Since 2011, November has been celebrated as National Entrepreneurship Month in the United States, a time to recognize business owners who serve their communities and strengthen the American economy by creating jobs for millions of people.
For people like me, this is a special time. There are some great holiday, gift, song or even Hallmark card options. No, it’s just the idea that we can celebrate people who take risks to bring their ideas to market – and sometimes make big bucks.
In my opinion, the entrepreneur is the invisible hero of our economy.
Instinct often plays a decisive role in the life of an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are also problem solvers. Entrepreneurs live in the mystical world of inspiration, innovation and the subconscious. They also tap into their “inner child,” who often tends to be impulsive, uninhibited, and relentlessly experimental. These qualities are not exactly common in mainstream business.
Eli Whitney allegedly got the idea for ginning after watching a fox try to raid his hen house. The fox was unable to enter the cage, but he was able to pull most of his prey’s feathers through the netting. Whitney then began experimenting with a claw or rake to pull the cotton fibers through a net and leave the seeds behind.
Nina Blanchard, like many entrepreneurs, failed in business and went bankrupt as the owner of a franchise modeling school. She invested her last $300 in a Los Angeles modeling agency, thinking many of the models her school trained needed work.
Photographers immediately started calling her, but fearing that her models weren’t ready for primetime, she said they were unavailable. Word spread around town that Blanchard Agency models were always booked, attracting other models looking to be represented by the hottest agency in town.
Jasper “Jack” Newton Daniel was 7 years old, living in a small town in Tennessee, when he was offered a job as a housekeeper for a Lutheran minister who was also a merchant, farmer, and whiskey distiller. Jack was interested in learning the secrets of making moonshine and sour mash.
When his boss’s congregation pressured him to choose between the pulpit and his business, he offered his now 13-year-old student the opportunity to buy the distillery on credit. In 1866, Jack Daniel bought the whiskey business that bears his name.
WE Boeing was a lumber trade who was also an avid aviator. He got into airplane manufacturing when his own plane broke down and he couldn’t afford replacement parts.
When Whitney Wolfe Herd created Bumble in 2004, she changed the traditional dating dynamic by allowing women to make the first move. Within a year, the program reached more than 80 million matches. She became the youngest female billionaire in the world and the youngest female CEO to take a company public in the United States.
Wolfe Herd dethroned Katrina Lake as the youngest woman to ever introduce a company to the public. Lake founded Stitch Fix, an online clothing company, in 2011 before going public in 2017.
My own story pales in comparison to these superstars, but after more than 60 years in business, I’m very satisfied that the leap of faith I took was worth it. Of course, there are a few things I would do differently. But I would never give up my determination to make it work.
Mackay’s Moral: The first step to getting anywhere is deciding that you don’t want to stay where you are.
Harvey Mackay is a businessman from Minneapolis. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or by email at [email protected].