Businesses that Exist in the Intersections
Hilarious photo courtesy of my good friend, Jonathan Mead. Note: this business does NOT have a very strong overarching theme...

Businesses that Exist in the Intersections

Written by Emilie

Topics: Renaissance Business

Last Wednesday evening I stopped by Powells Books for Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup Book Tour. Chris is an awesome speaker. I love how genuine he is up there. Not showy or verbose– just himself. It’s nice to see an introvert rocking the stage and captivating the audience like that. (Especially as I prepare to tackle my own speaking goal in the second half of 2012…)

Anyway, there I was, snuggled nicely in the middle of the enormous audience, sitting next to my friend Mike, when towards the end, someone on the left side of the room raises their hand and asks a question:

“I really want to start a business, but I’m having a hard time choosing between my interests. There’s so much that I love to do. How do you choose?”

My ears perked up. Mike looked at me.

Chris began scanning my section of the audience…

“Great question… Is… Emilie? Are you here somewhere?”

Gulp. I raised my hand.

“Do you want to take this one?”

I stood up, turned a very dark shade of red, and gave it my best shot. My memory’s a little fuzzy, but I think I said something like:

“Yeah so instead of choosing one of your interests, you want to combine multiple interests. That way you find this neat little intersection that allows you to talk about many topics in the same space. It’s more like having an overarching theme than a niche, and that theme allows you to focus on several areas within one business.”

That was about the best I could muster up on the spot like that, but I answered a few more questions after the event ended.

Some Thoughts on the Renaissance Business

“Renaissance Business” is the term that I use to describe a business that allows you to focus on multiple areas and use multiple skills within that one entity. RBs allow multipotentialites to integrate many of their interests into their work, such that their multipotentiality essentially fuels their work. They’re also a fantastic way to avoid getting bored.

Last week I mentioned that I appreciate learning from specialists. But truth be told, a great number of my interests are “smooshes” of several fields, and I really do learn better from multipods. For instance, I go to Bollywood dance class every Thursday night. Bollywood is a combination of many different styles of dance: hip hop, Indian folk, “pop-and-lock”, ballet, etc. My teacher is also a total Renaissance woman, who runs a clothing shop, and does facials, threading, nails, etc. I’m just drawn to multipotentialites, and I seem to find them everywhere.

A “Smooshy Business” Feature

I’m always on the look out for both online and offline businesses that combine disparate fields (think green microgyms, pizza delivery fire trucks, and salsa dancing, trombone playing, Darth Vaders).

Since this is such a popular topic, I thought I’d spend some time over the next few weeks featuring a couple great projects that I’ve discovered recently. Who knows, this may even turn into a regular feature. “Smooshy Thursdays,” anyone?

Your Turn

Have you discovered any amazing Renaissance Businesses recently?

I’ve already got a few Renaissance Businesses in mind that I want to feature, but I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have.

I’d especially like to hear about lesser known, possibly offline businesses or multipotentialite entrepreneurs who are offering services that combine skills that they’ve acquired through their various endeavors. Please share your finds in the comments.


  1. Jenn Schleicher says:

    I love the idea of “Smooshy Thursdays”! Always good to get some fresh inspiration. Can’t wait to hear what other businesses you have to share with us.

    One place in my hometown that I really love is the Texas Art Asylum. Its a thrift store in Houston that sells items for creative reuse to artists. Vintage brass trinkets, old high school trophies, doll parts, beads, cigar boxes… It looks like a hoarder’s nightmare, but its a really fun place to check out for art supplies and inspiration. They also teach art classes and engage in various green initiatives.

    Can’t wait to hear what other businesses you have to share with us!

  2. Louise says:

    My friend started a business that combines location data visualization and jewelry. Now does that have multipotentialate all over it, or what? :) I’m happy to help you reach out to them if you’d like to feature them.

  3. Adrijus says:

    I think Marketing agency or however it’s called these days is it. Esp. if you’re solo worker. Need to know business/marketing/psychology/social media/web design/copywriting/programming. And then understanding the niche your client is in adds to that…

    • Emilie says:

      Definitely. That’s a really good point. I think a lot of multipods naturally gravitate towards marketing for that reason. And anything involving client work has the potential to allow you to explore different areas.

  4. Gypsy says:

    My friend Opal combines her knowledge of creativity with various healing practices like reiki and yoga ~~ she calls it “creative spirit fusion,” and it’s incredible how poetry and yoga go together.

  5. So glad you were there!

    You were great.

    Introverts rule the world.

    • Emilie says:

      Likewise! You’re such an inspiration Chris, thanks for all that you do.

    • Amy Miyamoto says:

      Chris, I just bought your book yesterday and am so looking forward to gleaning the wisdom from both you and all the business owners you feature. I, like, Emilie have recently come to embrace the potential power of my “Renaissance Soul” so to hear her story above about you taking the time at your event to shine the light on her unique expertise is quite inspiring. I look forward to spreading the word about the innovative and impactful work you both are doing!
      Amy Miyamoto
      San Diego

  6. Janet says:

    I can totally picture you turning red like that and answering in Powells. :) I love Powells!! I foresee an extended visit soon. Hope you’ll be in town. :)

    Anyway, Smooshy Thursdays sounds like a fun topic. And while you’re talking features, I could totally see Puttylike turning into more of a magazine style blog with many contributors. Think She Takes on the World. Just a thought. :)

    But back to renaissance businesses.. I heard about this really cool company (in Portland!) that basically hand delivers soup on a bicycle!! I thought that was SO Portland and loved the idea. Does that count?

  7. Sharise says:

    Smooshy Thursdays sounds great! I’d love to see you feature cool Renaissance Businesses or multipotentialite entrepreneurs. It would be inspiring in both a you-can-do-this way and a potentially-sparking-ideas way.

    I agree with you and Adrijus about multipotentialites gravitating towards marketing and client work. I certainly have!

    (By the way, I think I finally have my Renaissance Businesses idea! I have yet to redo my site, but I’m at work behind the scenes writing posts, brainstorming, and planning everything. :) )

    • Adrijus says:

      Good stuff!

      Writing content could be another thing for us. I like writing, not a geek there but if the topic is fun, I can do it!

      P.S. The magazine for multipotentialites is awesome idea. I’m actually looking to start some magazines for iPad. That would be interesting topic/niche. If Emily and others would love to write/contribute then we could do this I think!

  8. shannon says:

    I design jewelry, raise trees, etc, when some one asks “so do you do any thing else?” My answer is “what ever (creative thing) I can get my hands on”… they ask “how does that work?” my answer is “any thing creative< any thing that I can watch as it changes, intrigues me"
    yeah, I am still working on that "smooshing" thing; It makes sense, but I haven't "made sense of it", yet, for myself…it'll hit me, one of these days…–Shannon

  9. Josh says:


    I find practicing the elevator pitch to be very effective to handling situations like that. Here’s what you might want to say to stay “on brand” while dovetailing with Chris’ intro and the need to answer the other person’s question:

    “You sir, might be a multipotentiate–someone with many interests and skills. I write about this on my site, Puttylike, where I help people find valuable intersections of those skills. The key, as Chris notes in his book, is to find an intersection where people will pay you for that unique combination of skills. If so, great. If not, time to find a new intersection people will pay you for.”

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