My grandpa died today. He would have been 99 in November. This was inevitable, and his quality of life had failed over the past few years.
My grandpa and I did not see eye to eye on a lot of things, but we had a connection that no one else in our immediate family had. We were both entrepreneurs and in business for ourselves. My grandpa took over his father’s business in the plastics industry and grew that business substantially over his lifetime. His company specialized in making the rubber gasket strips that are on every refrigerator door. These strips allow the fridge to suction and stay closed. A nice niche, pretty cool, and VERY necessary. He always said that if he had known I would grow up to be an entrepreneur too, he would have saved the business for me. Timing doesn’t always work out and I’m not sure how I would have felt about making gaskets. But the type of business is irrelevant; the mindset is the same. YOU are one who is passionate about building and growing something that helps to change the world or make the world just a little easier/better for others. It solves a problem and tackles a need. We saw eye to eye on that.
My grandfather was a very giving person. People loved and respected him. He always wanted to do the right thing and helping take care of his family was a top priority. Because of him, my kids have a little more money in their savings for college and Matt and I have been helped over the years. I never took that for granted and never asked for a thing...
Until… two years ago, I decided to leave the real estate world and start a different kind of business, a business creating food products and connecting with others who love to eat sweet treats, but whether by choice or doctors’ orders, are restricted and limited. My health journey led me to start this business to help myself and so many others. My grandfather never quite understood what I go through on a regular basis with my autoimmune diseases, so he didn’t quite understand the problem I was trying to solve, but he understood business. He had seen me grow a successful real estate business over the past 15 years and he knew I had the DNA and the wiring to conquer another type of business.
This is when I asked... After about a year on my own trying to lay the groundwork for my business, I knew that I could not dip into our personal savings any more than I had and have my husband still be ok with this business idea. So, I started to educate my grandpa about this new business and give him a clearer picture of what I was doing. I started sharing the success and traction stories with him. I saw the pride on his face. I asked for money. I treated him as an investor and pitched to him. One of my partners and I sat down at his dining table and gave him numbers, markers, successes, and a vision of what we were trying to do. I am forever grateful for his generosity. It wasn’t much money, because he was a very conservative risk taker, but it was enough to help this company work toward scaling up.
To me, his passing is very bittersweet. At the time of his death, I still didn’t have much to show for my business. Things have taken so much longer than I thought, and failures and setbacks have been bigger and more substantial than one can imagine. I had hoped to be able to show him my new concepts, my manufacturing model, new packaging, and my distribution and on-line exposure. He died before I could do that.
I don’t believe in the afterlife, but I do have a glimmer of hope that he knows how much he has inspired and helped me with my company. I hope he knows that success is out there and is just a matter of time – and that he was part of it. From one business owner to another – I love you Grandpa.
Rest in Peace.