What makes someone an entrepreneur? Most simply defined, an entrepreneur is a person who identifies a need and starts a business to fill that void. But others will argue that a “true” entrepreneur must come up with an innovative new product or service and then operates their business to sell and profit from that innovation.
Under the broader definition are those people who become entrepreneurs out of necessity – starting their own business after losing a job, to supplement their income, or to gain the flexibility to attend to other demands in their lives.
Take Joanne, for example. Joanne started her holistic health business about eight years ago. Although she doesn’t necessarily consider herself an entrepreneur, the necessity of a family member’s health situation created both a challenge and an opportunity that shifted her path of employment. As a graduate of Boston University with a degree in math, and Syracuse with an MBA, Joanne had been working as a technical engagement director managing large-scale database development projects.
However, she was also managing the special needs of a son at home with learning differences. She was hit with a layoff from her job about the same time that her son required more services. She was doing tons of research to help him in any way possible, including alternatives to mainstream treatment, and she started an unpaid e-mail service to friends and family sharing what she learned. The response was tremendous – several people told her that she had changed their lives and she should make a career out of it. She decided to take the plunge, pursued further education, and then started JBS Holistic Nutrition where she offers health coaching and healing alternatives. The nature of her business allows her to be flexible. She is currently working part-time, which enables her to manage the needs of her family and help take care of an ailing parent. She sees her business as an opportunity to help people change their lives for the better.
Anita Erskine has lived the dream of every young person sweeping stages, copying scripts, or fetching coffee at a studio. She was a lowly intern on a talk show, “The Bold & The Beautiful,” when the host of the live show called out sick. Erskine was dressed for a day behind the scenes, not her TV debut, but before she knew it, she was sitting in the host chair thinking to herself, “This lady is never coming back.” And thus, at 18, Anita Erskine started her career in front of the camera.
This story may seem fantastical to the reader, but after spending just a few hours with Erskine is becomes believable. She puts in the time to do the hard work and has a natural aptitude for building a personal brand.
Now, back in Ghana, she’s focused on something bigger than her personal brand. She is focused on using the media to promote the African brand and is doing it in a real and nuanced way. The two prevailing attitudes towards Africa’s brand are nicely portrayed by two editions of TheEconomist. The May 2000 edition included an article titled Hopeless Africa which cites flood, famine, and war summing up its laundry list of ills with, “No one can blame Africans for the weather, but most of the continent’s shortcomings owe less to acts of God than to acts of man.” Ten years later, we had The Hopeful Continent: Africa Rising which described the continent as being, “home to millions of highly motivated entrepreneurs and increasingly prosperous consumers.”
Yves St Laurent studied under Dior. Donna Karen worked for Anne Klein. Tom Ford was a design assistant to Cathy Hardwick. Starting a career as a fashion entrepreneur, or in any of the creative industries, does not follow the typical entrepreneur’s journey. In fashion, the apprenticeship model reigns supreme.
Roberta Annan started the African Fashion Fund (AFF) in part to make it possible for African designers to have access to global apprenticeships. “I believe in apprenticeship. It’s so important. If you look at all the major fashion brands in this world, they worked under somebody before they became big. I wanted to find a way to promote that,” she said. Through their fellowship program, AFF has helped placed African designers in apprenticeships in New York with designers such as Bibhu Mohapatra and EDUN of LVMH. AFF covers all of the associated costs.
MIT Sloan Visiting Lecturer Irving Wladawsky-Berger
From Wall Street Journal
Between the never-ending stream of news linking bad actors to social networks and studies documenting society’s growing smartphone addiction, it seems almost wrong today to think that technology can — ahem — help make the world a better place.
That’s why I am thankful for the annual Inclusive Innovative Challenge, hosted by MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy. Launched in 2016, the IIC seeks out and awards entrepreneurs that are leveraging technology advances to reinvent the future of work. That’s right. There remains, even in this news cycle, firms committed to tapping technology’s ability to connect–and not divide–people and build–and not threaten–jobs and other economic activities.
Or, as the challenge organizers put it:
“The IIC believes that Inclusive Innovation is an economic and moral imperative, and that the key question of our era isn’t what technology is going to do to our economy and society, but what we will do with technology. By identifying and promoting the powerful global community of future of work visionaries, the IIC proactively accelerates the technology-driven solutions enabling greater economic opportunity for working people around the world facing the challenge of rapidly advancing digital progress.”
Building Sustainable Healthcare Systems through Innovation and Entrepreneurship, MIT-King’s College of London Summit, May 22, 2019
What role can innovators and entrepreneurs play in overcoming global health challenges, creating a safer and healthier world, and driving global prosperity?
Join us for an #Innovate4Health Twitter chat on Wednesday, May 15 at 9 a.m. Boston / 2 p.m. London time.
The featured experts are Georgina Flatter (@GeorgieMIT), Research Scientist at the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT, and Prashant Jha (@drpjha), Head of Affordable Medical Technologies at the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences at King’s College London. Suranga Chandratillake (@surangac) of Balderton Capital, will be leading the discussion as host. Together, they will discuss how innovators and entrepreneurs around the world are challenging what is possible in healthcare and driving global progress.