I haven’t had a job since high school that allowed me to say what I do for work without wondering how that person might respond to it. *Shoutout to my Coldstone Creamery days where my boss recently told me that my people skills were an A and my cleaning skills were a D at best*
Before being a full-time entrepreneur, I was a pastor. And I loved every second of it. But it can be an interesting experience telling someone you’re a pastor and having no idea what kind of positive or negative connections they have with it.
For some, it is exciting and affirming to meet someone who shares in some of their core convictions around who God is and who that means we are as his children... for some there’s a sense of trust and familial ties in learning someone is a pastor.
For others, it is a barrier to relationship out of the gate. For some, their experience with the church or Christian people (or at least their perception of the Church they’ve gathered from afar) understandably leaves a bad taste in their mouth for all things religious. For some, the thing that comes to mind first are the headlines of corrupt pastors, or hate-fueled groups and moments in history that have dragged Jesus along for their own agendas.
As someone who finds so much purpose in their work, it is challenging to have a job title that you know can create such varying internal responses in people.
And while it might be more in my own head than others, it is for this very same reason that I struggle to tell people I’m an entrepreneur at times. For a long time I actually referred to it as “the E word.” As if it were Voldemort’s name that can’t be spoken. Largely because I don’t know what it conjures up in people.
At times, I’ve cringed a little when people refer to me as an entrepreneur. There’s such a wide range of what that means to people. Here's my hot take on it: The internet is sullying it and making it a dirty word. If you hop on Google or Youtube and start following the rabbit trail of entrepreneurship, you end up getting this archetype of an entrepreneur that is being projected out there: You’ll find a lot of big boisterous personalities, that want to tell you about how you can 10x and 100x your business and plan your exits; you’ll find schemes and pep talks. In those pep talks you’ll surely hear (explicitly or implicitly) about all of the wealth (notice the opening scene in this video, one of the first videos that will pop up on Youtube if you search entrepreneur) and freedom entrepreneurship can bring. If we’re going to call a spade a spade, this version of entrepreneurship feels like a lot of vanity to me. On the internet, entrepreneurs often feel more committed to projecting themselves as successful than anything. In the worst moments, it feels like a big farce meant to create this facade of an individual who breeds success wherever they go.
That can be a definition of entrepreneurship. But it’s not a compelling one to me. Can’t we establish an image of an entrepreneurial success that is different than excess wealth?
If you look beneath the words these messages try to tell, here is the actual arch of their stories:
- Things were bad in their previous career or lifestyle - As seen by their not cool car or average home paired with the dreary camera filters
- They left that career behind and began their entrepreneurial journey… at first it was still sad. You know this because they were in the same lame car. And they play slow music to really drive home that point.
- But then through hard work… the music changes and life got real nice. They became successful. Because they got wealthy. As shown… by their new car.
If you don’t believe me that this is the archetype, go do a 10 minute scan of entrepreneurship on the internet. Look into the “entrepreneurial motivation” and what the carrot is that they all seem to be promising at the end of the tunnel. You’ll hear all of the verbiage and buzzwords (hustle, sacrifice, discipline) and the motivation for all of it… is wealth and consumerism. That’s it.
If entrepreneurship is nothing more than a shrine that the entrepreneur builds for themselves than all it is is another word for a narcissist.
If we’re honest this isn’t just a problem with the depiction of entrepreneurs on this internet, it’s a wider cultural problem right now. The only difference, is that entrepreneurial culture doesn’t try to pretend like it isn’t their measure of success. Hey, at least they’re being honest right?
But here’s me being honest: I hope to never fit that archetype.
But then there’s the side of entrepreneurship that deeply resonates with me. The creativity of it that requires an individual to see something before it is really there and build a product/organization around it. The aspects that require an individual to find something they care about and believe in enough that it would be worth failing at. There’s something compelling about crafting a company around an ethos and values that you want to embody, because at the end of the day it falls on you. You can’t deflect and separate the parts of the business you don’t like and place the blame “on corporate.” The thing about being an entrepreneur is that you are corporate and you are custodian. For better and for worse, you have to take responsibility for every element of the business.
There’s the side of being an entrepreneur that inherently believes that things can be done better, and they don’t wait for someone else to make it a reality. They just try to go and make it happen.
At its very best, entrepreneurship has the word “social” in front of it. Social entrepreneurship is when we take all of the good energy and convictions and processes and problem solving of being an entrepreneur, and focuses their energy around improving the world and seeking justice in some way. Social entrepreneurship uses business to address some of the world’s greatest problems. It brings us changes like creating access to clean water, and banking, and basic provisions where there currently are none; and it brings everyday products that help humanity lighten its footprint on the planet.
THIS version of entrepreneurship is deeply compelling to me.
So if you want, feel free to call me an entrepreneur, as long as you promise that if I ever start acting like an internet entrepreneur you will give me a swift and decisive punch to the throat.
I make fun of the arrogance of the community, only because I am so convinced that entrepreneurship has so much potential to love people well, and do good, that it would be an absolute shame if we let it get lost in the world of greed and vanity. And sometimes, making fun of something is the best way to point out its absurdity.
This blog is primarily for the people out there who want to reclaim the “E” word from the internet again. For the people who want to see it wrestled back from the marketing departments and vanity, and see if once again become a description of grit and passion and belief. To once again become a phrase that people can claim as a job title without grimacing.
The Other Entrepreneurs is a blog written by Mitch Reaume, a social entrepreneur based out of Minneapolis and his company Fight For Something. The Other Entrepreneurs is a blog for entrepreneurs and people who want to measure the success of their life around the impact they have and not the zeroes in their bank account. The blog centers around social entrepreneurship in a way that is hopefully a bit more honest and transparent... and hopefully less about vanity and a life of excess than the average entrepreneur on the internet. It’s a blog whose content consists of the thoughts and experiences of our own company trying to make a difference, and the things we’re learning along the way. This is a blog for the other entrepreneurs.