Reclaiming the Ideals of Entrepreneurship

When you hear the word entrepreneurship, what comes to mind?






These were the words I kept seeing over and over this morning as I was perusing a popular media site that highlights stories and events within the DC entrepreneurship community.

When was it that entrepreneurship became so synonymous with one kind of business? The kind of business that disrupts market places, has exponential growth, and whose success is measured by how much investment they raise?

I applaud innovative companies who push the boundaries and bring our world to new and better places. But that’s only one flavor of business.

Entrepreneurship used to mean a different thing. Entrepreneurs were the ones who opened businesses that served their communities, created jobs, and created a good life for themselves and their families. They were the mom and pop store owners that became neighborhood institutions. The sons and daughters who took over the family business and slowly grew it to new heights. The immigrants who came to this country seeking the American dream and started a business to support their family.

But when I look at media that highlights businesses that just secured venture funding, and when I look at the resources and education being developed in the entrepreneurial community, I see something different. What I see is a generation of talented innovators that are following a path only few can attain.

Investment, exponential growth, and company T-shirts are not prerequisites to building a successful business. In fact, the second you sell a piece of your company, you lose the very independence most entrepreneurs started their businesses to attain.

Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be complicated. Deliver a product or service that customers love. Do so in a way that leaves a profit. Use that profit to improve your offering and enrich your life. Repeat.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe profit is sexier than debt.

I believe delivering value to customers is sexier than delivering value to shareholders.

And I believe living a fulfilling life is sexier than burning the midnight oil.

These ideals of entrepreneurship need to be reclaimed. They need to be reclaimed for the small business owner that serves their community. They need to be reclaimed for the innovator that funds her growth through the sales of her product. They need to be reclaimed for the dad who wants to earn his own way and be home every night to spend time with his family. And they need to be reclaimed for the student whose side hustle serves him instead of the other way around.

It’s time that we again celebrate the entrepreneurs who use the vehicle of business as a means to create agency in their lives and make their communities a better place.

Brad Eisenberg