Rand and Janeel Smith always wanted to run their own business, but it took a bit of time to get there, as they were a bit busy--raising their 8 children. Now that 7 of the 8 are out of the house (and have provided the Smith's with 15 grandkids, and one more on the way), they have a bit of time to invest in their business, an optical shop in Kansas City, Missouri, called eyeSmith.
What having 8 kids will teach you
"We told all our kids to pray real hard that it works because if it didn't they were our retirement policy," Janeel said, "We'll live with each one 6 weeks per year. Scott (one of their sons) replied, 'That's fine mom, as long as you do it only two weeks at a time!'" The children can lower their panic level a little as business has grown 40 percent in the last year. If things continue, mom and dad won't be showing up on their doorsteps anytime soon.
Prior to opening eyeSmith, Rand worked in the optical business, both in retail and wholesale and Janeel was a stay-at- home mom. Some people might think the latter wouldn't really prepare you for the business world, but Janeel begs to differ. She says, "When you do raise 8 children and you're dealing with 8 different stubborn personalities, and in my mind stubbornness is a sign of leadership, it helps you deal with all different types of personalities in the business place providing great customer service skills."
Apparently, Janeel's right about learning how to deal with eight different kids preparing them for customer service as their Yelp reviews are stellar
And now the kids help them
While only the youngest, 16 year old Isaac, is still at home, and the others are scattered throughout the country and world (Child number 7, Gunnar, is currently serving a mission for the LDS church in Brazil), they all help out.
Janeel says, "Each one of our kids came with a different personality and characteristics and now we get feedback. Aaron gets his accounting masters degree in April, and Brent is working on a computer IT degree so we run things by them. When we set up inventory, there were two kids here and one even flew home to help us with the inventory." It's nice when you can get accounting help for a mere 21 years of parental support.
All about the work
Raising a big family is a lot of work, and a lot of organizing. Ten people don't get to the right place by accident. And now that the family workload is lower, Rand and Janeel throw themselves into the business. They work 6 days a week, and they love it and love working together. Sometimes people question if they drive each other crazy--after all many would struggle to work full time with their spouse, but they love it, even though it is work. Hard work.
"We've never been afraid of work," Rand said, "and we've never been afraid of sacrifice and that's certainly what you have to have to start a business because we're pouring everything back into the business. With a family, your time is really not yours and to a large degree, that's the way it is with the business."
There are definitely easier ways to learn great customer service skills than raising eight kids, but the Smith's wouldn't change their methods for the world.