As Ready by 21’s “Real World 101” enters its second year, a new format of the class will continue to connect high school students to adults and professionals in the real world. The goal of the “Real World 101” classes is to expose high school students to ideas, required skills and possible options for life after high school.
On Thursday, October 4, an all-school assembly was held with a panel of six local business owners or operators. The panelists talked about what it’s like being your own boss, putting in long hours and working toward goals.
The six who spoke at the high school were Michael Rossney of El El Frijoles, Garret Aldrich of Isle au Haut Boat Services, Renee Sewall of Tomboy Construction, Hugh Reynolds of Greenhead Lobster and Melissa Rafferty and Megan Dewey Wood of 44 North Coffee. Senior Drew Siebert moderated the panel.
The six started off by talking about the many jobs they held before they started their own business, which ranged from working as a sternman to waitressing to teaching English. Then they shared with the students why they decided to start a business.
“I knew I wanted to come back here,” said Dewey Wood. “And I knew if I wanted to, I needed to make my own job.”
Reynolds said for him, he loved the fishing industry and wanted to keep doing it. “You can’t be afraid of making mistakes,” he said, while acknowledging that the most important thing it takes to make a business a success is determination and hard work.
Sewall said the love of her job is what made her want to start a business, and that it took “sheer determination to get where I am,” particularly since she works in a male-dominated industry.
Doing what you love is important, said many of the panelists. But owning a small business is also a lot of work.
“When you have your own business you’re the one who has to get it done,” said Rafferty.
Aldrich said it’s important to realize that as boss, he’s responsible for the people who work for him. “You learn how to understand people, what your workers’ needs are,” said Aldrich.
Reynolds agreed one of the biggest challenges was working with people. “You have to be team captain,” he said. “You have to provide leadership, set good examples and good habits.”
Rossney said that during the season, it’s not unusual for him to work 70 to 80 hours a week. “It just becomes part of the lifestyle,” he continued.
Sewall said the idea that being the boss doesn’t mean she gets to do whatever she wants. “You always have to answer to someone,” she said, like a customer or a client. For her, though, the long hours are work she loves. “It’s my life. I love what I do so much, except for the book work. That four to six hours of the week are the longest part of the week.”
Students asked questions of the panelists, including what they wanted to be when they grew up. None of the panelists said they thought they would own their own business when they were in high school. All of the panelists talked about how important it was to work hard to gain the skills high school teaches, such as math and writing. The panelists also encouraged students to try lots of different things when they leave school.
“If it’s not working for you, keep trying something different,” said Rafferty.
For more information about Ready by 21 or its parent organization Healthy Peninsula, visit healthypeninsula.org.