Today, I am gathering everyone around the table for some real talk. (It's a metaphorical table, because my dining room table only fits 2 people and my apartment is tiny!) It's time we had this talk, small business owner to small business owner. This conversation feels raw and like it can't really be wrapped up with a catchy tag-line, but it needs to be shared nonetheless.
The other day as I was talking to some friends about business strategies for marketing and social media, one friend said, "If you don't have a financial goal/plan, then it's just not a business, it's a hobby." That comment felt like a slap in the face and simultaneously my desire to share the message that entrepreneurship isn't a one size fits all thing. While there is a black and white line between filing what you do as a business legally, there is so much gray area in the in between about when something you've created out of passion is a business.
"Making it" for someone may look like being booked to speak at conferences all over the country, while "making it" for someone else may look like being able to have a little extra income to enjoy vacations with their family. When we invalidate and shame one of those, we are missing the point of entrepreneurship. Not all business are started or created equally. There isn't a box that everyone who considers themselves an entrepreneur can fit into. That is what makes an entrepreneur to begin with, thinking and operating outside of a box.
Perhaps you have thought about starting a business. Perhaps you've thought about turning your hobby or passion into something more profitable. Or perhaps you've already done it and are years into your journey as a creative entrepreneur. The kid who sells lemonade on the side of the curb in their neighborhood and the 18-year-old who builds a photography business and the person who starts a tech company and is a millionaire have one thing in common...they are entrepreneurs.
It's my personal belief (I would LOVE to hear yours) that you can't teach entrepreneurship. I think that people have the qualities and can hone in on them for sure, but you can't teach someone to be innovative. You can nurture the characteristics, but you can't make someone an entrepreneur that doesn't have the driving desire to be one. This week, I was talking to my dad on the phone and he asked me what I was up to. I gave him a list of about 15 different things, that may be seemingly random and he laughed and responded, "You get that from me. I'm always juggling 10 different projects at once."
And it's true. I have had an entrepreneurial spirit since I was a kid. I grew up watching my dad build countless things, from cars, to businesses, to the actual house we lived in growing up. I watched the process that he went through from starting with an idea to then implementing it and following through to completion.
One of my first memories of entrepreneurship is from elementary school and I was probably 6 or 7. We were having a yard sale and instead of just selling some of my old toys, clothes, and stuffed animals, I informed everyone I was going to "make stuff to sell." I then proceeded to go to the store (I wonder if Michael's existed in the early 90's, but imagine it was something similar) and buy various types of beads, wires, and earring clips and bracelet clasps to make jewelry.
I had never done it before, but I knew I wanted to make something with my own hands. This turned into me setting up a booth and selling jewelry to all kinds of people. I didn't have marketing tactics, I didn't have social media, I didn't have an email list...but I had passion and I had an idea. I knew that I could create something that people would buy. Perhaps, those people bought things from me because I was a kid and they didn't want to hurt my feelings, but I have seem some pieces of that jewelry in more recent years and it was actually pretty good (for a 6/7 years old!)
From that moment on, I was constantly figuring out ways to repurpose old things with new things and create something of value to sell. In school, we had little markets and you could turn in all of the points you had earned for monopoly type money that could then purchase things your classmates made. I made snowmen out of clay pots, octopi out of yarn, and various other things. I also have to laugh, because I'm sure my parents spent a lot of REAL money to help me come up with all the supplies.
While I wouldn't start my business officially until I was almost 24, those early years marked my desire to do something outside of the box, which is what entrepreneurship is all about.
The reason I'm writing this post though isn't to share my memories of having an entrepreneurial spirit as a kid, but to share about how we can't expect entrepreneurship to look the same for everyone.
As a therapist, I kind of cringe when people ask for me for advice. It goes against my nature to tell other people what to do with their life. I am happy to provide helpful tips and give feedback, but advice is not up my alley. So when people ask me what they should do or ask anyone what they should do in their life or their business, I tell them "whatever you feel is right. I can't make that decision for you."
Wise counsel is so important, but basing YOUR decisions on someone else can be detrimental. Why? Nobody else is going to be as invested in your idea as you are or understand what you're trying to do. In the past, people have given me advice about things I should or could be doing with my business and I wanted to ask them "Have you even looked at anything I do? That's totally not my direction."
Entrepreneuship isn't one size fits all and your goals are not going to look the same as someone else's. The biggest mistake I see people making is to follow the exact plans or footsteps of someone else and then become miserable. For some reason we love the idea of following in someone else's pre-paved path for success..maybe because it's easy, but It can cause comparison, doubts, insecurities, and a host of other things to multiply when you try to imitate someone else.
The point of this really is just to share that you're doing a great job. You're moving mountains, even if you're just starting. Starting can often be the absolute hardest part of entrepreneuship, so instead of trying to fit yourself into someone else's mold, break the mold and make your own. If you aren't sure of where you fit, look within yourself instead of around at what everyone else is doing.
From my heart to yours, know that being an entrepreneur is the best and hardest journey and if you're not sure where you fit into all of it, that's okay! I'll be sharing more about how to find your passion and mission soon, but until then, I wanted to share something I found interesting with you!
There is a great article that I read on entrepreneur.com that said that while entrepreneurs are all different, they have the same traits. Read through this list and think about whether or not you resonate with them!
1. Full of determination
2. Not afraid of taking risks
3. High level of confidence
4. Craves learning
5. Understands failure is part of the game
6. Passionate about his or her business
7. Highly adaptable
8. Good understanding of money management
9. Expert at networking
10. Ability to sell and promote
When you read through this list, you may realize that these are things you've experienced from an early age. I would love to hear some of your own story about how you jumped into entrpreneurship and where your passion began!
Doubts and insecurities can easily sneak in and make you feel like an imposter, but know that no external source will validate you as a entrepreneur if you don't believe in yourself first. You don't have to fit someone else's plan or mold to be an entrepreneur.
Some questions to think about today are:
1) What does success look like to you?
2) Who are you comparing yourself to that may be causing you to feel "less than"?
3) What do you want to accomplish and who do you want to impact through your business?
Be sure to join the FREE Facebook Community and continue the discussion there! What other struggles are you currently battling with as you navigate your small business journey? I would love to help! Feel free to email me (email@example.com) with any questions you may have or topics you would like to see covered in future posts.