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Elevating the Image of Small Business

Last night I stopped in at the cocktail bar Planter's House on my way back from a formal event downtown. Having passed on $8 Bud Lights at the event, I decided to treat myself to a $9-12 cocktail or two. The good news about rolling in to a packed bar on your own is seating opportunities are on your side. Despite a crowded house, a spot was available in the Bullock Room.

As I sat down, it turned out I had met the guy on my right before. He attended one of my "Show Me Adulting" classes on cocktails. We exchanged pleasantries, I introduced myself to his s/o and we started shooting the breeze about this and that.

To my surprise, it turned out they're only seniors in college. Not only were we having great conversation, I was just as impressed that college students are into cocktailing rather than Red Bull & Jager or some absurd 3 Olives flavor.

As our conversation headed towards what they were studying, it came up that he is in an entrepreneurship program. As we explored this and what he was focusing on, I noticed something I feel is a dangerous message we are sending about entrepreneurial aspirations and startups. He explained to me his interest lays in starting a restaurant -his family owns one- rather than a tech startup. While I think that is terrific, his tone and language began to shift into more of an apology for wanting to pursue what might be called a "small business" route rather than a "10x startup" tech company.

While I feel it is critical for our current and future workforce to understand technology and how it might integrate into or affect their work, creating a society that elevates the work of developers, designers and data scientists over others is the wrong message. People must understand how to evaluate and use technology but we as a city and nation must make a more conscious effort to celebrate any and all types of entrepreneurship. When grounded with the right mindset, people should pursue what they want not what they're supposed to.

But for those who are advocates of driving hard towards a strong high-growth sector, I study I cite from time-to-time comes to mind. A 2014 report from Endeavor Insight, which surveyed a number of serial entrepreneurs about what they consider when deciding where to found a tech company, yielded two common responses, "talented workers, and the quality of life they have come to expect." Talent is something which is discussed regularly in high growth circles but "quality of life" is not. Individuals wanting a high quality of life want to enjoy small businesses have to offer in their spare time. If we are going to build a strong high-growth sector, we must parallel that with a robust and well-supported small business sector too.

Let us make sure we do not send mixed messages in what we say vs. what we do. One of the most common things I hear from peers is their love for experiencing new restaurants and bars. We must be mindful that we do not celebrate the restaurant but cast disdain on the pursuit of being a chef barman.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

Go Forth Boldly

#entrepreneurship #culture

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