Every so often I roll out of bed for work and then remember that I don’t have a job.
I own a business. And an entirely different life.
In the past seven days:
So, in my mind, during the last week I’ve been successful, potentially more successful, and a raging failure.
Welcome to the world of Mike Wright, confused businessman.
It’s been a year since Just Wright Citrus LLC debuted on an unsuspecting public, and my, what an adventure it is.
Let me retreat a bit.
All my working life I’ve received a paycheck from someone else. In my early teens, my dad got me hired at his tennis club for various duties — running the sprinklers for the clay courts, cleaning windows, that sort of thing — for $1 an hour. And all the tennis I could lose.
My next job was as a gas station/car wash attendant, where I worked a few years before realizing I wanted a college diploma to avoid a career at the gas station/car wash.
I had a few writing jobs along the way, including the two-week existence of a failed experiment called Softball Stars. Our job was to attend and write about softball beer leagues in the Detroit area. I think those people still owe me money.
Armed with a journalism degree, I was hired at a newspaper in northwest Michigan before arriving in 1987 at the Citrus County Chronicle. And that worked out just fine until my retirement in August 2021.
All these years, someone handed me a paycheck every two weeks for what they considered my value was to the overall company. I wasn’t the company, I represented a piece of the company.
Now I’m the entire company. So when a sponsor — and you see their ads, links and names on the Just Wright Citrus website — sends me a check each month to simply write a daily blog, it’s extremely humbling.
And when someone contacts me out of the blue, such as my most recent sponsor, Do or Dye Hair Collective, did two weeks ago, boy that just makes my day.
October is the chamber's Business Appreciation Month, or BAM, in Citrus County. Used to be called Industry Appreciation Month — IAM. I can see why they changed it to BAM. (Click here for ticket info about the BAM bbq.)
As a Chronicle reporter, I occasionally wrote chamber of commerce stories, but not many. Business writing was never my forte.
And, like a lot of people on the outside looking in, I wondered what the chamber was all about: An advocacy group for businesses, or some sort of special interest trying to earn favor from the county commission at the detriment of everyone else.
I frankly had no clue. None.
Led by my friend Josh Wooten, president/CEO of the chamber, I learned as they helped me get off the ground. Josh himself paid for my first year with Weebly. Chamber folks encouraged me and opened doors that I didn’t know how to open.
I met with business leaders in our community, looking them in the eye and asking for sponsorships. I had never asked anyone for money like that before; I have a clue now what it’s like for political candidates.
Instead of laughing in my face, most offered to help. Make no mistake, Just Wright Citrus exists today because sponsoring advertisers keep me afloat. I’m beyond grateful, whether they supported the effort for one month or 12.
So now I’ve got this little business going. At the end of the month, I pay my estimated taxes and am happy to do that. Just about every aspect of this work — excluding writer’s block at 10 p.m. — is exciting, fresh and new every day.
Thursday night I attended the BAM mixer at Crystal River Airport. Upwards of 200 people representing Citrus County’s small businesses showed up to mingle and just celebrate being a participant in this community. There was an energy, an enthusiasm in the airport hangar.
It was so cool to be a part of that instead of detached. Felt like I belong to something special, you know?
I’m a small-business owner in Citrus County, one of thousands, who combine to give this community a certain local spark. That’s a BAM every day.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.