Re-framing entrepreneurship

Am I really an entrepreneur? I am self-employed and run my own business (two, actually) do I count? I certainly don’t look like the stereotype. Since this space is about telling more than the usual stories around entrepreneurship, it seems only fitting to begin with mine.

The truth of the matter is that I came to the conversation around entrepreneurship kicking and screaming. I was raised by lower-middle-class parents who diligently worked at blue-collar jobs. They valued education, stability, and, above all, staying out of debt. A deeply Puritan work ethic instilled in me the sense that risk is a foolish game to play, and pride goeth before a fall.

Add to that the claustrophobic male-ness of entrepreneurship, especially as it evolved in the late 90’s and the 00’s. It seemed to be a world where brash geniuses with workaholic tendencies took great risks on vaporware and congratulated themselves on mergers and acquisitions all while speaking in an impenetrable business-ese. Unbridled optimism intersected with Machiavellian maneuverings, and you could either learn to “swim with the sharks” or go bankrupt trying.

No, thank you.

Now, “business creation” still had an honest ring to it — shop owners and tradespeople could achieve the dream of being their own bosses — but entrepreneurs came to represent a completely different segment of the population. They seemed to be brash, slick, work-obsessed, privileged risk-takers whose life philosophy was completely self-interested.

After a winding professional journey led me from academia, into tech, and then to self-employment, I have had to confront my earlier preconceptions and bring real people and experiences to bear on these assumptions. I’ve met, and worked with entrepreneurs who shatter the stereotypes. Practically every one of them is aware of the larger issues in entrepreneurship, and is actively working to address them. But their voices are often lost in the din of the rhetoric around entrepreneurship — especially with regards to technology.

Our project, Initiate, is an effort to amplify the voices of all kinds of entrepreneurs and mentors who believe in fostering creativity, autonomy, and ingenuity in the marketplace. In cooperation with CoshX Labs, a company that has helped launch over a hundred start-ups, the goal is to reach out to the community of people who want to build something new, but feel lost in the deluge of conflicting advice.

  • Do you have an idea, or a project, that you would like to grow, but don’t self-identify as an entrepreneur, or know where to start?
  • Are you a business creator with a non-traditional professional story to share?
  • Are you passionate about a more diverse, inclusive, and accessible space for businesses to grow?

We understand many of the challenges you face, and we’re interested in working with you to change the conversation.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.