What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word entrepreneur? Someone so dedicated to their innovative business idea that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to see it succeed? A person with such passion for their dreams that they work harder than just about anyone you know – and love every minute of it?
Or maybe you see yourself in that word, your own passion and drive propelling you down the bumpy – but rewarding – path of entrepreneurship.
The word entrepreneur comes from the Old French, and those linguistic roots provide some surprisingly nuanced insight into the nature of people who found businesses. The French word entreprendre means to undertake, which has a long list of such dynamic synonyms as embark, endeavor, tackle, devote, stake, venture, and set in motion. Entrepreneurs are doers. They turn their passion into action and make things happen.
But our little language lesson doesn’t end there. The French word entre, by itself, means between, and that gives us our second insight into entrepreneurship. It’s all about making connections between people. Connections between the entrepreneurs and their customers, yes, but also connections with their peers in the business world, as well as with mentors to guide them on their way.
In order to help entrepreneurs with both aspects of their calling, Global Entrepreneurship Week was born. GEW is all about taking action and making connections. Created in 2007, Global Entrepreneurship Week brings people from all over the world together with the common goal of inspiring entrepreneurs to move forward with their dreams.
For one week in November each year, cities across the globe hold events where fledgling entrepreneurs meet with mentors and investors to discuss their ideas and provide both practical help and moral support. As passionate supporters of entrepreneurship ourselves here at Zen Media, we were thrilled to have the chance to speak with one of the organizations helping to lead the GEW charge in our own Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex area: The Dallas Entrepreneur Center.
The DEC takes the principles of GEW to an entirely new level, providing invaluable services for budding entrepreneurs year-round. While providing a physical location where entrepreneurs can find the resources they need to take the next step in their journey, such as training or access to capital, they also facilitate connections between entrepreneurs old and new in a spirit of collaboration and mutual service.
We asked Jennifer Conley, co-founder of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, what advice she would give to someone just starting down the path of entrepreneurship. Her reply? Focus on those connections:
“Early on in your career, attend every meeting you can. Even if you feel like you don’t have anything to contribute, go anyway and just watch the people who carry the room. This doesn’t always mean the person who talks the most, rather watch for the people who listen to others and provide relevant information or advice that moves the issues at hand forward in a positive and meaningful way. Once you’ve identified those people, surround yourself with them. Quick side note, you have to separate yourself from the people who put down others and their successes. They will do nothing for your career. Last, love what you do, and if you consistently follow up and follow through, you’ll stand out from the crowd.”
Connecting with others and following through with action are just as important to another Dallas-area business we were honored to speak with: Plaid for Women. Based on the philosophy that connections and collaboration help women thrive, both in business and in every other aspect of life, Plaid for Women offers a treasure trove of information and inspiration on their website. They also hold regular networking events and workshops for women to help further their aspirations, whatever they may be.
We asked Shivaun Palmer, CEO and co-founder of Plaid for Women, Inc., what she would tell a woman entrepreneur at the beginning of her journey. She answered from her own personal experience:
“The main thing my business partner Sarah Zink and I have both learned is that as entrepreneurs, you have to throw things up against the wall and see what sticks, particularly in the first phase of your growth. Be open to change, be extremely nimble and listen to what the marketplace tells you even if it wasn’t in your original business model. Don’t spread yourself too thin, or you will dilute your brand. Focus on one to two core assets that will move your company toward profitability and then add on from there. And oh by the way, have a good sense of humor and be kind to yourself. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint-hearted, but boy is it fun and there is never a dull moment.”
That openness to change is an idea espoused by another female entrepreneur we just happened to speak with: our own CEO and the founder of Zen Media, Shama Hyder! When asked what her advice would be for someone starting their own business, Shama put the emphasis on passion-driven action:
“It’s more important to ship passion than wait on perfection. It’s terrifying to put your ideas out into the world; you could be laughed at, ridiculed, slammed, and so much more. It’s easier to keep chipping away at a project until you are absolutely sure of its perfection than to reveal a work in progress. But, today, every piece of a work has to be a work in progress. It’s the only way to stay relevant. Embrace the editor within which allows you to put out a beta version, and then tweak it to perfection 2.0. People will respect your passion, and if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. One of my favorite quotes is by Theodore Roosevelt: ‘It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.'”
Obviously, this dynamic approach is effective, as Shama was recently nominated to Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list of the most important innovators and influencers under 30, in the realm of marketing.
At Zen Media, our focus is also on forging connections. As social media marketers, that’s what we do – bring people together by helping to create and strengthen online communities. And as an entrepreneurial company, with many clients who are also entrepreneurs, we understand the importance of a passionate dedication to both taking dynamic action and building relationships.
The path of entrepreneurship is a difficult one to take because the entrepreneur forges it for herself as she goes. We’ll leave you with one more quote, this time from poet Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” That’s what our friends at Plaid for Women and the Dallas Entrepreneur Center are doing, and that’s the path we’ve chosen here at Zen Media, as well. Happy Global Entrepreneurship Week!