In the U.S. we are known for having a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and I think it has been growing even stronger in the past 10-15 years.  Individuals in their 20’s are inspired by all the garage start-ups that have made it big –Microsoft, Apple, Disney- and boomers feeling drug down by the corporate life have been sprouting their wings and going after long suppressed dreams.   I want to share what I believe are 5 compelling reasons to consider starting your own business.

  1. To solve a problem that you or individuals around you are struggling with:
  • Voice Park, and ispotswap each  developed apps to help you find a parking spot when you need it, because of their frustrations re to parking.
  •  Gary Erickson was prompted to develop  Clif Bars  out of his difficulty finding a healthy tasty energy bar on his daylong 175 mile bike ride with his buddy.
  •   Sara Blakely created spanx out of her desire to wear her white pants without wrinkles, bulges, and lines showing through.
  •  Craig Newmark started  Craigslist  because his email list exceeded the capacity of his email program announcing community events to his contacts.   Think about a problem that you struggle with, brainstorm novel solutions, and see if there is a “seed” for a company in your future.  I struggle to find a pillow headrest for my bathtub that is comfortable and stays in place—any ideas?

2.  To be in charge of your life:  Ever dream of being your own boss, having control over your schedule, creating the kind of culture you would thrive in, defining the values and ethics to guide your company, setting your own salary, and having an unlimited financial future that is all up to you? Many of these things are possible, especially if you have all the equity in the company and have the skills, ability, passion, and drive to make it happen.  Are you ready?

3.  Do what you love or fulfill a dream:

  • I think about Roxanne Quimby  and how she fell in love with the bees!  She came from living in a tent—to running a major corporation called Burt’s Bees, driven by her huge talent and her passion for her work.
  •  Deborah Flanagan, exhausted and burned out as a Development Director for a foundation, discovered Reiki and thrived in the calmness, lightness, and balance she felt—so she quit her job and opened her own Reiki practice.
  •  Ashley Schoenith adored sewing and spending time with her grandmother so she moved to be near her and built “IceMilk Aprons”  with her. She has now sold over 5,000 aprons, turned a profit, and rolled out a kids line.

Maybe you dream of traveling or living in Costa Rica—some individuals have created businesses to serve the needs of ex-pats in other countries. What do you love that you have dreamed of doing?

4.  To strengthen your personal development: Building a business tests our relationship with independence and accountability. It also pushes us to see where and when we will compromise and over what. Will we do what is best for us or best for the business? Can we learn when to let go?  Sometimes we need to step down from a particular role when we aren’t the best person for the job.  Can we discipline ourselves and manage our time? Does our pride get in the way?  Can we take risks?  Can we face conflict?  Growing a company is living on a rollercoaster.  Few experiences will teach you as quickly about all facets of yourself.      Are you longing to stretch and grow?

5.  Make the world a better place:

  • Daniel Lubetsky created  “Kind Bars in honor of his father who was in a Nazi concentration camp between the ages of 9 and 15 and who told him stories about moments of kindness that got him through. Daniel brings kindness to the world through his healthy bars.
  • Tom’s Shoes—gives away a pair of shoes to a needy person for every pair that is purchased.
  •  Tony Hsieh of   Zappos  has created a culture­­ that treats employees and customers with delight, surprise and respect—a model for other companies to aspire to. Employees love working there, customers feel “special” and the company makes a profit.  It is so unique that people take tours of the company—to see and feel the culture.
  •  Emily Kerr founded “Liga Masiva” that connects Dominican famers with coffee drinkers abroad and pays the farmers 200% more because she has cut out the middlemen.

There are an infinite number of ways we can use our gifts to help make the world a better place, and we don’t have to choose between “business” or “nonprofits”.

Where do you see yourself in these scenarios? Maybe in one or if you are very fortunate- all. It is possible to do what you love, solve a problem, enhance  your self discovery and freedom, and make a difference in the world!