What it Means to be “Entrepreneurial”
Photo courtesy of Nina Frazier.

What it Means to be “Entrepreneurial”

Written by Emilie

Topics: Entrepreneurship

Up until a few years ago, I’d never thought of myself as entrepreneurial. It was partially due to the fact that I didn’t know what that word meant. (Self-employment is rarely presented as a viable career option to kids. I would like to see that change.)

When I learned of folk like Gary Vaynerchuk and Richard Branson, I was jealous of how they spoke about their childhoods as though they had the “entrepreneur gene.” This elusive quality seemed to be something that you were born with. You either had it or you didn’t. I didn’t own a lemonade stand franchise when I was six years old or launch a tech start up when I was in high school. I always got very high marks in school, didn’t have ADHD or any other personality disorders. I didn’t even drop out of college! Did this mean that I lacked the “entrepreneurial gene”?

On a recent trip home to Montreal, I was having tea with my best friend. I mentioned February Album Writing Month, and how it would be cool if we took the month of February to write and record an album. She and I used to play music together back in college, and we’ve always talked about recording a full album one day.

“Would we do it over Skype?” She asked.

“Sure, we could send the audio files back and forth.” I replied.

She looked at me, paused, and then said,Or… we could go to LA and do it there…

My friend is an actress and comedian. I have a dream of being a television writer. LA has always been on both of our radars.

My eyes widened.

And we were off.

Suddenly it was scheming time. I morphed into coach mode– “Okay, this means that you are going to need an income stream that isn’t tied to a particular location. Why spend all day waitressing, when you could make the same amount in one hour of coaching?”

“You can do that?”

And the brainstorming began. An hour later, we’d come up with a service she could offer, something that I knew she’d be great at.

I flew home the next day, feeling alive and excited about our big plan. I had renewed energy and motivation to hustle on my own projects.

At that moment, I realized something. I’ve always been entrepreneurial in spirit. No, I didn’t think up ways of making money as a kid. But you know what I did do? I schemed. I was constantly inventing weird little creative projects, many of which existed at the intersections. There were plays, gymnastic shows at music camp, a kids news program, fortune telling and origami in the park, punk bands, websites, short films, and student clubs. Every time I looked around and felt displeased with the existing options, I would create my own.

Being entrepreneurial doesn’t mean constantly thinking up ways to make money. It means concocting creative projects, and coming up with better, more fun ways of doing things.

It also often means being a leader among weirdos, something I’ve proudly embraced.

Specialists are great craftsmen. They stand out by being The Best. Multipotentialites on the other hand, stand out by drawing on their vast experiences across multiple disciplines, and scheming up new creative endeavors. We bring new ideas into this world.

Multipotentialites are innovators, artists, and disruptors of the status quo. We are, by definition, “entrepreneurial.” Whether you choose to exercise that natural ability, is an entirely different matter.

Your Turn

As a kid, did you have a tendency to concoct all sorts of creative projects?

23 Comments

  1. Allison says:

    My various childhood business adventures included selling ice cream and cookies at the baseball field next to my house and starting a detective agency à la Encyclopedia Brown. And apparently when I was about 2 I went around a great aunt’s house collecting stuff I could sell to make money.

    I haven’t stopped coming up with the entrepreneurial ideas since, although, like you said, Emilie, I spent a long time thinking self-employment wasn’t a feasible plan. Now that I quit my hell-hole job to start my own business, my biggest problem is figuring out what I want to do first, and avoiding taking on too many projects at once!

    P.S. McGill was my first choice for college, but I went to Columbia instead because I didn’t get any financial aid money from them.

    • Emilie says:

      Wow, I was totally into detective stuff as a kid too!

      Congrats on following your heart and quitting the day job. There’s lots of fun to be had, but also lots of time. You’ll get to try out all your ideas eventually. Start with a few and go from there. But I hear you, it’s super exciting.

  2. Jo says:

    I’m totally with you on the being jealous about not being like that thing!

    Need to think this through. What things did I do as a kid? I used to collect rubbish because I thought I’d be able to create something great out of it. I wrote stories, poems and songs all the time. Came up with bands all the time, even though I can’t sing. (What I loved most was coming up with the band’s name and logo – I really do love branding stuff!) Plays and performances – check. Websites – yep. Music videos. Imaginary friends because my real friends weren’t good enough in various ways!

    Yeah, I can think of loads. How exciting! Thanks for working that out, Emilie!

  3. Emilie this is awesome!! I can really relate to your stories about being a pretty “normal” kid in the views of the modern day renegade entrepreneur – it wasn’t till late college that I even considered owning a business.

    In hindsight however, I was ALWAYS coming up with creative side projects revolving around my hobbies.

    The most exciting part for me these days is chatting with a friend about something that turns into a possible business venture and my mind instantly gears up to 1000mph cranking up ideas and vision faster than I can blurt them out.

  4. Lori Stalter says:

    I sold my stuffed animals and my aunt’s stuffed animals in a yard sale all by myself at the age of nine.

    I ran a couple of lemon aide stands.

    I ran a vegetable stand with vegetables from my grandmother’s garden.

    I schemed with my friends on creating a dog walking service in our neighborhood to make money to buy a tent. In fact, I got my first baby siting gig while knocking on doors to ask if the owner had a dog I could walk for them.

    In the winter time, I talked my friends into going door to door with me to sing Christmas carols and we would split whatever tips we received.

    I successfully sold my fair share of fundraising stuff for school, sports and clubs door to door.

    Wow. I never realized how much I schemed and did weird things unabashedly by knocking on neighbor’s doors.

    Thanks for the reminder, Emilie!

  5. kim says:

    Like you, when I was a kid, I didn’t quite realize that “spirit” in me. And perhaps its because I was crippled with self-doubt even into adult years. But I always was trying to come up with new ideas and thinking of things I wanted to “be”. They were always of the creative nature and always involved me being my own boss (writing, opening my own store, etc). Its actually pretty cool to look back and realize this. It affirms that I’m *finally* on the right path!

    • Emilie says:

      I agree, confidence is really huge when it comes to turning your little projects into an actual business. It took me a while to get there myself, but you already know that you have that creative spark inside. I think it’s awesome that you’re starting to go for it. Way to go, Kim!

  6. chongolio says:

    I was always dabbling with ways to make $$$. My freind and I had a candy and popcorn booth in front of his house. And my sister and I were always putting on shows. One memorable one was our version of the Three Musketeers. In our adaptation there was only two of us with broomstick swords and ketchup squirt bottle to simulate blood. The whole show was us fighting with broomsticks and squirting each other with ketchup. It was awesome but not really a box office smash we were hoping for. When the parents got home they pulled the plug on our show.

    • Emilie says:

      Hahaha that sounds amazingly entertaining. I love kids. So imaginative.

      My mom likes to tell this story about me, my best friend and her younger sister when we were really little. We got all dressed up in this lacy stuff, dresses, etc. I come out into the living room in my dress and elegantly proclaim, “I’m the queen,” then my friend comes out in her dress and says “I’m the princess,” and then her little sister comes out buck naked and says “and I’m baby Jesus!”

      LOL…

  7. Dani says:

    Yep, I constantly mapped out things I could do to be creative. I never follow life’s script and pretty much always got in trouble for doing so.

    I wanted to be a rap artist so bad, I also wanted to invent something super cool. I pretty much went on adventures anytime I could. I started skipping school in Kindergarten, I just had better things to do….

  8. Jen says:

    I think I made a few lemonade stands, but lost interest quickly. It was pretty hot in Texas, so we ended up drinking it ourselves. I do remember going around the block and offering to wash people’s cars for a few dollars.

    I was always making crafts. During Christmastime, my sister and I would turn our game room into Santa’s Workshop and try to make as many cards and crafts as possible. We would then dress up as Santa and the Reindeer to come visit our house and hand it out. This happened until we broke the “sleigh” which was an old baby crib we really had no business trying to fit into anymore..

    I had multiple clubs and was always dreaming of building a clubhouse.

    My sister and I would perform magic shows until a “disappearing cat” magic trick ended in a disaster. Apparently while cats like boxes, they do not like being contained in them with a human being.

    We performed the story of Rumpelstiltskin. This was a disaster because, not knowing how to sew at the time we ended up using staples and my costume started falling apart as the show went on. Thank god it was just my parents there because I wasn’t wearing anything underneath.

    I collected a lot of junk and would arrange it into “exhibits”. Definitely experimented with this again when I was in college and obsessed with German “Cabinet of Curiosities”.

    Hmm.. that was a good exercise. Great article as always, thank you so much!

    • Emilie says:

      So creative! I love it. I was pretty obsessed with Christmas too. A workshop sounds amazing. I used to turn the living room into a cobbler shop back when I was into the Hans Christien Andersen movie. Heh.

  9. Joshua says:

    Hey Emilie

    I feel you on the lemonade stand thing. The idea of standing out there selling stuff never held appeal for me. I couldn’t see the purpose of doing a business. In fact, for a good part of my life, I have cringed at the idea of ‘making a business’ because I just thought it was about hoarding money and had nothing to do with being creative.

    And my mom is a successful entrepreneur. So, by nature I should have been starting little hustles as a kid, too, right? But I didn’t, and had no interest in it. I was a natural introvert, and going around to stranger’s houses to ask if I could mow their lawns sounded dreadful.

    But just like a prolonged phase of adolescence, I snapped out of it and realized “If I want to pursue all those interests that I love, I have to learn to be self-sufficient.” Which is especially true as a multipod with a hodgepodge resume.

    I can see now that there’s really no other way for me, I’ve got to be an entrepreneur. And for me it really means tackling socializing & networking on my own introverted terms..

    So I know how you feel about being jealous of some of these “natural” entrepreneurs who are super well-spoken / outspoken all over the internet (I wish I was well-spoken).

    The notion that these exuberant self-starters sometimes propel which I think is needless is that being entrepreneurial also necessarily means being extraverted.

    I mean, I’m sure that helps a ton, but what about us introverts?

    And about being ‘born with it’ -what if we reverse that logic? isn’t it just as easy to say “Because I started a lemonade stand, and was successful, I made more lemonade stands and thus became an entrepreneur later in life” as it is to say “I was born an entrepreneur, (which is why) I was always starting lemonade stands as a kid” ??

    Either way is totally fine, but one of them talks about it in a way that excludes those on the outside of experience looking to get experience. People like me ; )

    I mean, everyone’s “got it” I think. Everyone has something they’re good at and probably a desire to offer that to the world and be able to make money at it.

    Anyway, when I was a kid, I was always the one bugging my friend to get his dad’s video camera and make comedy videos and stop-motion animations..

    And I’m still making videos and animations, only now they’re much better.. (like this one => https://vimeo.com/35639401)

    • Emilie says:

      Haha that was awesome!

      The introvert aspect is one thing I really like about Chris Guillebeau. Even when he speaks on stage, he is his usual, introverted self. And it works. It’s genuine.

  10. gargi says:

    great read x

  11. Janet says:

    I had a very creative mind as a child – probably a necessity since we moved around so darn much – I had to keep myself entertained. My parents taught us that you grow up, go to college, and get a job under someone else. Owning a business wasn’t even in their vocabulary. Unfortunately my personality type doesn’t always do well working for others long term, even though I did it for years out of necessity. Most of my jobs lasted 3-6 years at a time. I found that just because people are creative doesn’t instantly make them a good entrepreneur even though creativity is indeed a necessary skill to be one! Owning and running a business was something I didn’t really learn about until I was in my 20’s, and then I learned all about it from my now-husband. His whole family is entrepreneurial at heart and it was like moving to a new country and learning a new culture, being around them. You have to think in a completely different way, but if you can hack it, it can be very rewarding.

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Janet,

      I hear you on the not doing so well under somebody else. I’ve had one “real” job in my life (I mostly did a lot of freelancing while in school), and I could not deal with the 9-5 office thing. It was a pretty sweet job too. But I still knew it wasn’t for me.

      We all get introduced to entrepreneurship somehow. Very cool that your husband’s family was your bridge in. Good to have supportive family on your side as you go forward.

  12. Janet says:

    I LOVE this post! And thank you!

    I too felt I wasn’t blessed with the entrepreneurial gene. That maybe I wasn’t cut out or meant to be a entrepreneur and why even bother trying. I’m still flailing!

    I never had lemonade stands either, or anything that I can think of as entrepreneur and yes.. I didn’t even drop out of college! :D To think that I could get jealous of drop outs because they fit this ‘profile’ that I don’t.

    Again, why box yourself as an entrepreneur though?

    I LOVE the point you make that its about concocting creative projects! I guess I DID do that..

    I would make my own story and illustrate it and then bind together the book. This was just my spare time and not a school project. I still find this impressive even now.. And I absolutely think those things we did as kids are a great window as to who we are and what we should be pursuing as adults!

    I made my own art portfolio within only 3 months and came up with an art scholarship.

    I’m not sure if I was a prolific schemer but I had my moments. And I would constantly dream up these make believe lives for me.. I loved exploring the outdoors with my bike when I was a kid and finding this bush that wrapped around in a circle where I could literally go inside of.. I loved playing house there.. So I guess I’ve always had a natural affinity towards natural/eco-conscious housing and that’s been a big thing in the back of my head to pursue when I have capital!

  13. Rick Wolff says:

    If I had a friend who took schemes as far as you do, I’d always be saying, “I wasn’t SERIOUS about any of is. It’s all just talk. We’re daydreaming. Stop ruining it by actually DOING it.”

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