My mother always told me, “HATE is a very strong word.” Perhaps. But I can’t help it – the word “solopreneur” elicits a visceral cringe and upturned lip whenever I hear creative entrepreneurs and small business owners use it. Right up there with “mompreneur” and “work wife,” but I digress.
Fair warning, this post is going to be a bit of a righteous rant. Some of you will nod in solidarity; others will disagree. “Buu..but..what about..?” Let’s explore.
“No man is an island,” poet John Donne famously wrote.
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as any manner of thy friends
or of thine own were;
any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.
Setting aside the 17th century poetry and the non-inclusive language, the point remains: you – and your business – do not exist on an island. You are part of an ecosystem. You are not a “solo- “
I get it. You have no employees, no support staff; you started your business from scratch with JUST YOU and you are building and growing it purely on the strength of will. You sit in front of your computer alone and do what you do –design, write, dream up new ideas. You pound the proverbial pavement selling your wares and building your personal brand.
And yet. You are not a SOLOpreneur.
You have a network. You have suppliers. You have resources. You are a part of a community. You have clients, prospects, referral partners. Hell, when I’m toiling away on a detailed design project, I consider Sia and Eddie Vetter to be creative partners.
Without your ecosystem, from coaches to supply chain to clients, your business doesn’t exist. You can’t build your business without a strong community or network. All of these people (and companies) are a part of your business, whether they are officially affiliated with you or not. They are valuable pieces of the puzzle that require your energy, time and attention for your business to succeed.
What is an Entrepreneur?
noun: entrepreneur; plural noun: entrepreneurs
1. a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
businessman/businesswoman, enterpriser, speculator, tycoon, magnate, mogulOxford American College Dictionary via Google
My husband, the most pragmatic person I know, told me after I’d been freelancing for a year or two,
“If you have a business that doesn’t make any money, that’s not a business, it’s a hobby.”
He wasn’t trying to be mean; he’s always been hugely supportive. And he was ok with my work being a hobby or as he cringeworthily called it, “for pin money.” But it made me stop and think. I needed to get clarity on what my goals were – whether I was truly invested in growing a business or merely keeping my mind occupied with a side hustle.
Let’s take a look at the etymology (for the geeks among us) of the word “entrepreneur.” From the French / Latin, it means “one who undertakes or manages” and came to be understood as a risk-taker, creator of opportunity. To replace it with “solo” is not only redundant, it takes value away from both the enterprise and paradoxically, you as the risk-taker and opportunity driver.
Say pointed out in his own writings that it was entrepreneurs who sought out inefficient uses of resources and capital and moved them into more productive, higher yield areas. Simply put, entrepreneurs seek opportunities for profit and, by doing so, create new markets and fresh opportunities. Via Investopedia: Who coined the term 'entrepreneur'?
Which brings me to my final point: diminishing language. The word “solopreneur” diminishes you as an entrepreneur. It’s like waving a huge flag saying, “but I’m NOT REALLY an entrepreneur” as a way of qualifying your business. I’ve noticed that it is primarily WOMEN who use it, along with its BFF, “mompreneur.”
I truly don’t get it. WHY? Why the qualifying language? I’m a Mom. Like you, I didn’t stop being a mom when I started to build my business. I work from home and take afternoons off sometimes to take care of my kids. Or myself. So what? These are my choices; I don’t need to apologize or qualify them. More importantly, I don’t need or want to define my business by them. Especially now in the on-demand economy. Almost everyone I know has some sort of flexible work schedule and works from home occasionally.
So, just STOP. Stop shouting (or whispering) to the world that you don’t take your business seriously. That it’s a hobby.
Do you work for yourself? Do you provide valuable goods or services to clients who need what you have to offer? Do you take risks and create opportunities?
Stand up. Own it. You are a powerful risk-taker. You are a business owner. You are an entrepreneur.