The Unintentional Entrepreneur


Hype is real. In the world of startups, entrepreneurialism, and even social entrepreneurialism there’s an enormous amount of hype. Social media profiles flaunt many titles as self-proclaimed entrepreneurs as well as those who help, support, and consult entrepreneurs. If you’re thinking of starting a business it can certainly be daunting. There are books to read, Facebook groups to join, webinars to attend (for a price), seminars, workshops, conferences, and so much more. Oh, and then there’s the dress code. You know, you gotta “look” like an entrepreneur.

But is it really that hard and complicated?

I recall reading an article recently how incoming immigrants start more businesses than anyone else. Don’t quote me on it, but you get the idea. Many of these entrepreneurs don’t have websites or social media profiles. They simply start. Take the “tamale lady” as an example. Technically, there are many in Portland, but we affectionately call her / them “tamale lady.” We see her / them throughout our part of the city pulling a blue cooler on wheels shouting “tamales.” 100/100 times if I have cash on hand I’m buying tamales as we love them as a family. She is an entrepreneur in the truest sense. Now would she self-identify as one? Probably not. I also have a hunch she’s never read a book on entrepreneurship or startups nor attended any webinars. but she is one … maybe what I’d call an “unintentional entrepreneur.”

My wife is one. It wasn’t until a year and half into it that it finally hit her … “hey, I started a business.” Truth be told, she even makes more money than I do with my coffee roasting company. She simply saw a need, knew what she loved and was good at, and started from there. No hype, no hoopla. She doesn’t have a business degree nor a degree in social entrepreneurship. She too has never read a book on the subject nor attended a webinar. She also doesn’t have a website or social media profiles for it. But she, like the tamale lady, is as entrepreneurial as all of the cool Portland hipsters starting digital media companies or breweries or a hand-sewn cycling bag company.

I think the crux of the problem is the whole intimidation factor. We somehow think to be entrepreneurial we need to know all of the right language, be familiar with all of the books as well as authorities on the subject, and have sat through all of the webinars. By no means am I diminishing any of those as they are certainly helpful. I’m sure the tamale lady would benefit from learning about marketing and social media. The point is, I’m sure most people who started businesses would never label themselves as “entrepreneurs” and yet they are grinding hard to grow their business whether it is a tech company or landscaping business or nanny service or coffee shop or digital marketing company or video production and more.

How about you? Interested to start something but feeling intimidated? Don’t be.