The Entrepreneurial Adventure

As an undergraduate studying business at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, my Finance 101 class was held in a large auditorium with hundreds of students.  On the first day, the professor got up on stage and began his lecture with this…

“The purpose of a business is to increase shareholder profits.”  He then went on to describe how this might be accomplished.

But I wasn’t paying attention because I was stuck on the first sentence. I couldn’t believe it.  I couldn’t believe that was what it was all about or that was the only reason someone went into business.

(And if it was true, I couldn’t believe I’d chosen to study business.)

Perhaps I was naïve in thinking there were more important reasons because that was the go-go 80s when it was all about the money.  In truth, there was more going on than I recognized.

I didn’t realize (way back then) that I would always believe there is more to business than just making money.  

Fast forward some 30+ years to the launch of, what is now, AWE Partners. As I was getting up and running I heard – on more than one occasion, “If you’re not making money, it’s not a business – it’s a hobby.”  And again, I was somewhat struck by that declaration.

So what is a hobby, exactly? It’s defined as: an activity of interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation. Ask any hard-working, nose to the grindstone entrepreneur.  Entrepreneurship is not a hobby! But I realized why the focus on profit alone seemed so limiting.

Because it is. Entrepreneurship is so much more than that!

Be Creative

I totally get that we want to make money in business. I understand the importance of revenue generation and profit maximization.  I have an undergraduate degree in finance and an MBA from one of the most prestigious business schools in the world.  I worked at two premier global corporations.  I have learned from the best.  I get it!

But here’s what I didn’t know when I launched my business: I didn’t know that entrepreneurship was my way of expressing my creativity in the world. And that owning a business was my way of becoming.  I didn’t know that AWE Partners was my destiny.

Yes, I want to make money.  But I also want to empower my clients to be as effective as possible with their giving and investing so that we can begin to move the needle on our social challenges.  I want to inspire entrepreneurs to be part of the solution and make their “AWE-thentic Impact” in the world.  I want to build a community of AWE-dacious women who support each other in pursuing their soul’s calling in life.  I want to create, what I call, a “Movement Toward Meaning”!

And through it all, I want to test my limits and learn more about myself, my gifts and talents, my passions, and my purpose.

But if I never made a dime the journey would still be worth it. My life is so much richer, so much more abundant, and so much more than I could have ever imagined.  All because I had the courage to take a chance on being an entrepreneur.

Know Your Calling

What if I had listened to those who told me it was a hobby if I wasn’t making money?  What if I quit before the money came in because I thought no one would take me seriously?  And what if I thought that not making money meant I didn’t have what it took to be an entrepreneur?

I know a woman who started a really cool business with an awesome mission (and much needed in our world). But she didn’t make money in the first couple years so she let it fade away. She had to find a way to support her family so I understand why she did it.

She happened to be one of the women who told me that no money equaled “just a hobby.”  Apparently, she believed this. What do I believe? I think she just needed more time and encouragement. As entrepreneurs, we have to decide – just like a writer, actor, artist, etc. – that this is our calling.

Think about it…

Would we ever tell a writer that if they’re not making money they’re not really a writer, it’s just a hobby?  Or an actress who is waitressing that she’s not really an actress until she makes money at her craft? Or would we ever tell a starving artist not to keep painting unless she can make a sale?

Of course not! Because that is who they are. In the depth of their soul they see themselves as a writer, or an actress, or a painter.  Even if they don’t have the money to show for it – just yet. They know who they are and who they are meant to be – and we should never squash somebody’s dream because of money.

(Unless we’re their parent and they’re still living in our basement well into their 30s. Then let’s maybe have a chat.)

Entrepreneurship is the act of creating.  It is a calling. It takes amazing courage, dedication, discipline, and hard work.  And typically takes a lot of years before you can support yourself from the profits it generates.

But like any other creative endeavor, the glory is not in the destination – it’s in the journey. It’s the inner energy it unleashes and the connection to our soul.  It’s the entrepreneurial adventure and I encourage my fellow adventurers not to give up the dream. We need you. So go out there and be AWE-dacious!