I only took one entrepreneurship class in college (I was a Women’s Studies major at Washington University in St. Louis…we will skip THAT story for now). It was a solid class, but in many cases it was a parade of traditional entrepreneurship. For example, here were common steps heard throughout the semester:
- Come up with an idea.
- Research the heck out of the idea, write a massive business plan, raise money, create business.
- Wave goodbye to friends and family as now your life is your business. Yay.
- After creating business, expand business by hiring one zillion people and move into every market in the world.
- Following your massive expansion into a worldwide domination, sell your business for top dollar.
- Post-sale, retire to your favorite island or go back to step one and wash, rinse, repeat.
Now, there is nothing wrong with this advice per say. In fact, there was a parade of special guests throughout the semester that shared their story that fit into those steps one way or another.
The problem, as I see it, is less in validity of the advice and instead more in the limitations of it. Meaning, entrepreneurship certainly doesn’t have to look like, feel like, be like or follow most of those steps. It is sort of like offering a class on sports, but the only sport covered is baseball.
Fact is, there are many types of entrepreneurs.
There are entrepreneurs whose entire goal is to build a company and sell it for as much as possible or take it public. These are the “big exits” we hear about in the tech world.
There are entrepreneurs who create a business to franchise it (the E-Myth philosophy). Examples where I’m from in St. Louis include a chain of tanning salons and massage parlors.
There are entrepreneurs that create factories. Maybe the factory makes cups or hats or something of the like.
There are entrepreneurs that are in more traditional industries who have no aspirations of selling but instead look to make a living brick and mortar style. An example might be the corner bakery or a clothing boutique.
There are Internet entrepreneurs focused on creative passive income by any means necessary to make a living (and perhaps enjoy life on the beach or something). Example might be someone who sells vitamin supplements online.
But, there is another group all together that I bet you are a part of (I know I am). And that is the unconventional entrepreneurs. Characteristics of this group include:
- Doing work that matters. Not just work to make a dollar (such as selling weird vitamin supplements online..unless you are ridiculously passionate about vitamins, and in that case rock on). Work that you are passionate about. Work that makes a difference. Work that is art. Money follows passion and not the other way around.
- Challenging the way it has always been done. Doing it your way. Changing industries that have been stuck for years (or decades or centuries). Creative disrupters.
- Enjoying the fruits of our labor. No, this doesn’t mean unconventional entrepreneurs don’t work hard. It simply means we understand and live by the philosophy that there is more to life than just work (passions and hobbies outside of work, friends and family, enjoying life the way you want to).
Does this mean as an unconventional entrepreneur that you can’t sell your company or hire a bunch of people? Not at all. It just means that you aren’t conforming to the confines of traditional entrepreneurs.
Since 2008, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to interview over 300 entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes. Traditional and non-traditional. Huge companies and solopreneurs. People that have sold 50 companies and others that have started one. But I’d have to say, if I was hard-pressed, my favorite ones are the unconventional ones (and that is where most interviews will fall in the immediate future).
Here is a list of 20 of them, in no particular order, that I bet you will pick up insights, ideas and inspiration from. Enjoy!
#1: Andrew Warner – Mixergy.com
Why? Successful yet unfulfilled from his previous venture, Andrew has made it his life’s mission to inspire and help startups.
#2: Ishita Gupta – fear.less
Why? Who says magazines have to be in print? Always a disrupter, Ishita is changing the publishing world through her unique magazine fear.less.
#3: Tucker Max – TuckerMax.com
Why? Rejected by everyone in the publishing world, Tucker didn’t give up. Instead, he took his crazy, hilarious stories to the Internet and results have been astounding.
#4: Seth Godin – SethGodin.com
Why? The quintessential disrupter and leader, Seth Godin is throwing a wrench into the publishing industry with The Domino Project.
#5: Neil Strauss – NeilStrauss.com
Why? Is it possible to make a living by infiltrating and learning from the secret world of celebrities, pick up artists and multiple-passport sneaky world travelers? Neil has done it.
#6: Chris Guillebeau – ChrisGuillebeau.com
Why? Moving to Africa? Becoming a professional writer in less than one year? Inspiring others to live unconventional lives? Check, check and check.
#7: Matthew Inman – TheOatmeal.com
Why? Matt has created an empire from his unique and hilarious comics by doing it his way.
#8: Rob and Kim Murgatroyd – JetSetLife.TV
Why? They created one of the coolest jobs ever for themselves: Traveling to the world’s poshest places and writing unique, insider guidebooks. Sweet.
#9: Jason Sadler – IWearYourShirt.com
Why? What does Jason get to do all day? He is paid to wear shirts and create all kinds of fun videos and other goodies online. Sweet.
#10: Tim Ferriss – FourHourWorkWeek.com
Why? Yes, we all know Tim has inspired an incredible amount of people to work less, live more (and more recently, get in great shape), but there is a lot to learn from how Tim has created his own business and lifestyle. He is a walking model of unconventional entrepreneurship.
#11: Scott Ginsberg – HelloMyNameIsScott.com
Why? The guy who has built an empire around wearing a name tag everyday for the past 10 years and counting. You have to see it to believe it.
#12: Michael Buckley – What The Buck
Why? Michael took a love for pop culture and turned it into his dream career. His show, What The Buck, is one of YouTube’s most popular
#13: Adam Baker – Man Vs. Debt
Why? Can the act of getting yourself out of debt and sharing the insights become a business? Leave it to Adam Baker to turn it into one.
#14: Chris Ducker – Virtual Business Lifestyle
Why? Chris walks the walk and talks the talk. As I type this, he is probably running his company from a beach somewhere.
#15: Gregory Ng – Freezer Burns
Why? Two words: Frozen food. That is exactly the subject matter of this unconventional entrepreneur’s web show.
#16: Elizabeth Marshall – Author Telesminars
Why? She found her passion for books and turned it into an amazing career. The best part might be she gets the pick of the litter when it comes to her clients.
#17: Vanessa Van Petten – RadicalParenting.com
Why? Vanessa didn’t wait to be picked. She wrote a parenting book from a teen’s perspective when she was a teen. Her empire has incredible expanded since then and she gets to do what she loves every day.
#18: Jonathan Coulton – JonathanCoulton.com
Why? The entrepreneurial musician. His business model allows him to create (and make money from) the music he wants without the confines of a label.
#19: Scott Kurtz – PvP
Why? The guy who is redefining the world of cartooning. And he is doing it on his terms.
#20: Nate Houghteling and Kai Hasson – White Collar Brawler
Why? Quitting their day jobs to become amateur boxers and create an online web series and movement? This stuff is just awesome.
Who else do you think should be on the list? Who inspires you?
Image Credit: caniodica