Many of us dream of being an entrepreneur—working for ourselves, creating our own schedules, living by our own rules. For some, this is just a pipe dream based on an overly glamorized image of being an entrepreneur. For others, the motivations and talents are there, but they are never mobilized. Why not? What keeps us from pursuing our entrepreneurial dreams.
For many, the dream is never even birthed. Not due to a lack of ability, creativity, or drive but rather a lack of exposure to even ‘dream the dream.’ The ‘normal’ route that most of us are taught is to finish some level of schooling and get a ‘good job.’ No one actively showed us why or how to start our own business. When I started my first business and officially started working in it full-time, I felt like a secret curtain was lifted exposing a huge private world of people successfully running their own businesses. As I networked, I met more and more business owners at every turn. I remember thinking, ‘Where have these people been all of my life? Why didn’t I know people were doing this?’ It was a huge awakening. As an African-American woman with a STEM background, to me it was akin to why many underrepresented minorities and women don’t go into STEM fields—they don’t know or consider it a viable option for them. The same is true for entrepreneurship—it is never presented or viewed as a viable life path for many.
For those who do develop the dream, the biggest show stopper is something we all know and experience—fear. Fear of failure, fear of leaving the comfort and security of our job, fear of criticism (just to name a few). To overcome fear, you must face it. Identify exactly what scares you about starting the business. In many cases, you can mitigate your fear with research and planning. For example, if you fear the security of dropping your steady paycheck, develop a plan to start off part-time (while still working the steady job) and transitioning once you have some traction.
Another roadblock to entrepreneurship is that we don’t know where to begin. For most of us, starting a business is not something we’re familiar with. Often, family and friends can’t offer advice because they’ve never done it either! That leaves many of us scouring the web looking for information on a host of topics such as how to choose a legal entity type, where and how to find clients, how to set up a website, and how to find and get funding. The internet is full of useful information, but it can be overwhelming! There are resources such as Small Business Development Centers and SCORE counselors (both affiliated with the Small Business Administration) that provide free advice and consultation to business owners.
Another huge concern for many is a lack of support from those closest to us (family and friends). As previously mentioned, a lot of us don’t have people in our circle that own a business. Many people that we know can’t relate to leaving (or never entering) corporate (or government or nonprofit) to risk winging it on your own. When those closest to us are introducing fear (or validating our already existing fear), it intensifies our hesitation and doubt in pursuing the dream. One thing I’ve learned from experience is that your consistent focus and drive can impact the outlook of your circle. My parents were very hesitant and cautious when I first began talking about starting a business. The more I pushed forward with planning and action (and telling them about it), the more at ease and supportive they became. Now, they are among my biggest supporters!
In the end, the only thing holding you back is you. You have the power to dream beyond perceived limitations, push past your fears, find the information and answers you need to take action, garner support from a host of people, and quiet the naysayers with your success. What’s holding you back?