Though I’ve quit jobs and worked as an independent contractor before, I hadn’t aspired to be an entrepreneur until co-founding BlogHer. It just wasn’t me, being an entrepreneur, or so I thought. I was too much of a professional soloist, an INTJ if you will, to actually build a business from my singular efforts. I enjoyed creating, dreaming, planning, not number crunching or managing--activities that you’d associate with running a business.
What happened?BlogHer was for me initially a response to something I wanted as a blogger that hadn’t been created. If it had already existed I would have joined it and tried to get a business development job. It wasn’t a business concept that I cooked up with my co-founders, thinking, “if we capitalize on this blogging thing …” It was more a question I felt compelled to help answer: “If we kept connecting more women who loved to blog …” And this, I believe, made all the difference.
Some entrepreneurs are like carpenters; they like to build the foundation of a business—wire it for electricity, but don’t actually provide the power. They are more concerned with building four walls than what is discussed in them; whereas, the walls really don’t interest me. This is an important distinction, as entrepreneurs must essentially ask themselves, what is it you love about building a business, if we are to be successful. Is it the nuts and bolts of building it, or seeing the physical manifestation of your work, or is seeing the propagation of the ideas generated by it? Some entrepreneurs know they are carpenters and will only be happy building foundations. Once they’ve built a strong one they can move on to another business. I like to see the ideas catching on, and spreading those ideas. People like me need carpenters or we don’t get around to making our ideas stick. Alternatively, we are so driven by an idea we are willing to pick up the hammer until someone who knows what they are doing takes over.I thought about this today because I was asked how I grew my business, and did I know I wanted to be an entrepreneur. There’s a tactical answer to the first question; I could walk you through the story of how I met my partners, and how we created a space for bloggers, and the decision we made to formalize our passion for the community by building a business around it. Though I think it’s not adequate to answer the question without addressing the accidentalness of it. Speaking for myself only, if we had built the company from what was in my head at the time, in 2005, it never would have been realized, because I had yet to fully understand it what we were building. It was by chance that circumstances allowed me and my partners to be in a place where we could engage a community we loved and serve it while building the business case for it. I don’t know how you do that by design, honestly. That piece, I feel, is more luck than anything else.
Certainly passion is not the only requirement for being an entrepreneur: How many people attempt to build businesses that enable their passions and fail? But for Accidental Entrepreneurs like me it’s critical. We don’t like to build just to build if there are no ideas to perpetuate. And we can’t just make up these ideas. They have to grab us first, and cover our eyes while we are led down a path we wouldn’t choose to take otherwise.Though I thought previous periods of “1099” work were entrepreneurial, they were really more about self-employment, freedom, and using my solo talents to further someone else’s vision and earn me something (money, visibility) in the process. But entrepreneurism is not about “freedom” in the way that people escaping corporate life envision it. It’s responsibility. It’s doing things you love, and things you don’t, for something you see as fundamental. If you have delusions of sitting in your kitchen and creating a business from all that you know in this instant, you are not an entrepreneur. You are self-employed.