You know, when I first got into the business, when I started my journey as an entrepreneur, I was building a music management company. That was my focus, and we were managing bands, managing producers, making records and booking tours.
I had the best time of my life, and I still look back on those years with a lot of fondness. We didn’t do anything that great, and it didn’t end too well, but we loved every moment of it.
I told a founder about that the other day, and the first thing he said, was “…but you could never have scaled that anyway.”
I couldn’t believe it. That’s such a frustrating thing to hear because it comes from one place. It comes from someone who doesn’t see any kind of business as valid if it’s not a scalable startup.
I’ve had this multiple times throughout my career. I’ve got a deep interest and love for client work, for design, for creativity, content creation, fashion and lifestyle brands. As an entrepreneur, this is the shit that I’m into.
And I’ve been dismissed time and time again by startup founders who don’t assign any value to those kinds of businesses.
Can I drop something on you? Tech startups, platforms, marketplaces and scalability are not the only markers of a successful business. And they’re not the only focus of happy entrepreneurs.
I believe there’s only one business worth starting. Only one idea or business model worth pursuing. It’s the one you can wake up and still want to work on in five years. It’s the one that means something personal to you, that you honestly give a shit about. It’s the one you believe in.
So this is a topic I’ve come back to a few times, and I’ll keep coming back to it. Because I love businesses, and I love entrepreneurship, and yeah I’ve got a thing for startups. But startups aren’t the be all and end all, they’re not the only businesses you can build.
I’ve met a lot of people who’ve struggled to explain their business because they’re trying to fit it into the mold or the concept of a startup as if it’s this magical category. But you don’t have to do that.
If you’re building a web design agency, you don’t have to shuffle your feet and try and call it a design startup. You can call it what you want, but all you’re doing is slapping a bunch of different labels on what is essentially a small business.
There is nothing wrong with a small business.
If you’re building a fashion brand, you don’t have to try and make it a platform too, and you don’t have to hide behind labels, you can just come out and call it what it is. A line of T-shirts. A company that makes shoes. Whatever.
But don’t feel like your journey or your path as an entrepreneur is somehow less valid than your peers’ just because you’re not building a scalable startup. Don’t feel like you have to make any apologies for building what you love, not what you’re told you should work on.
If the business you love happens to be a tech startup, that’s great. Build that. But if the business you love is just you, designing Typography in your living room from one iMac, that’s great too.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to be able to live with yourself, and you’ve got to be able to wake up and keep working when everything seems pointless. The only way to do that is to build the business you want. Build the thing you’re obsessed with.
There is only one business worth starting, and it’s the one you know you want to work on.
[This is a guest post by Jon Westenberg]