I knew I was an entrepreneur as an adult, though I behaved like one as a child. As a child, I didn’t even know the word entrepreneur.
My mother raised me to believe that University was simply the next step after high school, and I didn’t know it wasn’t mandatory. I was a teenager before I realized that University was actually a choice.
After she died, I felt it was my duty to go to University as it was her wish that I do so. And also, because I didn’t know what else to do.
When I graduated I wasn’t much closer to knowing. I did know that I didn’t want to be trapped behind a desk pushing around papers and feeling like a cog in some corporate wheel. After a brief and happy stint the HR seat of an entrepreneurial ship riding the initial internet wave, I ended up as – you guessed it – a cog in a very large corporate wheel.
By then I had a young daughter and I was aware that my miserable cog-like existence wasn’t the sort of role model I wanted to be for her. Switching jobs seemed like a lateral move. I wanted a change. I began an Oprah-esque search for “living my best life”, but my approach was more genealogical than spiritual.
I recalled that my University proclamation of never being in a corporate environment was accompanied by the vague notion of running my own business. So I decided to research the idea of entrepreneurship, and I read everything I could get my hands on. One book (whose title and author is long forgotten) addressed the idea that entrepreneurship can run in families, because it is a learned or observed behaviour. Cameron Herold discusses this, and the idea of teaching kids to be entrepreneurs, in his TED talk.
When this sunk in, I realized that my own family has a history of entrepreneurship. My great-grandmother (who I resemble, by the way) ran her own pawn shop in London, during a time when women didn’t even have the vote. She was widowed young and ran her business to support her two young sons. I still feel awe for the strength and determination that must have required. One of her children (my great-uncle) later ran his own successful garage and car dealership (L. Page Motors, which is still in the family). His daughter (my second cousin, if you are still keeping track) owned a hair salon for a few years.
As I looked back, I realized that I had acted on this entrepreneurial instinct early on. There was that time I wrote a newsletter and sold copies in the schoolyard. And at age 8 I single-handedly organized a lawn sale, with posters throughout the neighbourhood. I sold off my all my Archie comics, among other things, and had more cash in my little fist than I ever saw on my birthday. I don’t even know where I got the idea to do all of this. It was probably a book.
Leaving the corporate world to start my own business was as scary a thought as jumping out of a plane and expecting to fly by just flapping my arms. Knowing that there was entrepreneurship in my blood, and that there were signs of it in my own history, gave me courage. I began to prepare for my jump. I began to read stories of actual entrepreneurs.
Next post – the books that inspired me to make the entrepreneurial leap.