The term entrepreneur seems to get thrown around in conversation a lot these days. There is a certain kind of adoration and intrigue when society refers to the people making a living on their own terms. I do understand that venturing out on your own without a guarantee of any success seems awfully cavalier. Entrepreneurs are being celebrated like the early explorers that set sail without a definitive goal or security that they would find what they were looking for much less return in one piece.
These discussions usually lead to a debate of how an entrepreneur comes to be. Is it DNA? Nature or nurture? I would argue that it is a number of natural personality traits, exposure, interactions and challenges that create such a person.
Let’s all agree that my previous statement is at very least mostly accurate. I’d like to spend this time on discussing entrepreneurial community.
I would break down community by two distinct definitions:
We need to learn to be great entrepreneurs. Even if we are born with the entrepreneurial mindset we need the playbook. Yes, most of us march to the beat of our own drum. That doesn’t mean all of our ideas are original. It only means that with all of the information that we do have, we get to make the final decision. The people around us can serve as coaches, mentors, leaders, motivators and thought provokers. Any entrepreneur with any chance of success needs an incredible tribe of supporters around them. They are absolutely necessary for success. We must find these people in our community and bring them into our circle of influence. At all costs, we need to connect with the people that will make a positive impact in our life. I can’t imagine what it would be like to guess at every important decision I have in my business. My fail rate would be too high to have survived, I’m sure. People ask me all the time where to find these people. The good thing is that they are all around us. We just have to build our criteria and then seek them out. I like to find entrepreneurs that have achieved the success that I aspire to have in a similar type of business. Then I look to see if they are part of a “pay it forward” organization. These are the people that will see the mutual benefit in helping someone succeed. They are typically open to helping anyone in need given the chance. These are the people that are actually working towards a better world, not just a better bank account. Pay it forward types of entrepreneurs are everywhere in the world. We just need to find them.
While thinking of a global location there is definitely privilege. Privilege is something we often overlook working in North America. It can be things like office space, fast internet, mobile phones, IT infrastructure, business education and capital. It’s crazy to me to think that not everyone in the world is competing on an equal playing field. I believe that all boats rise together in order to build a strong economy and planet. I have truly enjoyed building businesses over my 20-year career and can’t imagine having the same burning desire while living in an area of the world without basic privilege. The only way, we, the people of the world, are going to sustain a good life for all of humanity is by all rising together. Unfortunately, with the speed of business growth, today people without our privilege will continue to fall behind. So far behind and so fast that they may never recover. This, unfortunately, creates a state of desperation and despair. When a society becomes desperate they revolt. This lack of basic privilege is a path to community downturn. When identifying the people as one half of the community I hadn’t yet mentioned that not all areas of the world have enough of the right people. Mainly because they have not been shown themselves how to mentor the next generation. We have all heard the term “generational wealth”. When referring to entrepreneurial community “generational knowledge” is a major factor in the health of that community.
So what can we do?
We need to once again use our privilege. This time consciously. We understand that there is an issue with developing countries, competing on a global scale. We need their experience, insight, and passion to continue to improve the world we live in. There is an incredible overflow of resources in the modern world. We need to first say "yes". Yes, we feel morally responsible for the current state of the world not just within our community. We need to decide that we want to be part of the solution. Then we need to summon the same effort that made our own companies profitable to help solve this issue through commitment and ultimately action. I’m searching for the next way to pay it forward. There is no better place for entrepreneurs to get involved than with people that already contain the entrepreneurial desire.
I personally resonate with these people that are through no fault of their own ill-equipped to make their impact in their community and the world they so desperately desire. We all need to use our privilege for something beyond our own circle of influence.
Ben Bowen is the Entrepreneur in Residence at Innovate Kingston, a not-for-profit organization aimed at building a community-wide ecosystem that supports startups in the tech sector. IK works with like-minded partners, organizations and individuals to foster relationships that will empower high-growth startups to achieve success in Kingston and beyond.