Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes...see Kickstarter...and despite our predilection to skew our entrepreneurial worship towards the high-tech sector and big money exits...the couple who opened an artisanal cheese shop in a newly going hip neighborhood and the friends who started a bed and breakfast in an unusual locale or the passionate city dweller who began leading cultural street tours are serious entrepreneurs as well.
I love entrepreneurs...I love their energy, focus, passion and commitment. I love their ideas and deep belief that they can accomplish...anything. I love the risks they take and their ability to bounce back...again and again - and I am blessed to speak from personal experience.
Some believe that entrepreneurs will save our world...in fact, Michael Dell is spearheading a United Nations effort to that effect...given that entrepreneurs and small businesses create more new jobs and economic opportunity than anyone else on the planet.
And, as I discovered (thank you, Will), there are categories of Entrepreneurialism that are as focused on changing the world for good as they are on profit.
One such category is Environmental Entrepreneurialism...the desire to create businesses that will focus on making sustainability a true business driver - from cleaning up our world and using the detritus in serious manufacturing to developing useful products to replace our throw-it-away culture to food that can be produced without killing, chemicals, or depleting or ruining our dwindling natural resources.
There is Social Entrepreneurship..."an attempt to draw upon business techniques to find solutions to social problems...Conventional entrepreneurs typically measure performance in profit and return, but social entrepreneurs also take into account a positive return to society. Social entrepreneurship typically attempts to further broad social, cultural, and environmental goals often associated with the voluntary sector. At times, profit also may be a consideration for certain companies or other social enterprises."
And by the way - there are college-level courses and degree tracks for both - to build on a thought from my last post - this is really where Innovation and Productivity build on each other as success is actually measured in human/planetary gain.
Finally, I would like to comment on Charitable Entrepreneurialism and an INC report that claims that entrepreneurs give more money and time to important causes than others and this is across income ranges...not just the big monetized guys...
All of which leads me to a book by Dale Russakoff, The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools, recently published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and reviewed in The New York Times by Alex Kotlowitz.
You might remember the story...Mark Zuckerberg pledged $100 million to help re-imagine the broken school system of Newark, New Jersey, in the United States. Two high-profile New Jersey politicians joined in and the rest of the story is a cautionary tale of what happens when the entrepreneurial spirit is subsumed by cronyism, unions, consultants, politicians and ideologue reformers....
Sadly, the system is still broken and I would bet that little was learned by most - in fact, just look at New York City and the education train wreck it represents.
Yet Zuckerberg was not deterred. Like any good entrepreneur he picked himself up...learned from his failure...pivoted his approach and jumped right back into the fray - this time in the San Francisco Bay Area where together with his wife Priscilla Chan he is giving $120 million to high-poverty schools - but this time with a plan worthy of an entrepreneur...that includes parents and teachers as partners and the understanding that they have to impact the full lives of the kids from medical to mental health.
I have long admired Zuckerberg, and this melding of Innovation and Productivity is inspiring to me...to say the least.
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. William James
And that is where the rubber hits the road - you can/we can make a difference by applying what we do and what we know to the problems of the world, the ills of society, the failing environment.
I am often asked by young people what they should do to give back. My answer is always the same - there is nothing more satisfying than volunteering to help others - soup kitchens, shelters, park cleanups - there are no lack of opportunities...to the contrary - sadly every day there are more.
And we should find those opportunities and they do make a difference.
But I add...make a bigger difference too - think big - take your skills to the nonprofits...find a cause you are passionate about and help change the world by helping them change through your expertise and commitment.
And be a full-on raging entrepreneur...try...fail...try again...think big and never give up...learn...pivot and conquer...
Think like Zuckerberg and it makes no difference how much you make or how big your business is - change the world...
What do you think?