having a father in his adolescence; his father died when John was just 10 years old. So when Applewhite was laid off from his job as general manager at Design Stream, a division of Atlanta-based Johnson Research & Development, in May 2003 as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, he saw a great opportunity to branch out on his own and also to spend more quality time with his wife and three sons, now 13, 11, and 7.
When he first started at Johnson, Applewhite (who co-invented and developed many of the popular Super Soaker water guns and Nerf Blaster toys) worked regular nine-to-five hours. “But as Super Soaker sales skyrocketed, the job started demanding more all-nighters and traveling to Hong Kong. My wife, who had left the workforce to take care of our kids, might not see me for three days straight or three to four weeks when overseas,” says Applewhite. “I caught a lot of flack.”
Armed with an M.B.A. from Georgia State University and using skills he’d honed at Johnson , where he’d worked since graduating from Georgia Tech in 1992 with a degree in industrial design, Applewhite launched the BBG Group the day after he was laid off in 2003. This home-based business design consulting firm specializes in working with startup and established companies to create and execute new brands, products, and services including Website development, graphics, and logos.
“I wanted to devote more time to my kids,” says Applewhite. “I said, ‘OK, I’m going to survive here. I can cover
my expenses with my real estate investments, so let’s kind of reinvent myself and really find out where I want to go and what I want to do.”
MEETING CHALLENGES HEAD-ON
Yet, like any budding entrepreneur, Applewhite had to adjust to the travails of being his own man. “The biggest transition for me was being responsible for everything — from taxes, cold calls, and writing proposals, to tracking receipts and managing bank accounts.”
The Applewhites also adjusted to a significant decrease in income. “At the end of my tenure at Johnson, I was making over $100,000 in salary plus bonuses of up to $20,000,” he says. “My first two years on my own I made only about $60,000 from my consulting services and real estate investments.”
The income decrease brought about lifestyle changes. “We didn’t spend lavishly on a house and cars when I worked for Johnson,” says Applewhite, “but we could take the kids on little vacations whenever we wanted, and we enjoyed eating out.” His wife, Genene, adds, “Our eating out bill was over $600 a month. We especially enjoyed going out on Sundays after church.” Now, Applewhite cooks a big Sunday breakfast for his family. “We sometimes have church in our pajamas with ‘Dad’s Big Breakfast,’” he boasts, “and the kids enjoy it.”
But like Morrison, Applewhite has found that being a dadpreneur has unique challenges. “When you’re working from home, and your kids and wife are home you don’t get anything done,” he laments. Applewhite finds that he’s most productive