Entrepreneurship is . . .
Entrepreneurship has many different definitions and variations. I am often asked by students, colleagues, and various stakeholders of the organizations of which I am a part some version of the following question: “Have you ever started a business?” I am in the midst of starting one right now (internrocket, which is aimed at blowing up the internship and hiring process by focusing on micro-project experiences). So according to that traditional perspective of entrepreneurship, I am currently an entrepreneur. I’ve tried a few in the past and failed miserably before much progress happened. I’ve consulted for many folks who have started both successful and unsuccessful ones. But the sorts of experiences I’ve had, I would argue, are equally (if not more so) valuable to my goal of engaging students in entrepreneurial thinking and doing.
The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship can be driven by necessity or by opportunity. I grew up in a fortunate situation where I never had to think about necessity. I always engaged in opportunity-driven entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship can also be legal or illegal. In my younger, more immature days, I engaged in illegal entrepreneurship. In order to get the cocaine I needed, I started dealing for some heavy hitters out of Detroit. I would put that experience against that of any entrepreneur any day. I had to manage product. I had to manage employees. I had to manage financials. I had to manage stakeholders. I had to monitor competition. Anything a “real” business does, I had to do. But I had to do it with the highest of stakes. Not that I wouldn’t have food on my table, or I wouldn’t have enough money to pay rent. I would have a couple dudes called Slim (he wasn’t slim by the way) and Frosty visit me from Detroit. I had to cheat and steal and manipulate and operate well over that line between moral and immoral. Every day I had to make very real, very dangerous (physically and emotionally) choices. I would say there is nothing more entrepreneurial that this sort of experience. It certainly shaped my current world view of what is possible and of how to get it.
The Bright Side of Entrepreneurship
As I matured and realized I needed to clean my life up, I turned to education. As an educator, I am extremely entrepreneurial. I look for opportunities to disrupt the broken ways of teaching that we too strongly hold onto. I look for the failures of those who’ve come before me, and I give myself every chance to try some new method or technique, and to fail. I hustle my ass off – weaving students, faculty, alumni, colleagues, associations, entrepreneurs, investors from around the world together around fantastic experiences.
Am I an entrepreneur? I honestly don’t know what that means (Babson College is doing some cool projects around defining that word). But my answer is categorically YES! So when I get asked that question about whether I’ve started a business, I often reply by letting people know that I’ve been entrepreneurial from an early age. As my path through life changes, the focus of my entrepreneurial spirit changes. But that spirit has always been in me. Is it in you? How does it manifest itself? Find the opportunity. Learn to fail. And hustle. The results will be extraordinary!