There is a new breed of Kenyans, most of them young people, who have done so much to perpetuate the myth of entrepreneurship that it is virtually unrecognizable from its actual meaning.
An entrepreneur is no longer that savvy forward thinker who identifies and takes advantage of an untapped niche in the market. No, if the millennials are to be believed, an entrepreneur is a sharply dressed business graduate with an iPhone sprouting out of their hand and Range Rover keys dangling from the other.
They are constantly on call, or on their way in and out of important meetings. Their jargon is clipped and vague. I’m waiting on this deal. The shipment is not in yet. That tender just came through. But their favorite line by far is ‘Me, 9 to 5 wasn’t for me’.
And so we believe them. And we all strive for that entrepreneurial glory. We want to be them when we grow up, or if possible, before we grow up so our hustle will be cooked by then. In those moments between the never-ending trudge of the work week and the glory of the weekend that lasts five seconds, we close our eyes and we imagine ourselves as business owners. As entrepreneurs with incoherent job titles.
Yet it is all a myth, like the economy, or the G spot. Or marriage.
In reality, entrepreneurship is rarely the bed of roses it is made out to be. Often, it is the exact opposite. Not every entrepreneur makes it. The casually dressed woman shoveling tomatoes into the back of a Probox at 6 a.m. may actually have a better handle on this business thing than Mr. Tenderpreneur and his Ankara bowtie.
So, what exactly are these myths?
Bosses are the worst
In fairness, they usually are. But it is an easy mistake to make, assuming your inability to work under authority translates to potential as an entrepreneur. As any new business owner will tell you, you’re essentially switching bosses. Your client and business will be just as demanding, forcing you to work tirelessly.
Control of the calendar
Who doesn’t want the freedom to choose their own working hours? To wake up when God wills it and not have to worry about the jam at the roundabout. Or having to cancel FIFA night because you have to be up early the next day. But working for yourself doesn’t always mean that. Yes, you do get to choose your own hours. But unlike the 9 to 5, you never get out of the office. You’re working at all times, even when you aren’t. And something can come up at any time.
Most tragically, however, you stop caring about the weekends and holidays. And what is the point of living if you cannot bicker about Monday and its ugly cousin Wednesday?
I work better alone
To the annoyance of nice introverts all over the world who just wanted to be left alone, entrepreneurs have appropriated working alone, claiming it as the key to the throne. The idea that a successful business owner shoulders the burden alone is actually inaccurate. You have a better chance of success working as a group than you do alone (just ask One Direction. And Camp Mulla. And those Lamba Lolo kids). If anything, an entrepreneur needs excellent people skills, something actual introverts don’t really have.
More time for me
Another selling point for entrepreneurship is that it offers a better work-life balance. There is no guarantee of this. If anything, the journey from budding idea to successful business is often more stressful than regular work. You have to put out fires so often you can actually forget to have time for a social life. To be fair, though, there isn’t a pick up line with the proven success record of “I’m in business.”
On the road to riches
Most people think of entrepreneurship and think Top 40 under 40. They think Bill Gates and Jack Ma, and that guy who went to Shark Tank with a bathing gunia. In reality, most start-ups don’t register profit for up to two years. And when they do, that money goes right back to the business. Only one in ten ideas is an actual cash cow, so think about that before forgoing the thrill of the payday.
The decision to quit the office life for the lure of entrepreneurship should therefore not be taken lightly. Some people can do it, others are more suited for the desk life. The key is to think about the success potential for your grand idea before telling your boss you never liked him anyway.