When to Begin


By Deana Molinari

When should someone start a family business? There are so many different stages of life. Should an entrepreneur be young or retired? Is a good or bad economy more supportive to new ventures? A few stories provide a hint.

According to the Entrepreneur Magazine, there is no age limit to owning a business.  Children can become millionaires.  Everyone can learn from business mistakes and go on to success.

  • Evan, 8 years old, uses cuteness and interest in toys to start a UTube channel.
  • Christian Owens (14) shared a new skill, web design with local companies.
  • Cameron Johnson (11) created invitation card his neighborhood loved.
  • Geoff, Dave and Catherine Cook moved to a new town. Their venture of an online yearbook created money and friends.
  • Farrhad created a global business from India with 20 employees while a teen.
  • Emil Motycha developed a child’s lawn mowing business into a conglomerate by working hard. (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/241189)

The summation is that age, location, and circumstances are not as important as passion, knowledge and endurance when it comes to operating a business.

The Kesler family began a small town grocery during the Great Depression. K. C. Kesler, a rancher, and son, Jack (11), found an opportunity waiting beside the road in March 1934. A small house on the main street of a nearby town was for sale. K.C. said, “That would make a good grocery store.”

They emptied their pockets for a down payment on the 16’ x 20’ house and promised to come back later in the day with the rest of the money. K.C. took the hogs to market and bought the house. They returned home to find reusable wood for the storefront. Soon the family opened the doors to Kesler’s Market and earned $11.00 their first day.

Mc kay, a fourth generation member, shared some of their principles of supporting family business longevity. His son (11) plans to work in the store. His other three children are too young to express their desires. Mc kay hopes to follow in K.C.’s and Jack’s footsteps.

Mc kay began working in the market after school at age 12.  He found the job exciting. His father and uncle managed the store while Mc kay and his siblings learned the ropes. The parents didn’t expect their participation, but the kids knew the jobs were there when they were ready.

The family works and plays together. They bought a mountain cabin near a lake. The extended family gathers for vacations and family meetings.

“Water skiing is the activity that pulls us together. My Dad loves the sport. Every summer day we spend lunch at a nearby park. We built our relationships while boating. Mom brings the food and snacks. I love it when she watches.”

The wives work alongside the men. Each runs their own department.  My wife is going to school to become an accountant and manages the receivable and payable accounts. My Mom managed the payable work before she and Dad went on a mission. My aunt runs the garden shop.”

Sometimes a family strength can work as a weakness. “Communication remains our biggest challenge. Because we trust each other, we sometimes fail to tell each other what we are doing.” Mckay states interactions are always cordial, never blaming or complaining.

“We talk plainly.  My Dad and Uncle never yelled or criticized me about my mistakes. They taught me how to avoid future issues.” Their communication style created a pleasant work and learning environment. 

“When a responsibility is given to a family member, we know the job will be done.” This belief fits into the mission statement. ‘Kesler’s will provide superior products and outstanding service that exceeds expectations.’  The statement is short but pertains to every aspect of the business.” The orientation book explains how the mission is used and store policies are tied to document. Employees are praised for working beyond expectations.

“I learned what the mission meant early in life. I used to carry groceries to customer cars. When I saw newspapers in the trunk I would offer to drop them in the recycling bin on the other side of the property. No one expected me to do that, but the customer was pleased. They said, “Oh thank you. I keep forgetting to do that.”

Community service grows out of the mission statement. The store’s service is popular. “We can’t give all the community needs so we developed policies.” The guidelines state written requests must serve the community, benefit the company, and reach the most people possible.

Other types of service benefit larger campaigns. The store sells state fair tickets and collects funds for the March of Dimes and Muscular Dystrophy organizations. “We serve rather than give products to these people.”

Mc kay joyfully plans for the 100 years in business celebration in 2034. Succession is a difficult process. “Families need to teach the youngest generation to like the business if there is going to be a succession. My friends listened to their parents discuss all their worries and problems daily around the dinner table. This pushes them away from that job. Kids do not want to manage a lot of trouble.”

Problems do happen in business and kids can help solve them. When I hurt my back, my nine-year old helped me order for the whole store. He worked hard with me and did a great job. It is my job to motivate and inspire him.”

“There is no one method of succession. We learn lots from lawyers, accountants, bankers, and counselors. I have a firm belief in local businesses. When I was a child, box stores killed off the little stores in our town. People are forced to go to the city for products that are no longer found in little town.

Hats off to anyone who opens a small business! I think the reason we survived is because we were created during the Great Depression. We learned how to work hard, make do, and not to expect a lot of quick money. I am an advocate for learning. I learn from business associations and my wife goes to school. We discover new things daily. Life is good.”