A business cannot thrive if its community is struggling

By December of last year, I was getting 10 emails a week from people who wanted to grab coffee or lunch so I could tell them my story and listen to theirs. Usually these folks were trying to land in a job that fits them, or wanting to take the leap into entrepreneurship but not knowing where to start. I realized this trend wasn’t going to end so I wrote this letter to declare a search for a new way to help.

For the last six months, I’ve been looking more closely at our economy and thinking about the responsibility of business in our society. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about the state of the economy in America:

  • The compound annual growth rate (adjusted for inflation) is flat to negative for 95% of American households since 2000
  • The return on investment for a college degree in the market has significantly decreased since 2000
  • The average income of the top 1% of Americans is more than 20 times that of the other 99%

I had a hunch, but it was deeply troubling to confirm that getting a bachelors degree and joining the workforce alone provides the average American almost no hope for true economic mobility. This is a real problem.

In addition to this challenge, the forces of globalization and ‘technology driven efficiencies’ now mean that adapting to change and creating value are becoming requirements, not options for us all. As I researched, it dawned on me that I’ve achieved some degree of economic mobility in spite of these trends over the last 15 years for two reasons:

  • I rode the wave of technology
  • I became an entrepreneur

It’s been a fun ride for me, and the future looks bright, but a lot of us aren’t feeling that way right now. In fact, I believe the income inequality that we are experiencing in America is one of the most serious threats to our future.

A wise mentor recently told me, a business cannot thrive if its community is struggling.

As a life learner, I naturally turned to teaching at scale as a way that I can help people overcome.

I can’t reasonably teach everyone to be a technologist, and I’m not sure that is even required to achieve economic mobility. But I do believe that just about everyone needs to learn how to be an entrepreneur. Even if you don’t plan on being an entrepreneur, knowing how to act like one might be the only way for you to achieve economic mobility in America in the 21st century. Also, it might be the only way for you to make enough money and control your time so that you can give your gifts to the world to leave it better than you found it.

I believe entrepreneurship is becoming a life skill. So I’m doing the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my career. I’m launching a company to develop entrepreneurs. Our first product, a book designed to breakdown the steps to taking your first entrepreneurial step, launches on Kickstarter tomorrow.

The company is called The Unlikely Company, PBC. It is a Delaware Public Benefit Corporation, which means that our charter is not only to benefit the shareholders, but also to provide a public benefit or public good. It is a double bottom line business.

For revenue and profit, The Unlikely Company will create and sell educational products and experiences for those seeking to become (better) entrepreneurs.

With its profit, The Unlikely Company will fund economic and educational programs that will develop social entrepreneurs in low-income or high-risk communities; those most unlikely to experience income equality in our current economic condition.

I hope you’ll help me help the next generation of entrepreneurs who will turn this depressing trend around and start solving some of our societies most serious problems.

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