Just this past weekend, an assignment for one of my Marketing classes was to write a mission statement for our future careers so that we can eventually create a mock marketing plan related to what we want to do. I initially felt this assignment would be ridiculously easy because I’ve known that I want to be an entrepreneur since my Freshman year, but as I eagerly put the proverbial pen to paper, I found my momentum slowing. “I…want…to…be…an…entrepreneur,” I silently typed. I had finished the sentence, but I wasn’t exactly sure what else to write.
“I want to be an entrepreneur.”
What does that really mean? For a second, I was almost mad at myself because here I was, raging with ambition and passion, and I couldn’t even get past a now cliche desire that almost everyone professes to have. What was going on here?
Taking a break from the assignment, I thought long and hard about what I was most interested in and the type of work I was most yearning to do. Natural hair and its implications for African-American women, entrepreneurship, finance, and overall personal development were all things I could instantly identify as my main passions, career-wise. As a geeky, yet compassionate girl with a knack for expressing her ideas to others in a multitude of ways, consulting, teaching, writing, and public speaking were also “no-brainers” for how I should be making the most of my interests. The issue I realized, was not so much “what” I should be doing but “what” kind of business could I possibly create that would allow me to do all of the above. I want to be an entrepreneur—what kind of business should I start?
The more I tried to describe my future business with nonsensical terms that didn’t really convey anything, the more I knew that I was trying too hard to fit my dream business into a box that it didn’t belong. With the media constantly touting start-ups with amazing business plans and even shinier mission statements, I was getting bogged down in the idea that a successful business had to have a traditional operation and be easily describable on paper. But what if you don’t want to elect a “board of directors” and don’t have an idea that requires the deep pockets of Silicon Valley’s most impressive investors? What if you simply have yourself, your ideas, your talents and community you desperately want to reach? Is it enough to be the CEO of “The Business of You”?
Personal Entrepreneurship is a career path that I think is grossly underrated yet one that is steadily growing among individuals who value creativity and the ability to make an impact in there daily lives. The term “personal entrepreneurship” is one that is loosely defined, but—at least to me—personal entrepreneurship entails creating a business or more generally, a living, based on the intersection of one’s skills, passions, and the needs of a community they want to serve. I think personal entrepreneurship or “The Business of You” is so over-looked because we think in order to start something successful, it must be an easily packaged idea just in case anyone asks us the dreaded “What do you do?” question. But just as the question “Who are you?” will require a more complicated answer than a quick one-liner, there is no reason why any of us can’t make a living doing things that are as multifaceted as who we are. One person that I have watched from afar who has shown me that your work and your life can be one in the same if you so desire, is Gwen Bell.
Lover of all things social media, yoga, wellness, and creativity, Gwen Bell has literally turned her daily life into a profitable business in a unique and genuine way. She owns a yoga studio in Japan which she started with her best friend in 2004 after living Japan for a year teaching English. She is an ambassador for Nintendo and HP, and she consults with individuals, universities, start-ups, and Fortune 500 companies about social media, branding, entrepreneurship, and anything else in her repertoire of knowledge. She has branded herself as a leader in her field and ultimately keeps food on her table by making herself useful to people based on her experiences. As phenomenal and inspirational as Gwen is, I know she is not so unique that we all can’t maximize our “Business of You” to similar success, which is precisely why she embodies the concept of “The Business of You” so well.
So what exactly does it take to run The Business of You? Though I’m embarking on the “Business of Me” for the first-time myself, I would suggest that it takes (1) laser-like clarity on what your passions, values, and talents are, then (2) an unwavering commitment to finding avenues that let you express the former until you build up enough momentum to be sought out for your (paid) expertise. For instance, one of my goals is to one day be paid to write regular columns in magazines and other publications for my thoughts on natural hair, finance, entrepreneurship, and/or personal development. While I’m not going to start a column writing business to achieve this end, this is a revenue stream that I would like to have in my ultimate “Business of Me”. This means I personally need to improve my column writing skills and promote myself by writing as many columns I can to get noticed. This is the beauty of personal entrepreneurship—your personal business can include as many “micro-businesses” that you want in order maximize all of your passions, values, and talents.
Are you interested in starting “The Business of You”? What are some ways that you are trying your hand at personal entrepreneurship? Leave your comments below.