Over the years, I’ve met thousands of entrepreneurs from all sorts of backgrounds and walks of life. When you’re running a small business, you quickly realize that many of the people that you interact with, especially from a business perspective, are also small business owners. I’ve always wondered what makes somebody want to become an entrepreneur, or in some cases, to simply run their own business. Some people will tell you that entrepreneurs are born while others might suggest that they’re made. But based on conversations that I’ve add with several serial entrepreneurs, I believe the environment also plays a big role (environment defined as the external factors influencing one’s decision).
Last week, I spent a couple of days up in Bellingham, WA sailing, playing poker and hitting the links…not a bad way to spend my time mid-week. The two guys I went up there with both live in Seattle and both left big corporate jobs years ago to either start or run their own business. Scott Armstrong (whose sailboat we thrashed) is an ex-Starbucks and Expedia product manager who bought a laptop bag company a few years back. It’s not a huge company…probably less than $10M in revenue…but one that’s done fairly well and had been around for quite some time. Cliff, who I’ve known since the MouseDriver days, was once a Princess Cruises Tour Director (kind of like Gopher from Love Boat), as well as a business development executive for both Avenue A and Microsoft. He bailed out of Microsoft a few years back to start his own online adventure travel company. Again, not a huge company, but one that pays the bills and provides Cliff with plenty of challenges to sink his teeth into. Scott’s company is Brenthaven and Cliff’s is VoyageTrek if you’re interested in checking them out
While we were cruising around the San Juan’s at 3 knots (no wind….bu the most ridiculous sunset I’ve ever seen), I asked these two what drove them to become entrepreneurs. Their response? It was what they knew growing up. It’s what they were exposed to daily and it’s what their friends and family valued. Scott’s Dad was involved in numerous small companies during his career, his last, and most successful by far, was Starbucks. And Cliff? He grew up in a small town where big industry didn’t exist. If you didn’t work in a factory, you had your own business. Most, if not all, of his friends parents were small business owners or entrepreneurs. Probably didn’t hurt either that each of his three older brothers also showed entrepreneurial spirit at a young age.
The next time you meet an entrepreneur, ask them what impacted or inlfluenced them to do their own thing. My guess is that ‘environment’ plays a pretty big role. Very curious to hear others thoughts on this topic as well.
Questions, Comments, Concerns? Feel free to comment below.