I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My great grandfather (on my father’s side) was the Mayor of Morecambe in England… and owned a business that made potted shrimp. He was even awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by the King of England for his contributions to the local fishing economy.
Great-Grandad Willacy’s daughter (my granny) married a similar-minded entrepreneur who packed up the family (my dad and his 4 brothers) and sailed to South Africa where he immediately set to work… paving his own way and building his own business. Grandad… (and this seems to be a running theme in my family)… didn’t like being told what to do. Grandad (like Great-Grandad) wanted to be his own boss.
So… when I was born, my Dad was working for Grandad at the family-run, Cape Town-based business… and, true to form… Dad (who, like his father and grandfather… hates being told what to do)… left the comfort and confines of the Patterson family business (much to Grandad’s chagrin) and moved us all inland to Johannesburg, in order to (drum-roll)… start his own business and be his own boss… because even working for his father still required being told what to do… and Dad… (all together now!)… hates being told what to do!
So, I grew up in a home with a successful, strong-willed (read: stubborn) entrepreneur.
From a young age, the idea that one could forge their own path… and make a plan to generate their own money… was the only way we knew.
In our home, there was never a fear around the topic of money. Dad firmly believed that everyone was capable of generating it. He was a visionary who easily recognised gaps in the market (where money might be made). He was also not afraid of hard work… nor of taking risks.
Even when he lost (a very large sum) of money in a failed business… he simply picked himself up, dusted himself off, started from scratch… and built another business – starting from the garage of his home.
“It’s only money”… he’d say.
Today, Dad runs a business that manufactures electrical components. The business is housed in a newly-built factory complex near his home in the south of Joburg. He owns the other 5 factories in the complex – and rents them out to tenants.
The point of this post is this: throughout my childhood, my family’s risk-taking entrepreneurial modus operandi was the lens through which I viewed the world. I never thought: “One day, once I’m properly educated… I will hopefully get a good job that will pay a good salary”.
I never thought in terms of “the job” I would one day ask someone else for…
It never occurred to me to think in terms of “someone else”… like a boss or an employer… being responsible for my financial wellbeing. I – and I alone – would be responsible for the money I made (or didn’t make).
I always thought in terms of the business I would run… or the freelance work I would do (on my terms)… or the money I would generate by selling something (again: on my terms). I always assumed that I would carve my own path in some kind of creative entrepreneurial pursuit… and generate my own income… and live on my own terms (which I have done – for better or for worse) without having to rely on a corporation or a boss to generate it for me.
Nobody in our immediate family worked for a boss. Everyone was their own boss.
My mom… even as a stay-at-home-mom (who didn’t need to generate an income because Dad’s financial provision was more than enough to support us all)… generated her own money nonetheless. She hosted pottery classes, dressmaking and pattern-making workshops… sweet-making courses (and many – many – countless other things too).
(Mom’s grandfather – interestingly – was also a self-made entrepreneur in the beverage industry).
After my parents were divorced (many years ago), Mom continued with her creative entrepreneurial ways – and today she owns and operates Fisherman’s Village (conference centre, coffee shop and Christian ministry of restoration).
My younger sister also went through a stint of owning her own business but decided that the corporate life was just a better fit for her. Soo enjoys competition, people, minions and corporate perks and, for a number of reasons (which she has mentioned in her blog here)… has chosen to go that route. Not because she “can’t” make it as a business owner (she can… and she has)… but rather, it didn’t quite suit her unique design.
It suits mine, though.
Much like Dad… and Grandad… and Great-Grandad… I, too, am a stubborn creature who hates being told what to do. And for the (short) seasons when I did work for a boss… I loathed it deeply and sunk into a miserable depression.
Another interesting dimension of this story: I married Nick (spawned from generations of Greek entrepreneurs). Greeks seem to be natural-made entrepreneurs (possibly also something to do with that hate-being-told-what-to-do thing??)…
Almost everyone in Nick’s family is a self-made entrepreneur.
Nick’s parents (together with his uncle and aunt) began their South African business ventures (in true Greek style) with a corner café and bakery – which later grew in to a bit of a food empire (the older Greeks have now retired and the company is now run by Nick’s cousins, Helen and Sandra).
Helen’s husband, Vasco, is a structural engineer with his own business. Their son, Alec, is a professional drummer and music producer. Their other son, Mike, is a professional freelance photographer (both Mike and Alec are based in Liverpool). Nick’s brother, Dino, is a sound engineer with his own recording studio. Nick’s sister, Angela, is an interior decorator with her own consultancy and shop. Nick’s cousin, Peter, has a business manufacturing jewellery… on and on it goes.
Even more interestingly… (come to think of it)… almost everyone in our closest circle of friends work for themselves. Rogan is a mastering engineer with his own studio. Tracey is a professional photographer. Ray is a professional musician. James and Anel are professional actors and producers. Ryley makes documentary films. Josh is a director and production-studio owner. Joel is a published author and speaker. Joe is a popular singer… (and, of course, all of my travelling family & nomadic friends either work freelance or own a business)… (and most of my homeschooling & unschooling friends too!)…
Come to think of it… very few of our friends work for a boss or within the constraints of an 8-5, rush-hour traffic sort of job. (I can think of 5 good friends who are required to ask for leave or clock in on time).
I wonder why this is?
It’s not as though we deliberately set out to surround ourselves with people who are… similar.
And I definitely don’t scorn those who work full-time jobs for bosses.
It’s a DIFFERENT life to mine… a different choice. It has nothing to do with right or wrong… or good or bad (I love diversity – and neither want, nor expect, everyone to be the same as me!)… but that said, the Life-of-the-Entrepreneur is just so familiar to me… so deeply ingrained in my DNA (and in Nick’s)… that I would be genuinely surprised if Morgan or Joah grew up with aspirations to work for a boss at a big corporation.
(Notice: I didn’t say “disappointed”… I said: “surprised”).
I’m kinda expecting that Morgan and Joah will naturally pattern what has been modelled to them and, like the generations before them, they will either open their own business… or freelance… or make their own films… or write their own books… or open a restaurant… or a guest house… or whatever…
I’m sure they’ll have a season of working for a boss (as I did… as Nick did too) – but ultimately, I kinda imagine that they’ll be entrepreneurs too.
After all, it does seem to run in the family…. 🙂