It happens every time. If I write about an online retail startup, a few brick-and-mortar business owners email to say that direct-to-consumer retailers aren’t really entrepreneurs because they don’t really connect with their customers.
If I write about a service startup founder whose business at least in part relies on personal interactions, a few tech startup founders always email to say she really isn’t an entrepreneur because her business doesn’t easily scale. And if I write about people who start a business while keeping their full-time job, plenty will write to say those people aren’t entrepreneurs, especially if they work in the gig economy.
As with many things, some entrepreneurs feel compelled to tell other entrepreneurs what they’re doing wrong. Why their startup isn’t the “right” kind of startup.
Why they know more than other entrepreneurs — and why other people should know they know more.
Merriam-Webster defines entrepreneur as “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”
Mansueto Ventures (parent company of Inc.) CEO Eric Schurenberg likes to quote Howard Stevenson: “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.”
Neither definition suggests that (theoretically) scalable startups are better than one-on-one service startups. That in-house manufacturing is better than outsourcing. That tech startups are cooler. That sustainability-focused startups are hipper. That going “all in” is better than dipping a toe in the entreprenurial waters by becoming a DoorDash driver.
Or that pulling off a cap raise automatically confers the right to decide who qualifies as a real entrepreneur.
Depending on the circumstances, opening a brick-and-mortar retail store might not be a great idea. Or starting a business whose revenue is limited by the number of work hours in a day. Or allocating capital to facilities and equipment instead of outsourcing.
But then again, in the hands of the right person those could be great ideas. Maybe that humble little Fulfilment by Amazon store will someday become a retailing giant. Maybe that humble little YouTube channel will someday become a media giant.
Maybe nights and weekends spent delivering DoorDash orders will build the foundation for a warehousing and logistics giant.
Everyone starts somewhere — and everyone who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise, and who dreams of opportunities without regard to resoures currently controlled, is an entrepreneur.
An entrepreneur who deserves your respect, if only for trying.
Just like you deserve theirs.
Because we’re all on the same team.