An Entrepreneur's Secret Ingredient

Entrepreneurs Pam Harrell, left, and Jenny McCutcheon 28 years later.
Entrepreneurs Pam Harrell, left, and Jenny McCutcheon 28 years later.

Pam and I had visions of becoming entrepreneurs.  We started a cottage industry, named our business P.J.’s White Collar Works, got out our sewing machines, and bought a bunch of placemats.   At the time the style was to top the plain necks of sweaters with dainty, lacy collars.

We bought a bunch of Battenberg placemats, trimmed out a neckline, fashioned a dainty hook and eye or tiny pearl button, and wore our own creations to attract buyers.

I don’t remember ever selling one of our creations as I lack the ability to sell anything.  I could safely bet I couldn’t sell hot wings at a football game.  But, and this is the good part, Pam is quite beautiful, has won beauty contests,  and has plenty of charm to intrigue other women into thinking  they would look as pretty as she if they bought one of our collars.  Never ever underestimate the power of beauty and charm.

Her tour de force was she sold a whole choir of women’s collars to wear with black sweaters.  True, the ladies were stunning in our designs.

We developed a method to our work schedule.  Once we had fortified ourselves with a pitcher of bloody marys, Pam cut out the placemats and I sewed.  Pam whipped on a hook and eye then pressed the collars into pristine condition.  We often worked late into the night to meet schedules.  But bloody marys provided the stamina and enhanced our joviality until we linked ourselves right up there with Chanel.

During this era of industry, we drove to another town for the funeral of the father of a friend of ours.   After the service I had remained at the gravesite for a few moments to talk to some friends.  When I turned to walk to the car, there Pam stood by the trunk of the car with the trunk lid up, selling collars.  Here was this tall, elegant American beauty holding up a collar, while other ladies held collars up to their necks and praised each other about how fetching each looked.

I couldn’t get inside the car fast enough.  I tried to hide my face and stifle my laughter behind a Kleenex, but there it was: Pam couldn’t stop selling collars and I couldn’t stop laughing.

When Christmas time approached, we decided to broaden our market.  Lillian, Pam’s mother, made the best almond roca, and still does, that I have ever eaten.  And I’ve eaten tons of it.  I might even be considered a connoisseur of almond roca.

Lillian made several batches while we watched trying to learn the timing.  Timing has to be perfect; I’d venture to say that rocket launching is easier.  Lillian went home and we sold the batches that Lillian had made with no problem.  The problem developed when we got reorders.  For the life of us, we could not replicate the timing.  Forced to eat our mistakes, I believe I might have put on about ten pounds.  I don’t think “beauty queen” gained an ounce.

P J’s White Collar works came to a flat halt when Pam decided to sit for her Masters in library science at the beginning of second semester.

I continued to finish off the candy.  Pam continued to claim that surely she didn’t sell collars out of the trunk of her car.  I continue to claim and always will that she did.  But one thing we’ve continued to agree about is that most of life’s endeavors are made delightful with a good hot spicy bloody mary.

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