Many of you out there are entrepreneurs, running small businesses (or big ones), struggling to make your business successful. But when did you first know that you were destined to be an entrepreneur? And what challenges or ridicule have you endured as the result of your decision to quit a stable job or perhaps to never take one?
What possessed you to instead pursue either an independent lifestyle business or to attempt to build something that scales and becomes the hopefully stable employment for others?
I had the opportunity to sit down with Lara Feltin, one half of the husband-and-wife team that started a small business networking community in Seattle six years ago and now boasts more than 65,000 members around the country. Their community started with the tagline ‘Business networking that doesn’t suck’ but they have since switched the tagline that goes with their Biznik site to ‘Going it alone, together.’
Biznik, while sometimes compared to LinkedIn or Facebook, is not about marketing but about building relationships—specifically connecting solopreneurs and small business people with each other, hopefully creating long-term mutually beneficial connections. The site started as an attempt for professional photographer Lara Feltin and Web developer Dan McCombs to connect and share with their fellow entrepreneurs. But it has evolved into a service that tens of thousands of other entrepreneurs now use to connect with each other online and offline.
That mix of online and offline connections has served as a strong growth engine in places like Seattle, where Biznik counts 15,000 people as members. And if money were no object, the couple would probably invest more resources in helping to foster a stronger online/offline connection between community members. But, living within constraints has helped the site be self-supporting, live within a budget and prioritize future development effectively.
In addition to speaking with me about social media and the Biznik community, Feltin also spoke about her co-founder Dan McComb’s recent 24-minute documentary film about entrepreneurs and some of the issues that accompany the choice to pursue an entrepreneurial calling.
The film is called Shine and was launched with a live event called ‘Shine On’ in Seattle that was designed to help people create videos for their Biznik profiles, but ended up leading to something more when dozens of people volunteered to help with the event and 400 people showed up to capture a three-minute video. The event included twelve stations set up for simultaneous video capture, and some of the captured stories spawned further interviews with individuals, such as the founders of iStockPhoto and FriendFinder, about the entrepreneur’s journey. The 24-minute movie is embedded below.
Particularly interesting are some of the bits from Scott Shane, author most recently of The Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths That Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By, where he talks about how entrepreneurs often have what he refers to as a ‘novelty-seeking gene.’
The movie is a particularly powerful reminder to entrepreneurs that you’re not alone, while also serving as a cautionary tale that the entrepreneur’s journey is not always filled with fun and riches. Particularly valuable for me was a quote in the movie from one of the technology entrepreneurs in the film, who said:
“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”
The quote is widely attributed to James Horning, who then attributes it to Mulla Nasrudin, born circa 1208. That’s good judgment.
How would you characterize your own entrepreneur’s journey?
What did you think of the 24-minute movie?
This post may also be viewed on the American Express OPEN Forum Idea Hub.
Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B pull marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He is currently advising an early-stage fashion startup making jewelry for your hair and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.