If you were asked to describe an entrepreneur, what words would you use? Maybe terms like “bright, energetic, or magnetic.” This 2004 article in the aptly named magazine Entrepreneur, gives a whole host of other terms, not all of them complimentary.
Two descriptions of an entrepreneur that most people would not use are “ex-felon,” and “non-English speaking.” However, it may just be these often overlooked sectors of your community could be an integral piece of your community’s economic restructuring. In the classic Republic, Plato said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” If this is true, then those least able to obtain traditional employment should be those with the most entrepreneurial spirit.
Take Troy Graves. This Danville resident spent a few years in prison, where he apprenticed as an upholsterer, eventually redoing a chair for the Governor’s office. When he completed his incarceration, he had trouble finding steady work but was determined not to go back to his former ways. With the help of a partnership with Virginia Enterprise Initiative, New Visions New Ventures and the Small Business Development Center, Troy was able to get business skills training, write a business plan, and obtain a microloan that allowed him to set up shop. When this newspaper article hit the street, his phone rang off the hook and he has business lined up for the foreseeable future. Troy is still building his credit, and hopes to own his building one day soon.
And consider this positive story from National Public Radio from a place where positive stories have been few and far between. It seems the one part of Detroit that is flourishing is the predominantly Latino neighborhood known as “Mexican Town.” Many less developed economies have a strong entrepreneurial tradition; again, harkening back to Plato’s words about necessity. The most entrepreneurial members of these societies often find a way to come to the United States and bring that spirit with them.
Make sure you consider all aspects of your local business environment when planning your community’s future. You just might find success in the most unexpected places.