all of whom wanted to be my #1 priority.

My dad was a CPA who worked for himself, and the majority of his clients were small businesses - mostly restaurants. It was incredibly hard. No vacations - he worked 6 and 7 days a week. When I was growing up, the longest he was home at a stretch was during the blizzard of 1978 when the National Guard was keeping people off the roads and he couldn't drive around to his clients'. His clients worked hard, too, because running a small restaurant is lots of hard thankless work.

Although: The one ?nice? thing about working for yourself in a trade or service business is that you're never unemployed - you just don't have customers. :)

Discussions like this are when I want to pull out the TED talk from Mike Rowe.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:32 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Four months and she quit? Man, that is super lame.

Fwiw hengeman, I run a small retail business too and had to deprogram myself from your response to the unhappy customer, at first because it was making me so unhappy to be a dick all the time and then later because I realized I was getting referral business from the majority of the refund-requesters if I was prompt, polite, and accommodating - and if I asked them to recommend me to their friends.

Of course, the producer for NBC news who special ordered a shitload of stock for her wedding and then returned it in unusable condition, she stays on the shitlist. I can only hope she is profiled in the story as one of the losers like this wannabe choclatier. A boy can dream.
posted by mwhybark at 5:32 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone who wants to start a business should read the E-Myth first. It'll save them thousands of dollars, years of wasted time and maybe even their marriage.
posted by Tacodog at 5:34 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


The takeaway from this article is that there is going to be an Angry Birds cookbook.

Also, no, I have never been inconvenienced by Government Regulations except like, I need to sit down once a month and fill out some forms or have my accountant do it.
posted by bq at 5:37 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


More Americans are desperately trying to avoid the stigma of joblessness by claiming to be "entrepreneurs" (565,000 of them a month in 2010) than at any period in the last decade and a half.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:38 PM on August 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Founders at Work did a great job of outlining the entrepreneurial workload for me when I was starting my business:

Steve Perlman (of WebTV and XBAND fame): 48 hours of work, four hours sleep, 48 hours of work, 4 hours sleep... His wife brought him a cot so he wouldn't be sleeping on the floor. She was surprised to lift up a pizza box and find someone's passed out face under it. I read this and thought, "This guy is amazing."

Tim Brady (first Yahoo! employee, though their website says third. Wrote the company business plan): 17 hour days.

Max Levchin (co-founder of Paypal): Stayed up for five days straight writing the "money-beaming" Palm Pilot prototype that transferred the seed money for the company at lunch, witnessed the transfer, passed out at the table and was awakened by staff closing the restaurant.

I can relate to the sappy end of the story, though. It was really nice to see the bands we pulled in, playing for the crowd we brought, drinking a beer, and thinking, "I am at work right now!"

What this article left out was the handwaving. When a VC asked Mitch Kapor how much he thought his company was worth when he was starting Lotus he answered 2 or 3 millon. He "had nothing."

Realism is important. So is a business plan!

Believe it or not, there is a culture out there that devalues the business plan. I've had investors tell us not to place too much effort in ours in part because they can't accurately predict where you be five years from now and for other reasons. Think Google in 1998 versus Google in 2005, or PayPal's first product (it was a PDA application that allowed you to transfer money from PDA to PDA). But I guess that depends on what type of business you are starting. A cupcake shop won't be a weapons manufacturer in two years (unless you're Nordyne Defense Dynamics), but a tech startup has more flexibility.
posted by chinesefood at 5:41 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


My question is totally unrelated: Do government regulations really make the life of a small business owner difficult, or is that a Tea Party myth? I have no idea, because I don't have many friends running small businesses, and people in the media are too opinionated to give me an informed answer.

IME, actual government regulations are just part of the rest of the bullshit, juggling cash, schedules, personalities, etc that really make life difficult. Typically, the government regulations were known quantities. The only time I recall a difficult government situation was when a sort of zoning issue came up, which was kind of bullshit to start with, ensuring we moves a mile and a half away, out of city limits. We were going to move anyway, but the city didn't seem to want the tax revenue. Their loss. It wasn't a huge deal for us, but it was a stupid, counterproductive government move.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:48 PM on August 18, 2011


It was about 5 years into the last recession that it seemed to me that a lot of unemployed people were taking the small business plunge in order to buy themselves a job.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:54 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


4 months? That's it? That's an extended vacation, not "following your dreams".

If you discover that your dreams were stupid, and that you had no comprehension of the reality of what achieving your dream entailed, or even of what the dream itself was (which from the article seems to be the case here) then 4 months to achieve enlightenment is a job well done.
posted by biffa at 6:09 PM on August 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


Is this where I mention that my wife quit her job to start her own business last week?
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:11 PM on August 18, 2011


Working class lives are often preferable, as they don't usually have to deal with the headaches and stress of running the show.

As the Book says, better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and chasing after the wind.
posted by valkyryn at 6:13 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a huge difference, and it's really not these kind of people who see the tax breaks the R's are always promising when they talk about "tax breaks for small businesses".

[citation needed]
posted by valkyryn at 6:14 PM on August 18, 2011


I've been toying with the idea of getting out of teaching English in Japan. The thing is, there's not a lot of demand otherwise for me (my Japanese isn't nearly good enough to be involved in anything like translation). The one thing I've thought of, that might make some sense, was starting my own sausage and cured meats business. It's something I've been doing as a hobby, and something I'm getting pretty good at. But at the same time, there are so, so many reasons why it's a terrible idea:

a) startup costs would be staggering: Professional level meat grinder, proper smokehouse, cold storage, kitchen-space, store space, would be astronomical

b) licensing: I'd need to get licensed to even buy curing salts in this country. The couple who I talked to (they ran their own shop) about it said it took two years of classes (in Japanese) to get certified.

c) competition: the aforementioned couple looked at me like I was stupid. They said the market in Japan is well and truly flooded, and they barely made enough to keep the shop open, even after 25 years.

d) the Japanese palate: most of the food I'd like to cook is, well, more strongly flavored than most Japanese people like. My foreign friends love the Italian sausage I make. My Japanese friends don't. Part of this is realizing that, no matter what field I were to try and get into, my cooking style would have to radically change to suit palates used to incredibly underspiced food.

e) the workload: The general idea of a business plan (open the kitchen/retail space between a high school and a decent sized train station for afterschool foot traffic that might buy enough hot dogs -- not a traditional Japanese food by any means-- to increase word of mouth, arrange for a food tent outside of the local Japanese baseball stadium on game days, secure retail space in a decent sized train station super market) would require so much work, as well as employing people that I'd need to be able to trust, that it would almost ensure that I'd never have another day off (not until, at the very least, I was a successful sausage maker, and could employ other people to do my work for me.

As it is, I have a steady paycheck, a lengthy summer vacation, and a job I actually enjoy, for the most part. Even knowing all of this, and knowing that I don't know half of the pitfalls out there, I still kind of want to do this.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:18 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Fwiw hengeman, I run a small retail business too and had to deprogram myself from your response to the unhappy customer, at first because it was making me so unhappy to be a dick all the time

I did hide a "but" he had to say it "nicely" somewhere in there!

"Being a dick all the time." Nicely put. Coz sometimes it wasn't a crook. Often it was some poor kid who saved up for ages for some nice kit and he pushes the limit - not maliciously - and then he thinks "what the hell I'll try and hustle the guy for a new one," and the boss still had to be a dick.

Coz on the other side of the coin he had to protect his relationship with his wholesalers. He couldn't waste their time wanting credit for stuff that had been busted. So you have to be a hard-nosed dick to stay in business. "I know you saved hard for six months and it broke on your second bush bash. Too bad. You ain’t getting another one and I’m not even gonna show it to my wholesaler."

The bicycle shop owner actually went mildly crazy and/or depressed. Found God. Joined a goofy trendy Christian happy clapper congregation [who started bilking money off him in the form of a tithe]. BANNED demonic music from the store [read: top 40] and then slowly he stopped coming in. And I highly suspect his manager was a thief, and a mechanic. And the other mechanic had quality control issues and discipline issues and he was a fiery Italian and no one could control or discipline him. And the front staff [read: me] copped all the grief for his f*ups.

It actually became a really sad place to work towards the end. But the line in the sand when the business REALLY tanked is when he gave too much responsibility to his manager and tried to get away from it all.

The best small business I've worked for in terms of being hassle free [read: give me your money, GTFO] for the owner is a bottleshop, or "liquor store" as you guys call it. Except a] You are selling a poison and I wouldn’t like to do that for a living. I was astounded – ASTOUNDED – how many alcoholics lived around me. Sometimes whole families. Mum and dad and the adult kids. I sorta realised I was helping facilitate their slow sad decline and it didn't sit right. And b] that was then. Now big business has bought all the ma and pa liquor stores anyway!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:19 PM on August 18, 2011


My foreign friends love the Italian sausage I make. My Japanese friends don't.

Simple solution: replace every part you like about it with corn.
posted by Hoopo at 6:21 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


My question is totally unrelated: Do government regulations really make the life of a small business owner difficult, or is that a Tea Party myth?

The answer is "Yes."

Government regulations, particularly labor and workplace safety laws, can make running a business considerably more expensive than it otherwise would be. At the same time... maybe we're okay with that. Yes, it costs more than it might to make sure that your employees aren't going to get seriously injured while cleaning the place, but you know what? Deal with it. If you can't afford to operate in an at least minimally safe manner, you can't actually afford to operate.

But there's also a fairly real sense in which regulations can hassle small businesses in ways that the only people that benefit are the bureaucrats whose bread and butter it is to be officious about bullshit paperwork. Licensing regimes are one good example. Licensing doctors, lawyers and civil engineers is one thing, but cab drivers? Barbers? Cosmetologists? I mean, what's the worst that can happen? You have to go to a different salon?

There are a lot of permitting-type things which seem pretty pointless too. Alcohol sales permits are a huge racket for local governments and serve little purpose beyond restricting the opening of bars. They're also a pretty common way for NIMBYs to make their presence known. Getting permits for renovations and the like can also be a huge hassle and can really slow down needed investment.

So regulations are a double-edged sword. Every regulation makes business owners' lives difficult. But some regulations are really important while others are bullshit, so both sides of this argument have their cogent points.
posted by valkyryn at 6:25 PM on August 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


A great movie about the romance of owning a small business vs the reality of what it takes to survive is Big Night.
posted by any major dude at 6:43 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a one-man shop who has not had a real job in nearly 20 years, all I can say is:

a) Universal healthcare would put a lot of worry behind me and money in my pocket

b) This economy is really rough, every time I think about maybe expanding my business I think about how I absolutely do not want to be the guy to tell his employees "well, sorry, but because I spent 20 hours playing tower defense last month, we don't have any work for this month." I used to have to listen to that conversation when I worked for a guy like me, it's not cool.
posted by maxwelton at 6:47 PM on August 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


It's kind of received wisdom the best time to start a small self-funded business is when the economy is slow. The reason is you have time to put into it, there's lower opportunity cost (ie. no high paying job elsewhere), and when things pick up again you'll be positioned to compete and first to market and easy access to credit for quick expansion. Start a business when the economy is hot conversely has disadvantages - your late to the game competing against better funded startups. It's counter-intuitive so many people don't consider it.
posted by stbalbach at 6:55 PM on August 18, 2011


I have to wonder if these people went through their whole lives to this point thinking everyone in the local shop or restaurant just absolutely loves what they do and gets to go home at 5 everyday happy, relaxed, and fulfilled. This seems more like an article about people being really naive about how hard people actually have to work to make much less money than them. They also were probably a overestimating how much they really loved their hobby/areas of interest to the point that thought they could do it every single day for the rest of their lives. And it would only be the fun parts.
posted by Hoopo at 4:47 PM on August 18 [1 favorite +] [!]


Absolutely true. I think one of the biggest myths is the "OMG, I can leave whenever I want, not like this 9-5 drag" mindset. Good luck with that.

The second thing that befalls them is the "it's all mine" problem. Every nickel in the cash drawer or trash bag is, in their mind, *theirs*. As if the entire world is walking into their house and stealing their stuff.

The third is bizarre cheapness. I was in a Honey Baked Ham place. Could not have been more miserable. The lights were off, clearly to save money. Making sandwiches with cutlery that's clearly from a garage sale, weird stuff in the display coolers, and the actual product in cheap residential refrigerators. When I was offered my choice of potato chips, the lady pulled them out of one of those Dollar Store knockoff plastic hanging file bins on a shelf. Cheapness I can even tolerate: it is as if these people have never been in a retail store in their lives. Ask for a napkin and they dither around and hand you a single napkin.
posted by gjc at 7:01 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Start a business when the economy is hot conversely has disadvantages - your late to the game competing against better funded startups. It's counter-intuitive so many people don't consider it.

The downside is that you'll have no customers. That advice works if the business can scale easily. The second doggie treat bakery or cupcake boutique on the block might not work in a recession.
posted by gjc at 7:04 PM on August 18, 2011


Cosmetologists? I mean, what's the worst that can happen?

Could be pretty bad if there were no inspection or licensing, actually. Salons are places in which people are very close to one another, items are shared person to person, and bacteria have fun places to play. They can transmit MRSA and other staph infections and cause skin infections. Many of the substances used, from nail polish removers to hair care products, are toxic and/or caustic and can cause skin burns or eye damage. There are items that reach high heat levels, and lots of sharp things like razors and fine scissors.

I take your broader point that perhaps we could consider the economic impact of this sort of regulation and figure out how to apply them at appropriate scales, or at least make the process lower-cost for employees and owners, but on the whole I"m very much OK with the idea that the people who work in salons have to show they know how to minimize the risks the environment poses to me (and them).
posted by Miko at 7:04 PM on August 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


I was in a Honey Baked Ham place. Could not have been more miserable.

If that's a franchise, though, that's a third model entirely than an owner-operated sole proprietorship. They are often incredibly bad deals for their franchisees and there are all kinds of pressures to cut corners, from both within and without the company. I'm not saying that doesn't suck, for customers and staff, especially in ones like these that are probably financially failing and the franchisee is just trying to make it to the end of the month so he doesn't go into insane debt to the company after losing the store, but it's yet another kind of beast.
posted by Miko at 7:07 PM on August 18, 2011


Universal healthcare would put a lot of worry behind me and money in my pocket

and it has always been my sneaking suspicion that big corporate lobbyists work overtime behind the scenes to kill universal health care at every turn. The thought of having to buy insurance independently is enough to nip any cubicle monkey's dreams of striking out on one's own right in the bud.
posted by any major dude at 7:26 PM on August 18, 2011 [14 favorites]



Could be pretty bad if there were no inspection or licensing, actually. Salons are places in which people are very close to one another, items are shared person to person, and bacteria have fun places to play. They can transmit MRSA and other staph infections and cause skin infections. Many of the substances used, from nail polish removers to hair care products, are toxic and/or caustic and can cause skin burns or eye damage. There are items that reach high heat levels, and lots of sharp things like razors and fine scissors.


The problem is that none of this is rocket science, isn't a particularly huge risk in actual practice in countries where licensing for such services is not required, and licensing doesn't actually prevent any of those things from happen anyhow. It also tends to set up cartel-like regulating bodies that raises entry costs, and tends to seeks rents from novel occupations such as hair braiding services who may engage in none of the truly risky practices that are supposedly regulated for the sake of safety.

There's a case to regulate everything in life. But making a case that is optimal is something less often sought.


a) Universal healthcare would put a lot of worry behind me and money in my pocket


I've wondered about this. I think a universal healthcare system would have simplified things on my business end, as far as shopping/haggling for insurance plans would be someone else's (government's) job. So it would save those administrative costs and headaches. But I doubt the direct costs in taxes to fund the system wouldn't be significantly different. I'd like to think it could be, but it's such a hypothetical that demands a level of faith, I would never plan on cost savings.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:30 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


isn't a particularly huge risk in actual practice in countries where licensing for such services is not required

I'd have to see some numbers in order to agree.

and licensing doesn't actually prevent any of those things from happen anyhow.

Risk management aims to reduce risk, not prevent 100%.

I doubt the direct costs in taxes to fund the system wouldn't be significantly different.

All hypothetical since it didn't happen, but overall costs per insured would have gone down due to the addition of millions of healthy people to the books.
posted by Miko at 7:39 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Here in Massachusetts, where we're as close as anybody in the US has gotten to universal health care and we have a state-run health-insurance "connector," the cheapest insurance plan for a family (i.e., the one with the highest co-pays and deductibles) is now $1,200 a month. The one plus: Unless you're incredibly successful at your business, chances are you're going to be able to deduct a whole lot of that from your federal taxes - and you'll be able to get a waiver of the 10% penalty for early withdrawal from an IRA up to that amount if you have cash-flow issues.
posted by adamg at 7:41 PM on August 18, 2011


the cheapest insurance plan for a family (i.e., the one with the highest co-pays and deductibles) is now $1,200 a month.

What's the family makeup, and which plan? One individual in my household is on a plan comparable to my HMO, and it costs $125 a month.
posted by Miko at 7:43 PM on August 18, 2011


novel occupations such as hair braiding services who may engage in none of the truly risky practices

Oh, was gonna add that hair braiding isn't usually just dry braiding, but involves the application of softeners and smoothers that are in the hazardous-chemical category.
posted by Miko at 7:45 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


*my fault, not always true. Sometimes it's just conditioner.
posted by Miko at 8:15 PM on August 18, 2011


I'm an architect, so I guess I have a vested interest in the 'bureaucratic paper pushing' side of things, including such obscurities as zoning regulations. I'm of the opinion that zoning codes across this country are indeed largely too restrictive of use and do put onerous burdens on projects.

At the same time, I don't at all think the solution is to do away with them entirely. I've been to many zoning hearings where I've heard private individuals come forward to present their own project. Almost invariably they are mid-sized efforts where the individual has decided to do it themselves instead of hire a professional to guide them. Often it is clear that they don't really even understand the (implications of) zoning restrictions until they are in the hearing, despite zoning staff's attempt to educate them. Further the amount of what I can only describe as magical thinking as they explain away problems such as water run-off, parking, or similar technical issues can be surprising.

I know of no contractor who wants themselves, or their workers to get injured. Despite that, there is no doubt to me that OSHA, inspections and safety regulations give them an added incentive to do things the right way that causes appreciable improvements, and costs clear and obvious money.

Finally, there are issues where the costs can be clearly externalized. A prime example is storm water runoff from new construction. It really doesn't directly benefit any property owner to deal with it beyond getting it away from their foundation and off their paving. But, a whole community can significantly change flood risks depending on how storm water is managed individually be every property. The regulatory time, expense and predictability of dealing with this issue, both during construction and afterwards, is significant.

Bottom line, I don't think the details of every regulation are right, but they are there for a reason, and the work that experts do to help comply with them is neither trivial nor simply paper pushing. If anything my view is that we have a dysfunctional and adversarial view of regulation, which is really just another way of saying "the democratic agreement we've made as to how we'll all live together".

That isn't to say regulations are all good. They need constant review, fact checking and there should be more efforts to clean out old, obscure pieces to keep them fresh and relevant. But, that isn't what I hear from the Tea Party.
posted by meinvt at 8:25 PM on August 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


This article needs to be tacked on to every single AskMe along the lines of "I have this awesome stable job, but I'm thinking about moving to Portland and starting my own business."

Because damn there are a lot of those. I've given up dropping my opinion (as a full-time freelancer going on 4 years now) because it makes me feel too much like a bitter old dream-popping grouch.
posted by ErikaB at 8:58 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


The one thing I've thought of, that might make some sense, was starting my own sausage and cured meats business.

You make a list of a whole lot of reasons why you think it wouldn't work, but it might be practical if you started on a smaller basis, and focussed on internet sales. Have you seen Jerry's Pies? He's got a tiny little shop down in Kyoto somewhere, and seems to be doing OK. I get a box of his stuff (frozen) once a month or so, and am very grateful for it.

Get your online order form ready, and I'll give your sausages a try too!
posted by woodblock100 at 9:28 PM on August 18, 2011


my brother runs his own print shop, which before he had it, was owned by an older brother who had started it with help from my mom and dad - for a couple of years in the 80s, i worked part-time for them as a typesetter while working full-time at a motel as a night auditor/desk clerk

my observations

1 - it takes at least one or two years to get profitable and one had better be prepared for that

2 - there is a shitload of governmental/tax things to learn, especially if you hire people - you will need an accountant - you will battle with the local governmental bureaucracy - you will be confused, frustrated and struggling

3 - you will be working 60 to 70 hours a week, period - just get used to it

4 - and if it's a family business you're running, business comes FIRST, family second

5 - no business stays the same - technologies change, markets change and you need to keep up - you are only as good as your last year and there are never any guarantees

6 - in a small city of 50,000, everyone will know your reputation as a service person and employer

7 - you will need the services and goodwill of other proprietors in your town, but watch out for the crooked ones

8 - most important of all - you ARE NOT YOUR OWN BOSS - everyone who walks through that door to buy something from you is your boss - just get used to it and deal with it

watching all of that put me straight about the "dream" of owning one's own business - and working 10 years for a couple who owned a gas station/convenience store underlined it - they were making 40k a year, i estimate and working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week to do it

i was making a buck more than minimum wage - i estimate they were making a buck less

it's tougher than hell, and you'd better be tougher than hell to do it
posted by pyramid termite at 9:28 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I myself made the leap to being self-employed just over 25 years ago, and I'll never go back, never, never, ever. I understand well the kind of problems outlined in the story, and yeah I work plenty of 16+ hour days. Any boss who asked an employee to work as hard as I do would be jailed for cruelty. But that's beside the point. I live and breath my 'work', and if you're comfortable with that, then this is the life for you ...

everyone who walks through that door to buy something from you is your boss

I respectfully disagree on this one. I understand that each business is different, but my own experience on this is that I 'build' for myself, to my own tastes, to my own quality level, to my own satisfaction. It's a 'take it or leave it' from the customers point of view. There are - of course - plenty who 'leave it'. But there are enough out there whose views will line up with mine ...
posted by woodblock100 at 9:35 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


But, that isn't what I hear from the Tea Party.

Gent I know freelances as a designer/draftsman. He will point to business he has turned away/places he won't buy services/supplies because compliance with the tax code for each municipality is too onerous (not to mention the regulatory lock-in such a web provides) and purposely avoids any commercial projects as it appears the major benefit of the regulations is keeping costs too high for folks who don't make large political contributions.

And luckily there are a few areas he is intimately aware of the local version of the UBC, so he knows which offices will require soil samples, multiple engineering stamps, etc. and which places only require a legible drawing (on a napkin if need be), but a clear intent.

And he can point to several instances where a novel solution was summarily denied because the code doesn't specify a standard per se say, but a method, and it is much easier for the city to sign off on an established method than take the time to understand how something different meets the intent of the code.

And you can completely forget trying something new (to the county) like a rammed earth house. No one will sign off on it.

And from where he sits, and discussions with his associates, it looks very much like regulatory capture. Why risk trying something new when IBM will have its new line out real soon now.

He's one of those voices you hear from the Tea Party.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 9:46 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I respectfully disagree on this one.

well, you're in a much different line of work than a print shop; you've got your niche and those who are attracted to your kind of artistry and standards are yours

in a print shop, it's anyone who walks in the door who wants wedding invitations, a flyer for their little business, a program for their roller rink, a resume, a business card - and if you're lucky, the local fortune 500 company might want you to print up training and informational brochures, and the local school districts might want you to print up their newsletters

some of them are happy with anything good looking you give them - others are impossibly picky, naive and self-contradictory, if not downright flaky about what they want, and you have to do it to their standards, not yours, if you want to make money from them

it's a rare customer who is such a pain in the ass that you'd want to tell them to take a hike - we took on anyone from the local churches to the local punk fanzines to the people who wanted resumes that had everything save bells and flashing lights - you'd be amazed at how absurdly anal people are about their resumes - i typeset hundreds, i know - (and corrected a lot of bad english from college grads in the process)

we did tell the local kkk to go to hell though
posted by pyramid termite at 9:55 PM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Further the amount of what I can only describe as magical thinking as they explain away problems such as water run-off, parking, or similar technical issues can be surprising.

I knew a land developer type of guy who was set to inherit his parent's fuck-off big orchard in an old "hills suburb" that had recently become a trendy "tree change" type area.

And he couldn't wait to get his grubby hands on it and sub divide it into fashionable 4 acre lots. Ka CHING! But the property was too near a major creek that fed into too many important areas. So it was zoned in the "catchment area" and sub development was not allowed.

And he was having a whinge to me one day. "That's bullshit!"

That was his entire reasoning.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:59 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


you've got your niche

Yeah, my case is a bit different, but I was thinking of places like restaurants, fashion suppliers, etc. etc. You create your particular 'style' and offer it to the world. If you are good (and/or in line with current trends), you'll get by. My point was that I think there are ways to do it without having to 'pander' to the clients (although I understand your particular case is different ...).
posted by woodblock100 at 10:03 PM on August 18, 2011


Woodblock, I've actually heard of Jerry's Pies, and you bring up something I hadn't really considered, i.e. internet sales, which is pretty dumb not to think of, really. Still, the commercial kitchen set-up is kind of a must, and not exactly a small hurdle. It's worth thinking about, though. Thanks.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:26 PM on August 18, 2011


internet sales

Not to push this too much, 'cause you'll find your own way through this, but the huge advantage of doing it via the internet (rather than with an actual shop), is the complete freedom from having to have 'opening hours', which can be a terrible chain around the neck of a small business owner.

You still need the discipline to get the work done, but not having to even own an alarm clock is one of the glorious freedoms of this kind of life, and one to which I give fresh thanks every single morning of every single day.
posted by woodblock100 at 11:32 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


True story:

Several years ago, I was unemployed for 142 days. During that time, I hustled my ass to get a new job and had many meetings with prospective employers who told me that their business was in the toilet thanks to the recession. Instead of hiring me outright, I was encouraged to start a Plan B many times. "You're too talented not to start your own consulting firm!" they would say. "We can't hire you, but you should hang out your own shingle!"

What people couldn't understand was that I had made peace with the fact that I was not cut out to be my own boss. Just because I'm talented, good at what I do, and have a good reputation doesn't mean that I'm the next David Ogilvy or Steve Jobs. I'm a great Spock, but a lousy Kirk.

Bottom line: there is a world of difference between being entrepreneurial vs. being an entrepreneur.
posted by zooropa at 4:42 AM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


During that time, I hustled my ass to get a new job and had many meetings with prospective employers who told me that their business was in the toilet thanks to the recession.

If their business was in the toilet because of the recession but yet they encourage you to strike out on your own (and thus increasing the competition)....something tells me that it wasn't hard not to follow that advice.
posted by The1andonly at 5:54 AM on August 19, 2011


More Americans are desperately trying to avoid the stigma of joblessness by claiming to be "entrepreneurs" (565,000 of them a month in 2010) than at any period in the last decade and a half.

Thank you. I am glad someone said it. The thread on Poor Economics a few months back spurred me to read the book, and boy howdy do they have something to say about entrepreneurship as a metric of economic success. Specifically, that if you look at small-business-proprietorship among desperately poor people, you see an absurdly high (>50%, IIRC) rate of "business owners" among the general populace. Almost none of them make enough money to keep themselves and their families fed, but when there are no jobs to be had, it turns out to be better to hang out a shingle and do whatever small amount of work you can find to do, rather than starve while you go looking for work.
posted by Mayor West at 6:25 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


For all the doom and gloom, I think, for some people, a small business is exactly the right way to go. There are people who are not well suited to working for others, there are people with strengths in a narrow market, there are people who have a clear idea of what their business should be and how they want to run it. All of these people are primarily driven by a desire to run a small business. They theoretically could run a yarn store, a comic shop, a cupcaketorium, a salon, whatever -- they pick the specific business because they have a special connection to it that would give them an edge (running a yarn shop if you do no crafts is -- a little weird), but their main interest is running the store. That's where they put their hopes, passion, and energy.

People who reverse this tend to be unprepared for working long hours with little or no pay for 2-3 years at a minimum, dealing with a wide range of slightly bewildering regulations, facing the challenges of juggling payments to vendors, facing former friends and family with whom they now have a business relationship, and so on. It's not that a small business is a bad idea, it's just a bad idea for the unprepared and non-self-reflective.

If anyone says "You are a great baker! You should open a cupcake shop! They are really popular!" to you, do yourself a favor and light them on fire.

(Note: Lighting people on fire is bad; don't do it.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:43 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm about to do just this. 11 years with a Public School system as an IT guy has run it's course. With budget cuts my hours and pay are dwindling. Will get a chunk of change from my benefits when I resign in June. Talking to friends who have started businesses. Some very successful. And it's bit scary but thrilling at the same time. I've always worked for someone else and at 56 yrs old this may be my last chance to change that pattern for good. I'm looking forward to it.
posted by judson at 6:59 AM on August 19, 2011


One of my goals in life is to run a small business, even if it's a really really small business, with a little money coming in on the side while I work somewhere else. I've done it ever so slightly by hand-making guitar pedals, but there are many people that do it that the numbers are really hard to ever move it beyond unless you come up with your own design, and it becomes popular.
posted by drezdn at 7:13 AM on August 19, 2011


I have an online friend who was incredibly hampered by circumstances and truly awful parenting, barely finished high school because of an extensive hospitalization caused by complications from a ruptured appendix, and when she did so, found her credit was ruined by her parents gleefully applying for credit cards in her name and then charging them to the limit and never paying back a cent. No work history, no ability to go to college, she lived in an incredibly rural and depressed area with no jobs available. She noodled around with selling handspun yarn (can't make back your labor costs) and hand-dyed yarn (better but not great), and then on a whim she borrowed $5,000 from her boyfriend and started making mineral makeup and selling it through Etsy.

Now, her makeup is very good. But there are a lot of people making very good makeup out there. But it turns out that she has an unreal talent for marketing; she announces new collections to her mailing list only, and then the day they come out, she has a preview sale where you can buy mini versions of all six eyeshadows for the price of one regular size, or something, but only for six hours. And those six hours are between midnight and six o'clock in the morning, for example. So people stay up late, and then they're Invested and by god they're going to buy SOMETHING. And they do.

She's incredibly successful, and has paid back her husband and bought a house. And she works 70 hour weeks, and socks away half her income every month, because she knows that the chances of this lasting forever are slim.

I think that a lot of entrepreneurs don't realize that they don't need one skill and passion, they need, like, four. One is the business they're running. One is the running of a business. One is accounting, one is marketing. And there are probably others I'm not thinking of, too.
posted by KathrynT at 10:05 AM on August 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


I had a hobby selling vintage craft kits online, and made about 400 sales. Very quickly I realized the importance of having an efficient inventory system that goes beyond spreadsheets. Ironically, because my day job is in databases, I didn't want to invest extra time to build a decent inventory database, and still stuck to horrible spreadsheets. Because I knew that it would never turn into a serious business, I had the luxury of treating a hobby like a hobby, but the whole experience definitely made me have more respect for people who run small businesses.
posted by of strange foe at 10:34 AM on August 19, 2011


...moved to Paris to apprentice with a master chocolatier

If you're dumb enough to believe this would entail anything other than

hunched over in a chocolate lab packing chocolates and scrubbing pots. If she wasn’t doing that, she was sweeping floors, wrapping gifts, answering telephones or shipping orders.

then you're damn lucky anybody will hire you anywhere.
posted by Rykey at 1:22 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


One of my goals in life is to run a small business, even if it's a really really small business, with a little money coming in on the side while I work somewhere else.

Yes! Somethign to consider is an on-the-side business that works kindof like a hobby and supplements your income instead of becoming your primary source of income. I had a couple roommates in university who would go to garage sales and Value Village and raid all the old videogames. Like, all of them, for real cheap. They would then get some compressed air, pointy-style q-tips and some rubbing alcohol, clean out the cartridges and systems and we'd test them out while getting really baked. Then they'd sort the working stuff from the broken stuff and put together packages of old systems and games, photograph them, and sell them on eBay. An Atari 2600 or Intellivision package that cost them all of ten dollars to get the parts for would sometimes sell for $150 US back when the US dollar was better than ours. And it more or less supplemented our habit of playing videogames and getting baked for the whole year.
posted by Hoopo at 5:37 PM on August 19, 2011


...moved to Paris to apprentice with a master chocolatier

If you're dumb enough to believe this would entail anything other than

hunched over in a chocolate lab packing chocolates and scrubbing pots. If she wasn’t doing that, she was sweeping floors, wrapping gifts, answering telephones or shipping orders.

then you're damn lucky anybody will hire you anywhere.
posted by Rykey at 1:22 PM on August 19 [2 favorites +] [!]


Ha! She must not have seen that episode of the Simpsons. Or was that a Charlie Brown?
posted by gjc at 6:36 PM on August 19, 2011


That's immediately what I thought of, too. One of the very first episodes IIRC. The Crepes of Wrath or something.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:24 PM on August 19, 2011


HOMER: Please, please, kids. Stop fighting. Maybe Lisa's right about America being a land of opportunity, and maybe Adil has a point about the machinery of capitalism being oiled with the blood of the workers.
posted by The Whelk at 7:48 PM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Licensing doctors, lawyers and civil engineers is one thing, but cab drivers?

Licensing cab drivers is a very, very good thing, even if some licensing schemes are more rigorous than others). it helps prevents sketchy "cab drivers" from robbing or raping their passengers, helps keep cabs in a good state of maintenance and gets people to their destination by obliging drivers to know their neighborhoods a little. Once you're used to the idea, licensing them is just a forehead-slappingly obvious thing to do, like requiring drivers to wear seatbelts and to stop at red lights.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 10:15 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am self employed, and I dread ever going back to work for another company. As a self-employed person you actually have many bosses, your customers. When you are doing something you enjoy and you are self-employed, you will be willing to over look many things that you otherwise would not.
I get up at 4am to start my day, and I do not think I would do that if I was working for a company.
posted by roastermarv at 1:10 PM on August 20, 2011


And from where he sits, and discussions with his associates, it looks very much like regulatory capture. Why risk trying something new when IBM will have its new line out real soon now.

He's one of those voices you hear from the Tea Party.


That is funny, because that is absolutely not what I hear coming from the Tea Party! I've never heard anyone who self-identifies as Tea Party talk about regulatory capture, or even comprehend what the existence of that phrase as a term that describes something common enough to be coined means.

Instead, I hear a bucketful of catchphrases, demands that the nation default on its debts (what would happen if a small business defaulted on its debt?), and a lot of comparisons of Obama to Hitler, which is beyond the pale in terms of connection with reality. They might as well be talking about elections on Mars.
posted by JHarris at 5:00 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Please stop opening cupcakeries. Thank you.
posted by Theta States at 1:30 PM on August 22, 2011


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