Business has recently picked up for me, largely because I stopped doing pro bono work for NASA (as much as it was fun and looks good on a resume, not being paid for more than a year was really not sustainable), and I ended up hiring two people to help me assemble circuit boards and drone bodies. I guess this makes me a Job Creator(tm). The only time I've ever had to manage people was for hours at a time on sailboats, so I'm a little jittery. This happened 3 weeks ago to this day, so I've had a little time to reflect on the change.
While I wait for a congratulatory call and complimentary GOP membership from Mitt Romney, I'd like to ask for some advice from the reality-based community...
I hired these two very interesting women, about a year or two younger than me, pretty much off the street: they mentioned being about to be homeless in a chatroom, and I offered a place to crash for a few days while they looked for another place to rent. That happened (I have taken an informal vow of hospitality, having been in that situation myself a couple of times), but one of these girls (let's call her Lia) saw all the electronics stuff and mentioned wanting to learn to solder. I was overjoyed at that. Turns out that the other girl (let's call her Anna) had tried to do the whole startup thing earlier on, and knew how to code to some degree.
I'm now in the odd, but historically common situation of having two apprentices living with me. They're married (domestic partnership, come on California you've done better than that!) so I gave them their own room as soon as I could move the spare parts out of it. There has been a little bit of adjustment about using up the hot water, keeping the cats inside, and so on.
This works overall quite well; stuff got done, autopilots got built and sold, and I have a lot more free time for design so I can come up with new products.
What I am uncomfortable with is that by some metrics, I'm running a sweatshop: I've been paying them somewhat above market rate, and taking on all the bills and even groceries, but it will be difficult for Lia and Anna to move out if they insist on not saving money. What I have been doing other than providing room and board is paying them minimum wage for their time, plus x dollars per "piece" they finish, and x/2 per "piece" that they finish but doesn't work and needs me to rework it; x varies from $5 for an audio-port modem, which takes about 15 minutes to make, to $50 for a full NAVCOM autopilot, which comes in mostly preassembled by a fabrication house but must be tested rigorously. On average that tallies to between 20-25 dollars an hour, again plus the room and board. However, this seems to not be enough for them to save up enough to be able to move out.
The issue is that while I live in a rather spartan fashion (I only drink water, go to the movies an average of four times a year, am not above a bit of dumpster-diving for parts for my server, etc.) they have told me that this is really not the proper way of existing, culturally; in order to properly belong to their specific subculture -- their words --, both Anna and Lia seem to put most of the money they make from me towards sodas, oddly expensive compressed gas capsules, and likewise oddly expensive incense. This while they choose to buy little other than ramen at the grocery store even though I keep telling them that they're welcome to healthier stuff, since I'm paying for food anyway! (At least they appreciate proper pasta when I make it)
What am I doing wrong, and what else should I be doing? I do not want these otherwise wonderful women to need me in their life, but I don't want to tell them how to live it, either.
UPDATE: For what it's worth, this was supposed to be a very temporary thing. It's been 21 days now, so I'm looking into the necessary paperwork. I may keep them on if it's feasible for me to do so, paperwork scares me and I haven't invented a way to scare it back yet.