Entrepreneurs, we’re often told, are the economy’s heroes.
Policymakers view startups and small businesses from Main Street to Silicon Valley as engines of innovation, economic growth, and overall prosperity.
If you’re wondering whether to invest time and effort into starting your own business—or if you’re starting out and finding the learning curve steeper than you expected—you may wonder if the praise for entrepreneurs is valid or hype.
Here are some reasons we think entrepreneurs and their work are so valuable, whether the businesses they run are large or small.
Entrepreneurship lets business owners build they life they want or need
Zhena Muzyka was a single mother with $6 to her name, no health insurance, and a child with life-threating health problems when she started her tea business. Muzyka told Entrepreneur magazine one of her goals was to grow her company to five employees so she could offer an employer-sponsored health plan for herself and her workers – the only way around the pre-ACA pre-existing condition exclusions that left her son uninsured. She told the magazine, “There’s nothing more powerful than a mother’s will to protect and care for her children and that translated into a new drive to succeed for me.” Today Muzyka is the author of Life by the Cup and has her own multimedia business at Zhena.TV, an outgrowth of her success turning $6 and a tea cart into a $6 million premium tea business.
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Entrepreneurship offers new solutions to customer problems
Sara Blakely wasn’t the first woman to struggle with ill-fitting undergarments but she was the first to make a billion dollars solving the problem. Blakely, founder and owner of the Spanx line of shapewear, wanted what most women who own a pair of white pants want – underwear that didn’t make her butt look awful in those pants. Making cut-off control top pantyhose for her own use was a start, but she didn’t stop there. After working hard to find mills that would create her products and stores that would stock them, Blakely leads a worldwide brand with a presence in dozens of countries and its own line of US retail stores—all because she found a problem and persisted in solving it for herself and her customers.
Entrepreneurship helps communities thrive
Kentucky farmer Kenny Mattingly, whom I interviewed earlier this year for Out Here magazine, saved his family’s small dairy farm by learning to make artisanal cheese. Mattingly’s cheese-making venture pulled his parents’ farm out of the red, and his grown son is now in the business, which means the farm will stay in the family for another generation. Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese sells to farm visitors as well as to restaurants, grocers and individual customers across the US. The company catalog offers preserves, sauces, sausage, mustard, salsa, and wooden cutting boards made by other local entrepreneurs to create a more robust and stable local economy.
Entrepreneurship can create new jobs and strengthen the economy
Kenny’s shows that even a small business can create jobs when it’s successful. When it comes to job creation, though, it’s hard to beat tech entrepreneurs.
Microsoft, founded by Bill Gates, employs more than 100,000 people. Apple, started by the late Steve Jobs, isn’t far behind, with some 76,000 employees. However, those are just the numbers within the companies.
Each enterprise has also created supplier, retail, shipping, marketing and other jobs related to its company’s products and services. On its website, Apple takes credit for creating 1.9 million jobs overall, including 1.4 million related to iOS and its many applications. Microsoft was responsible for creating 14.7 million jobs as of 2007, according to a company-sponsored economic impact study by IDC.
Even a small entrepreneur-led business will generate some local economic growth. As your business grows, you may need to work with a CPA, an attorney to help you incorporate, and an assistant to take care of daily office tasks. That’s just for a solo-run operation. Product designers and small retailers can add even more strength to their local economies as they hire production help, sales clerks, customer service reps, and shipping staff.
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Entrepreneurship can drive society-wide improvements
Because entrepreneurs are driven to create the life they want and solve the problems they deem important, and because they tend to have strong community and economy-building skills, it’s not surprising that successful entrepreneurs are often the driving force behind major social initiatives.
From Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, which donates goods to people in need for each shoe and eyewear purchase, to the Gates Foundation’s push to get cellphones into the hands of women in developing nations, entrepreneurs are naturals at thinking up solutions to problems we face.
When Warren Buffett was a 13-year old paperboy and horse race tipsheet publisher, he was solving the problems at hand. Today, the investment guru is one of the wealthiest people in the world and a co-founder (along with Bill and Melinda Gates) of The Giving Pledge, a program that invites other billionaires to solve big problems by pledging half or more of their wealth to philanthropy. Among those who’ve taken the pledge are international royalty and nobility, donors from old-money families like Hilton and Rockefeller, and a substantial number of self-made billionaires.
More reasons entrepreneurship matters
In my experience as a solopreneur with a writing business, I’ve found that being my own boss forces me to focus on what’s important and leave the rest aside. My kids are learning, by watching me and other entrepreneurs in the family, that setbacks are part of the process and that it’s possible to build something good if you work at it, set goals, and build strong connections with others. Even without a billion-dollar business model, there’s a lot of satisfaction in being able to decide which projects to say yes to and which to decline. There’s also a sense of pride that comes from earning enough money from my own business to contribute to causes that matter to me.
If you’re just starting your entrepreneurial journey or wondering how to start, follow our blog for step-by-step guides to starting your own online store, surveying your customers, and launching your home business.
Is there anything we missed? Tell us why you think entrepreneurship is important in the comments below.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.