An Open Letter to Friends and Family of an Entrepreneur
Most of the entrepreneurs you read about are what you could call "serial" entrepreneurs. Maybe they started at a young age or maybe it started in university. But they've always had the business acumen that you'd expect for someone who goes it on their own. Your image of an entrepreneur is someone like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or Arlene Dickinson. So when your friend or family member tells you she's left her high-paying, long-titled corporate job to start her own business, you respond with a less-than-enthusiastic "oh, good for you."
Since joining the ranks of the "mompreneur", a similar theme has cropped up in conversations with my new friends: we receive more support from newly-made entrepreneur acquaintances than our friends and family when it comes to our business. I don't think this is intentional. But you, as a friend or family member of an entrepreneur, could be stalling the success of their business (and overall happiness levels).
Not all entrepreneurs are born that way.
When I was a kid, I remember thinking that I wanted to by my own boss. My grandfather started his own engineering firm when he came to Canada from England, and my dad has run several successful businesses too; so I sort of grew up with the entrepreneurial spirit. But as I got older and realized the type of responsibility that came with it, I decided being an employee wasn't so bad. And I was a damn good employee, moving through roles and responsibilities faster than most. I had a bright future. And then I quit.
I get it, you don't get it.
I know that if you are on a similar career trajectory, or in the same headspace I was 5 years ago enjoying the comforts of benefits and a salary, this might confuse you. It sometimes confuses me to be honest. We all have our own reasons and our own dreams for our businesses. But the most common reason I hear is to be able to control our schedule - have more time for family, and do more of what we love. It certainly isn't as glamorous as a corner office and often (at least in the beginning) not as lucrative. But there are perks beyond the titles and the pay cheques. And while they may not be a priority for you, understand that your entrepreneurial friend has her priorities too.
But you are in our marketing department.
Most of us entrepreneurs work alone or maybe with a partner or two. But we certainly don't have the marketing resources that large companies have. And so we rely on word of mouth (or, as it seems to go for my generation, word of Facebook). But word of mouth takes time, and it takes people. When we're just getting started, our network is our friends. And whether or not you have or will ever support our businesses financially, you form the very first word-of-mouth network we have.
If your friend invites you to follow them on social media, please consider hitting 'like' to show you support them. And when you see her sharing a post from her business page on Facebook, go into the post from her page and hit ‘Like’ there (not just from her personal page – this will help the post reach more people).
Stick with us.
When we take the leap into entrepreneurship, often the lines between life and work are blurred. Your friend might be thinking about work a lot more than when she was working for someone else (I know I am!). At the same time, working out of your basement can be a lonely venture. That's why we reach out to find others who are making a go of entrepreneurship too. Because we get it.
We know what it's like to hustle every single day to make an income. And so we share each others posts, give each other hugs and high fives, and work hard to build each other up. Because we know. But nobody knows your friend like you know her. Don't let a new entrepreneurial spirit get in the way of years of friendship.
And so, ask your friend out for lunch or for a drink. Just like you care about her health, family, and what she did on the weekend, ask her about her business. And ask her how it's going. Ask her what her goals are, what she loves and what she hates about it. Make sure you're there for the hugs and high fives too.
Ask how you can help.
This doesn't have to mean directly buying from her (though that helps too!). Think through your network to see if there's anyone else who could benefit from her products or services, or if you know anyone who could help with her business. It's amazing the types of connections that can be made even if you initially don't think you have anything to offer. Even if nothing directly comes of the conversation, knowing that you care means a lot to us lonely entrepreneurs. I promise it won't go unnoticed.