The Secret Sauce of Entrepreneurship

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Last week I had the opportunity to speak to a group at Kitchen Town, a commercial kitchen and an incubator in the San Francisco Bay Area. The group was the latest cohort of the New Leaders Network a program sponsored by the James Irvine Foundation, a program I was fortunate enough to participate in a year or so ago.

The group had spent the day at Stanford’s d-school learning the principles of design thinking. They came to Kitchen Town to discuss entrepreneurship and its importance in today’s economy.

A question was asked, “What do entrepreneurs need?” One of my co-presenters offered a great response. “They need an idea, capital, and talent.”

Later in the conversation, another presenter, a British guy who himself is a serial entrepreneur offered, in a way only a Brit can, that entrepreneurs need bloody persistence.

The conversation started a cascade of thoughts that has carried me to the writing of this article today. The question keeps ruminating in my head. What is the secret sauce of entrepreneurship?

I certainly agree that you need a great idea, must have access to capital, and the ability to find the right talent. I too believe bloody persistence is an imperative. But, I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs who check all those boxes and are still struggling even failing. So, there must be more that is needed to ensure success.

There is one element to which its recipient has no say in its appearance, but can make all the difference in the world. That, of course, is the element of luck. But again, luck doesn’t guarantee success and its absence does not spell certain doom.

One place on which my mind continues to land is this idea of an entrepreneurial eco-system. It’s a bit like a chicken or egg discussion. What comes first, successful entrepreneurs or the eco-system that bolsters and fosters entrepreneurship? I don’t have that answer, but what I do know is that where the system exists, be it a community or an industry, innovation, and disruption follow.

Another idea that continues to germinate in my brain stems from a conversation with my son and a group of his friends. I wound up at a dinner a year or so ago with this group and we were talking about their futures. These were all high performing students getting ready to head off to college. Each had the makings to be a leader or an innovator. I asked, “Who at this table thinks they will become an entrepreneur?” No one raised their hands or spoke up. I asked why and they all answered similarly. They just didn’t see entrepreneurship as a path. A couple mentioned that they may work for one, but none felt they would become one.

This conversation left me with two realizations. The first is that early exposure to entrepreneurship as a career is vital to creating the second of my two realizations, belief. One must believe that entrepreneurship is a viable path and they themselves are capable of becoming a founder or co-founder.

What is the secret sauce? It’s one part belief with a heaping amount of luck paired with an idea, capital, talent, and bloody persistence. All are then tossed into an eco-system that can sustain, support, educate, and promote.

I believe entrepreneurialism is having its renaissance and those communities or industries that can help provide this secret sauce will flourish.

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Elliot Begoun is the Principal of The Intertwine Group, a practice focused on helping emerging food and beverage brands grow. He works with clients to design and execute customized route-to-market and go-to-market strategies that build velocity, gain distribution, and win share of stomach. His articles appear in publications such as the Huffington Post, SmartBrief, and FoodDive.

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