This Saturday, I've been invited to speak the the Social Entrepreneur Conference in Sarasota. I've never heard of this conference before until the co-founder of the conference, Emiliano, made contact.
The first question that comes to mind is "what the hell is a social entrepreneur?" I have no idea, it just sounds like another label people use to market and sell themselves with. I was skeptical at first, but Emiliano made the offer to meet in person to talk more about the conference in depth. This is not something that I usually do, but in this instance, yes, OK, let's do it.
We meet up at a restaurant in downtown Sarasota. Emiliano starts to tell me what the whole conference is all about. In his own words, it's about entrepreneurs who are conscious of their surroundings and environment and how their business affects the global community. He mentions the catalyst that sparked the conference in the first place, but more importantly, he spoke about how it's trying to provide resources and tools to young entrepreneurs who are trying to start their business.
As we sat at the restaurant, I explained to him that I think the idea sounds noble, but in practice isn't business. It's activism. He's taken aback. I'm not surprised though. I suppose I have a reputation for being extremely candid in that "doesn't hold back his punches," kind of way. Look, your time, my time is valuable and we don't have enough of it. The last thing I want is to waste someone's time, or for me to waste theirs. After the initial shock faded, Emiliano pressed forward with more questions about what I meant.
I told him that essentially, from my experience, if you're business is open and you're not making a profit on day one, when you open your doors, you're not a business. Emiliano sat and listened. Continuing on, I mentioned how for some reason or another, the entrepreneurial culture of the 2000s forgot about how to earn money. They were focused on spending money. Most entrepreneurs, especially in the tech area, spend the first 3 years of business fundraising, prototyping, and creating a business which they intend to sell off. The product or service they're making isn't the product or service they're working on. The business is the product! Acquisition sales are way more enticing than earning profit. That profit has such a negative reputation, it just doesn't make sense to me why anyone would want to get into business to run at a loss. Though some businesses, operating at a loss is the point, but I hesitate to even call them "businesses," for the sheer simple fact that it sounds more like a scam.
My only business experience has been the one that I've forged thus far this last 10 years of business ownership. There's been a lot of hard lessons learned. A lot of ups and downs and trials and errors. Experience is a university degree you can't buy.
Saturday, I hope to share a little more about what I've learned on my journey from being an artist to an entrepreneur.