Each year since 2011, the month of November is celebrated as National Entrepreneurship Month in the United States, a time to recognize the business owners who serve their communities and bolster the American economy by creating employment for millions of people.
For people like me, this is a special time. Not that there's some big celebration, or presents, or songs or even a Hallmark card selection. No, it's just the idea that we can celebrate people who take risks to bring their ideas to the marketplace — and sometimes win big.
From my perspective, the entrepreneur is the unsung hero of our economy.
Instinct often plays a crucial role in the life of an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are also problem-solvers. Entrepreneurs inhabit a mystical world of inspiration, innovation and the subconscious. They also often tap their "inner child," with tendencies to be impulsive, uninhibited and relentlessly experimental. These qualities aren't exactly rampant in mainstream business.
Eli Whitney allegedly got the idea for the cotton gin by watching a fox try to raid his chicken coop. The fox couldn't get in the coop, but it managed to get most of the feathers from its prey through the mesh. Whitney then began experimenting with a claw or rake to pull cotton fibers through a grid and leave the seeds behind.
Nina Blanchard, like many entrepreneurs, failed in business and went bankrupt as the owner of a franchised modeling school. She invested her last $300 in a Los Angeles modeling agency, thinking many of the models whom her school trained needed work.
Photographers began calling her immediately but, fearing that her models weren't ready for prime time yet, she announced they were unavailable. Word spread around town that the Blanchard Agency's models were always booked, which attracted other models who wanted to be represented by the hottest agency in town.
Jasper "Jack" Newton Daniel was 7 years old, living in a small Tennessee town when he was offered a job as a houseboy for a Lutheran minister who was also a merchant, farmer and whiskey distiller. Jack was interested in learning the mysteries of making moonshine and sour mash.
When his boss' congregation pressured him to choose between the pulpit and his business, he offered his now 13-year-old apprentice the opportunity to buy his distillery on credit. In 1866, Jack Daniel bought the whiskey business that bears his name.
W.E. Boeing was a timber trader who was also a hobbyist aviator. He got into the business of making airplanes when his own plane broke down and he couldn't get replacement parts.
Whitney Wolfe Herd flipped traditional dating dynamics by letting women make the first move when she created Bumble in 2004. Within one year, the app had reached over 80 million matches. She became the world's youngest female self-made billionaire and the youngest female CEO to ever take a company public in the United States.
Wolfe Herd dethroned Katrina Lake as the youngest woman to take a company public. Lake founded her online company that curates outfits, Stitch Fix, in 2011 before taking it public in 2017.
My own story pales in comparison to these superstars, but after more than 60 years in business, I'm quite satisfied that the leap of faith I took was worth it. Sure, there are a few things I would do differently. But I would never give up my resolve to make it work.
Mackay's Moral: The first step to getting anywhere is deciding you are no longer willing to stay where you are.
Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or email email@example.com.