Why I Love My Mother, And Why I’m Terrified Of Overhead

I have to say it first- I Love my Mom.  Without a doubt, she is the most awesome, inspirational person in my life.  I got the chance to have a long phone conversation with her today (something that doesn’t happen nearly enough), and we talked for well over an hour about her plans for starting a business.

See, my mom is truly an Entrepreneur at heart.  For a lot of my childhood,  the realities of being a single mother trying to raise three children meant that she was unable to pursue her entrepreneurial ambitions.  She is now finally transitioning into being able to pursue her first big entrepreneurial venture, and I couldn’t be happier for her.

Mom has a passion for education, having been a teacher for many years.  She thinks (rightfully so) that our education system is broken, and wants to focus her first venture on the education space.  I completely agree with this goal, but in our discussion on the different ways to approach the market, I quickly became aware of the incredible generation gap that has shaped the way two fundamentally similar people approach the startup challenge.  We both agree that education is broken.  We both are searching for a way to get involved in the market while exploring growth opportunities.  Where the generation gap manifests itself is in our approach to market entry.

To my Mom, starting an education business means crafting a business plan, renting a building, buying materials, marketing to families, and starting an after school enrichment/tutoring business.

To me, approaching the same problem would mean taking a completely different route to market.  I would likely use the Lean Startup methodology to develop an exploratory web based business, hopefully one which could scale based on the sale of an information based product.  I have an intense fear of businesses that require large amounts of capital investment before engaging a single customer, and just the idea of signing a lease gives me cold sweats (if there is a phobia related to non-bootstrappable businesses, I have it).

This isn’t at all meant as a criticism of the “real world” way of building a business.  Quite the opposite actually: I think many of today’s entrepreneurs would do well to take a page from the old way of doing things, when you built businesses that provided a valuable product or service that people would pay for from day one.

Instead, I want to draw attention to the ways that the resources of the internet age allow entrepreneurs to experiment while dramatically decreasing the cost of failure.  A startup today can test and vet a number of products, business models, and sales processes at an incredibly minimal cost.  Experimentation is cheap, and failure can mean the loss of a couple hundred dollars and a few weeks of time (instead of thousands of dollars and months or years of effort).

What all this means is that there is absolutely no reason for us not to be raising a generation of entrepreneurs right now.  The barriers to entry have been slashed so dramatically that literally any young person can explore the thrills of creating their own business.

My Mom had to postpone fulfilling her startup vision because of the fundamental limits of a pre-internet era.  My hope is that the this generation of entrepreneurs will never be prevented from pursuing their dreams and ambitions- The pressure is on us to educate and provide mentorship so that this hope can become a reality.

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