Opinion | We can’t all be entrepreneurs, and that’s ok

Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle — not a hustle or a hobby.
Woman-entrepreneur

The new year has brought promises of resolutions and likely a wave of new businesses fueled by peer pressure and social media prodding.

Each year, 627,000 new businesses launch, and 595,000 close by year’s end, according to the Small Business Administration. That means nearly 95% of the people who take “the leap” fall flat. There’s nothing wrong with failure, but many entrepreneurs fail because they weren’t built for that life.

Yes, entrepreneurship is a lifestyle — not a hustle or a hobby.

Fact: Not everyone hates their 9-to-5 jobs. Some people are doing exactly what they want to be doing…and excelling at it. They appreciate the stability of a set schedule, expectations and a paycheck. Having a W-2 is not a failure or the result of low ambition.

Recently, I saw a social media post that said everyone should become an entrepreneur. My response, “Would you suggest that everyone become a doctor?”

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The immediate (and correct) answer was “NO.” There were numerous reasons: you might not like blood, you might not like people, you might be a terrible student, etc. Like physicians, entrepreneurs must also have the gift.

As both a business owner and an investor, I talk almost daily about the joys and pains of entrepreneurship. I was a very reluctant entrepreneur. I was pushed into it, interestingly, by someone who had a full-time job. This was a monumental misstep.

I took advice from someone with zero experience as an entrepreneur. I haven’t found a full-time entrepreneur who has offered the advice to jump out there and see what happens. Yes, the idea of doing what you want and being your own boss sounds appealing. However, that’s the social media version of entrepreneurship.

Here’s the real: Entrepreneurship is hard. Like, really hard.

It means trimming back the lifestyle you’re accustomed to down to the bare bones. You’ll sacrifice money to support your entrepreneurial dreams. Typically, there won’t be lines of customers or investors ready to pour in money.

You’ll need to have savings that you can live on. Most start-up businesses will take up to three years before they can fully support their founders. So, you may need to be ready for ramen and cereal as your dietary mainstays.

Initially, you may experience quite a bit of loss. A successful entrepreneur told me the story of his car being repossessed as he sat on the couch he slept on because he spent his rent money on his business.

My losses didn’t manifest in eviction but rather in a loss of free time, social connections and, for a while, my passion for travel. Frankly, there’s no such thing as free time when you’re an entrepreneur. To reap the rewards, you must have a fanatical focus on the business. Being your own boss and commanding all of your time is just a myth.

As one of my good friends says, “You’re scrambling to make things work.” There’s no clock-out time, paid vacation time or sick time. It will take a while before you can say, “I don’t feel like it.” If you don’t work, you don’t eat.

People seldom talk about the loneliness and isolation that can come from the entrepreneurial lifestyle. The psychological price of entrepreneurship can be costly. When you’re an entrepreneur, there’s no time limit to how long you may be a team of one. It can take a toll on your mental health.

Building generational wealth is imperative for the Black community. It will take all of us using our talents to do so. Some will be investors, some will be entrepreneurs, and some will have traditional careers.

Being an entrepreneur isn’t all doom and gloom, but it definitely isn’t the champagne wishes and caviar dreams that some want you to believe. The question to ask yourself: Are you really about that life?


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