By Andrew Sorrell
“They’re $1 each and ice cold. Get ’em before I run out!” I said, as the band students walked back into the band room after a long practice on a hot day. It was 2001 and I had just started 10th grade at Muscle Shoals High School. “I’ll give a free Coca-Cola to someone if they’ll help me carry this cooler to my car.” I was earning $5.15/hour at Chick-Fil-A working nights and weekends and it just didn’t seem like it was adding up very fast. I was wracking my brain and trying to think of a business I could start.
I had always been entrepreneurial. In elementary school, I trick-or-treated on Halloween and then saved my candy. All through November I watched as my classmates snuck in a Snickers bar whenever the teachers weren’t watching. As their candy supply ran out in early December, I sold mine off for a dime a piece and earned several months’ allowance money.
In middle school, the science teacher told us all to bring a banana to class on Friday for a project we were working on. “Anyone who forgets to bring a banana will get a zero on this assignment”, she said. On Friday morning, I asked my mom for an extra banana. She was suspicious, especially since she knew I didn’t like bananas. Her suspicion was well grounded; sure enough, just as I had predicted, several students forgot their bananas. I promptly auctioned my banana off to the highest bidder and earned $7. My mom didn’t know whether to be disappointed in me or impressed at my creativity.
By high school, I was more determined than ever to become a real entrepreneur. I profited $1,000 in two months by selling drinks out of my cooler after band practice. Coca-Cola found out and contacted the school administration and my business was promptly shut down.
It was about that time that my brother Matthew came to me with an idea. He was a freshman at UNA and was shocked how expensive college textbooks were. At the end of the semester, the bookstore paid pennies on the dollar at buyback. His idea was to buy books from his classmates for more than the bookstore was paying and then sell them on Amazon. We became 50/50 partners and bought hundreds of books.
Muscle Shoals was on the block system, meaning that you only took 4 classes each day. Because I was dual-enrolled in college courses, I had 3rd block free. Including lunch, that gave me 2 full hours of break each day. Each day I drove home to my parents’ house and wrapped packages of books that had sold online the day before. I shipped them at the post office and returned to school for 4th block. My senior class voted me “Most Likely to Succeed” and I decided to attend UNA in Florence and continue building my business from home.
My first year of college I read 120 books on personal finance, investing, and small business. When I graduated in 2006, I was ready to grow my business and hire employees. I quickly learned what a complicated and complex process opening a small business could be. After several year’s worth of effort, Infinity Books was up and running.
Today, Infinity Books, Inc. employs 25 people and sells 100,000 college textbooks on the Internet each year.
I opened my second business in April of 2015. It is an upscale pawn shop located on Florence Boulevard. We call it “Gold, Guns, and Guitars.” That business created 8 more Alabama jobs and has sold 3,000 guns since opening its doors. (I have always loved guns and been a huge supporter of gun rights, so I really enjoy owning this company.)
I also bought my first rental property at age 19 and still own several residential and commercial pieces of real estate.
I will always be an entrepreneur…an occupation that I think prepared me well to be a State Representative. I have seen first-hand the difficulties of opening a small business. I have had to work through all the government red tape and bureaucracy personally, and I know what we need to do to improve the system.
Many politicians tell you that if you vote for them they will create jobs, yet few have ever created a job themselves. I believe Alabama can make itself a more business-friendly environment. If I am elected, here are three ideas I have to do just that:
1. Eliminate the business personal property tax.
2. Eliminate the Business Privilege tax.
These two job-killers are paperwork nightmares and one goes so far as to charge tax annually on all business assets. That includes desks, chairs, lamps, coffee pots, trashcans, staplers, Christmas decorations, toilet paper, etc. It’s just nuts!
3. Eliminate the need for a minor to get a business license if revenues are less than $1 million per year.
I don’t believe a 14-year-old boy who wants to spend his summer cutting grass should have to get a business license. Many young would-be entrepreneurs are discouraged from starting a business by unnecessary government regulations.
I hope you’ll consider supporting my campaign and voting to send me to Montgomery. I believe my small business experience is exactly what we need for State House District 3!