How roaming the streets of Athens in my teen years taught me valuable entrepreneurial and financial lessons

One of my fascinations since childhood has always been radios. Specifically AM and SW radio.  Having just arrived in Athens,

Collecting calling cards in my teen years helped me buy my SONY SW Radio

Greece in the mid 90s and in my early teens, I was without a radio. I needed one badly. But I was only 14 and with no job, and wasn’t about to ask my family for money to buy something as inessential as a radio. Well at least not important to them. So I took it upon myself to save money and buy one of my favorite radios: a SONY SW Receiver. But at the time, this cost close to $100, a fortune back then. I was still too young and a year away from finding my first job in Athens. So I had to come up with a new way to get the money.

At the time, and prior to the introduction of cellphones in Greece and Europe in general, calling cards were very popular, even for local calls. You would get a calling card with a certain amount of money and that enabled you to use it for a certain amount of time. Very convenient and affordable for most people. Beside their convenience, these cards had a another appeal to them: each had a theme or image of a certain city, place, team, person etc. Needless to say, there was a whole market of collectors, ready to buy and sell these phone cards (after their minutes had been used of course)

At first, I started seeing them in phone booths, left behind once people were finished using them. A few of the people who used them would end up collecting them but the majority would leave them behind. This is where I saw an opportunity I could capitalize on: collect enough of those calling cards and sell them for a profit to be able to buy a radio.

It took me a few months and at the end of it, I found more calling cards than I had imagined I would. It felt like a treasure hunt. When I went to the collector’s corner in downtown Athens, I had more than a few collectors gathering around me, trying to give me the best value for my cards, seeing that I had a lot and of different varieties. I managed to get the best deal which was more than enough to buy my radio and even had some money left to save for other things.

This is one of the best life experiences I have ever had. It taught me to rely on myself and work hard for what I want. It taught me that there is a way to do things if I try hard enough. After all, I managed to save money without having a job or getting money from anyone. All I needed was the right idea, some walking and free time, all of which I had back then.