This post is sponsored by Visa Business. Thoughts shared are my own.
I have this issue with labels. I really don’t like them. I avoid them. For myself and for others. Often, labels trap us in roles and boxes and cause us to question our potential.
So I’ll admit to avoiding calling myself an entrepreneur for a very long time. Partially because I resist labels but partially because I didn’t feel I measured up to thought behind the word. I wasn’t out there building some huge enterprise that would save the world.
What do you think of when you think of an entrepreneur?
I used to think of those amazingly brilliant, innovative people who set out intentionally to design cool things and build multi-million dollar companies solving the big problems in the world. I used to think of people like Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, whomever invented my lovely new favorite coffee pot with the one-cup brewing… oh and the designer behind platforms and wedge shoes… you know, real problem solvers!
I’m just me, doing my thing in my little corner. Somehow I ended up in business. I didn’t plan it. I had no grand scheme. Life happened and this is the path I ended up on.
Life’s funny sometimes when you look back over it. If you’ve read my about page you already know I’ve had a bit of a creative money-maker in me from childhood, creating my own opportunities from tutoring to teaching piano lessons to building websites to freelance consulting (I guess that’s what you’d call it… pay me and you can access whatever’s rattling around in this brain of mine from 13 years of accidentally building a small business).
My goals haven’t always been lofty–I’m more of a “here’s what I want/need, how do I make it happen with what I’ve got?” type.
Solving the world’s big problems? Not really… so some would argue that means I’m not really an “entrepreneur” so much as a slightly crazy person who refuses to settle down with a “real” job and a steady paycheck. (Hey I’d love to go work for Starbucks as a barista, to be honest with you, but they won’t pay me nearly what I can make with my own business…)
I’m an accidental entrepreneur.
I remember the first time heard that term. I had no idea there were other people out there like me who ended up on this path unintentionally. As I talked with others who identified that way, the stories connected with mine and it was such an encouragement to me to know that I wasn’t crazy or alone.
So let’s go back to what entrepreneur means: “A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” (Dictionary.com)
It doesn’t say on purpose… and it says “any” enterprise… many of us are entrepreneurs by circumstance. Accidentally. We’re unemployable because we need freedom to create. We got laid off or downsized or fired. We had family responsibilities and had to create an income from home. For one reason or another our clearest choice was to create our own opportunity in life.
When I think about the small business owners I know, who jumped into building a business out of necessity or passion, they’re taking big risks and throwing all their heart and energy into what they do–I’d call that initiative!
Entrepreneurialism shouldn’t be defined by how big a goal you’re shooting for, if you’re building the next million dollar company, or if you’ve solved the world’s problems.
It’s about taking what you’ve got and creating something out of it that makes a difference–for yourself and for the clients you serve.
So, what’s entrepreneurial spirit?
Are you going after what you want, finding the confidence that you can make it happen regardless of what resources you’ve got to start with, creating your own opportunities, and building a business that works for you?
Are you driven by a desire to help others through your business ventures, to continually identify what your clients need and improve the way you show up to serve them?
… I see entrepreneurial spirit in the crafters and artisans selling their creations on Etsy and at farmer’s markets.
… I see it in those who’ve been laid off or found themselves without a reliable paycheck, who got creative and found a way to support themselves, with whatever skills they’ve got.
… I see it in the coaches and trainers who find creative ways to build an income and get the word out so they can reach those who they’re meant to help in this world.
… I see it in authors and bloggers and speakers who just want to get a message out and find themselves diving into how to market and promote and position themselves, learning what they need to learn to get their words in front of the right audience.
I started with a laptop computer, an internet connection, and a whole lot of determination to build a business that would provide for my family. I didn’t have resources, I didn’t know marketing or how to run a business or anything else. But I jumped and built my wings on the way down.
And as I took small steps forward each day, and more than once a few steps backwards, too, I started to make more intentional choices and change the way I viewed what I was doing and creating.
It’s about making a choice. Moving from “I don’t know what else to do” to “hey, I can rock this and make it work for myself and my clients.”
And it’s about who you become as you face all the fears and challenges as you create your own path in life and business. It’s about discovering your potential and coming alive.
So I’m embracing that. I am an entrepreneur because I’ve decided to stick the label on myself. How about you?
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur?
I asked a few business friends and colleagues what it meant to them to be an entrepreneur and what drives them to continue on this path when things get tough, and I loved their responses.
At the core, choosing an entrepreneurial path is about the freedom to live life in a way that allows us to be of service to others and create something meaningful for ourselves and the world around us.
|The entrepreneurial spirit in me is my work to do in the world. It’s as if my soul set its course that my business would be the vehicle for how I’d be able to serve and help the most people, and so it lives in me with so much fire, passion, and conviction, that even if I wanted to quit, I couldn’t! (Of course I’d never, ever quit this journey, because for those of us ‘freedom seekers’ there is no other way.)Therese Skelly, Happy in Business|
|When you know that there is a problem to be solved in the world, that you have the need and the passion to tackle it, that you have skills and resources to apply toward the solution, and there is no one else on the planet who will address it quite like you, you become an entrepreneur.Wrisë D. Booker, Reid Dugger|
|I have this spirit because I am downright unemployable, having worked for myself since 1991. I have had some down spots, like this past “throw the towel in” episode which I wrote about. But every time I go into questioning my decision, I come back to what I know I can do to alleviate suffering. I have more love in me that I know I have not yet let loose, and I dig the immediacy of knowing what is needed and being able to provide that, or create a product that helps. I am just a wild child who had found a way to give her gifts on her own terms, and I like who I have become as a result.
Kathleen Hanagan, Turn On Your Light
|I became an entrepreneur because I found I wanted the freedom to fully and uniquely express myself and my own values through my work. I also wanted the freedom to write my own rules about with whom I would work and what that would look like. That also means avoiding the kind of conformity that deadens creativity and bringing exciting alternatives to my soul’s work.Carole Favero, Flying Dragon Acupuncture|
|Part of the novelty of our time is that as entrepreneurs we’ve been freed up to realize our potential. As well, this is true in relationships of all kinds. We live in extraordinary times with unimagined possibilities. If you’re not a part of the becoming which is a globalized world then you’re behind. Become all that you can be. Be with a mate who is becoming all that he or she can be and bring your best to co-creating a new world order with people of like mind. Together, we can overcome the trance of the past and bring into being a world where each of us and all of us thrive.Tom Feldman, Creating Futures|
|I became an entrepreneur because I wanted to work with a variety of people and projects, and to be my own boss. I now realize having my own business provides lots of variety — AND lots of bosses! Still there is something very special about being able to wake up in the morning and set my course for the day. (And if I get discouraged, I just watch the traffic report and smile that I get to work from my home office!)Ginny McMinn, McMinn HR|
|When I accidentally became an entrepreneur (my husband got a job across the country from where we had lived), I worried a lot about leaving the “safe” world of working for someone else – now I realize that the ultimate safety is having the skills to make a living based on your passions – and being able to easily change your work as your passions change.Meredith Poulton Eisenberg, The Launch Ladies|
Your turn! What does being an entrepreneur mean to YOU? How do you stick with it when you get discouraged?
I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.