Entrepreneurs have a well-deserved reputation for being independent. This can be both a strength and a weakness. Psychologists tell us that the maturing process happens in three stages. We go from being dependent to being independent to being interdependent. 

Our working lives often follow the same path. Most of us start out working for someone else, go out on our own and may be quite alone at first, then mature into a business that interacts and collaborates with other businesses.

One of the wisest axioms I’ve ever heard is the one that says to support that which supports you. If you are going to be entrepreneurial, that translates into supporting entrepreneurial activities in whatever way you can. 

There are some simple things you can do to use your business as a vehicle for supporting the entrepreneurial spirit around the world. For starters, look for ways to do business with other small businesses. You might pay a little more to shop at an independent bookseller or hardware store, but do it anyway.

When author Barbara Sher learned that her neighborhood florist was in danger of going out of business, she went home and e-mailed her large database inviting them to order flowers from the shop and have them sent to her. She explained how wonderful the flower shop was and what a bright spot it was in her New York neighborhood. She assured us that even a small order would help. That’s the kind of practical support that we can offer one another.

Another way to expand the spirit of enterprise is to contribute to organizations who help others start businesses. For years I’ve been a strong supporter of Heifer who gives livestock to people around the world to get them started in business. These days, I’m especially enthusiastic about Kiva who gives us the opportunity to become micro-lenders for a mere $25. What’s especially fun about the Kiva model is that you get to select the recipient of your loan–and follow their progress repaying the loan. If you haven’t paid them a visit, I urge you to do so. 

Look what Kiva has accomplished in three short years:

 

Total value of all loans made through Kiva: $46,738,210
Number of Kiva Lenders: 348,752
Number of loans that have been funded through Kiva: 65,425
Percentage of Kiva loans which have been made to women entrepreneurs: 77.71%
Number of Kiva Field Partners (microfinance institutions Kiva partners with): 88
Number of countries Kiva Field Partners are located in: 41
Current repayment rate (all partners): 98.69%
Current default rate (all partners): 1.31%
Average size of loan for funding: $456.57
Average total amount loaned per Kiva Lender (includes reloaned funds): $134.09
Average number of loans per Kiva Lender: 3.58

By the way, did you notice the repayment rate? What does that say about the power of enterprising spirits?

It’s fundraising week at Nevada Public Radio and since I’m an enthusiastic supporter, listener and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me fan, I received a call asking for additional support. The charming volunteer explained all the additional treats I’d receive and I found myself happily giving her my credit card information.

When that was concluded, she said, “We have a matching employer grant. So who’s your employer?”

That’s not a question I get asked very often so I hesitated for a moment before saying, “Barbara J Winter!” I said it with such gusto that it startled her (and me). She laughed, then apologized for doing so, then recovered and said, “Would she like to make a matching donation?” Then it was my turn to laugh. 

That brief encounter also was a reminder that we who are blazing new trails through self-employment must not be intimidated by our minority status.

People who are newly self-employed often find it uncomfortable to be asked, “So what do you do?” A man I knew in Santa Barbara confessed that he’d been self-employed for more than a year before he realized that he was answering that question by sheepishly mumbling, “I own my own business.” Then he’d add, “But I USED to be the director of the YMCA.”

Anyone who has taken the step out of mainstream employment to create something wonderful on their own should be eager to share that. Alice Barry goes a step farther. She told me that if she’s setting up an appointment or meeting she always adds, “I’m self-employed so I’m flexible.” 

Here in Joyfully Jobless Land, we’re not much for titles, but we do love stories. Even an ordinary question like, “What do you do?” can be an invitation to tell a short story. Once you know how to do that, you’ll find yourself welcoming such questions–no matter who is asking.

If you’d like to master telling your story, I know exactly the place you can do just that: Compelling Storytelling, December 2-4, Las Vegas.

Your job is to make your audience care about your obsessions. ~ Bruce Springsteen