During that time, I did a lot of traveling in (then communist) eastern Europe, making many trips to work with churches there and visit people who expressed interest in Christian radio programs or literature campaigns. I also made 6 trips to the Soviet Union, most lasting about a month at a time. I gained a strong fluency in German and a minimal conversational capability in Russian (which has pretty much been lost over time).
Back in the states, I pursued an advanced degree in German literary criticism at the University of Tennessee, with the idea of eventually returning to Europe, but I never did. While still in school and also working in a ministry I became involved with business in 1988.
My real business experience had begun at a much earlier age – I was always making or selling something – but took a very serious turn when I purchased a bookstore in Knoxville and then moved it to a new shopping center. I had the dream of someday owning a publishing company (I had a plan to get from selling books to writing and publishing them) but first I had to solve the retail parts of the puzzle and learn how to make a small business profitable.
My full-scale plunge into small business introduced me to a whole new world of the American entrepreneur. It was in incredibly wonderful world where I met some of the finest, most optimistic and most caring people I have known. They were also the hardest-working people I had ever met – most of them working 60-80 hours a week to fulfill their life dreams. And their (and my) lives were full of drama. The recession of 89-92 was on and small businesses were going belly-up daily. We all had to work together to succeed and it was very hard.
I’ll let this rest for few days and finish this short autobiography soon. — check back.