By Carissa Ganelli (Founder & CEO, Commerce Drivers) Occasionally I get this question. So, let me clarify. I don’t want to be an entrepreneur. I already am one.
There was the flowered crown business I started while I was an undergrad at Bryn Mawr in which I made, wait for it, flowered crowns to sell to my fellow students for the annual May Day celebration.
As you can imagine the market wasn’t that big, it was an incredibly seasonal business, and the time to sale was 365 days. On the plus side, I held no inventory, took orders with payments in advance, and turnover was 100%. Then there was the exercise equipment I attempted to manufacture when I graduated from college.
At the ripe old age of 21 no one would extend me credit and the kindly counselors at SCORE told me time and again to get a job. I didn’t listen. I kept knocking on doors, meeting with anyone who would listen to my pitch, and even begging. When student loan bills started cluttering my mailbox and my mother threatened to kick me out of the house I relented and got a day job.
In fact, I applied to business school specifically so that if my next business failed (since half of all startups fail within the first five years an MBA from a fancy schmancy school would make it easier for me to get a job and earn a high salary so I could save up to start a new venture as soon as possible.
So I got an MBA and a high-paying job because I then had even more student loans to pay off. Then the Dot Com Boom happened and it was easier than ever before to start a business. All you needed was a dot com name and a dream. Well, I had two. My first was NeighborSelect.com. In 1997, my husband and I purchased our first home and we looked for reliable recommendations for local vendors. There was no Alice.com or ServiceMagic at the time so I thought to create it.
I hired a development company, launched a site, but had no money to do any marketing so it died a slow, lonely death. Then I started CompeteMail.com where I tracked and analyzed email communications from clients’ competitors. I even had a few paying clients. That one failed from a combination of I was a solo founder with only my dog for company during working hours, I wasn’t a good salesperson at the time, and the Internet industry melted down in the spring of 2000.
Since then I’ve had lots of harebrained ideas that matched my various life stages: folding toilet seats for traveling with toddlers (already exist), face wrinkle prevention strips (exist too), and my opus: Hot Buns Market – a Trader Joes-type market with hot guys -kind of a Hooters for suburban moms. The tagline is “Where everything is fresh.” Come on. This one’s a winner. Too bad retail stores are heavily capital intensive, I’d probably run afoul of labor laws if I hire only men, and the only experience I have in the grocery industry was as a cashier at Waldbaum’s Supermarket at the age of 17.
So why do I want to be an entrepreneur? It’s hard to explain why someone is the way they are. I could say lots of things like: I see solutions where none exist, I see a consumer need and know I can fill it, I can do better than anyone else, I bristle against authority, I’m smarter and work harder, I have the vision AND the skills/experience to execute (because there’s no shortage of ideas – it’s the execution that’s the challenge), I’m as tenacious as a pit bull (I once waited outside the men’s room at Time, Inc. to ambush the VP Sales because he was avoiding me).
I could say all of these things because they are true. However, the question of why I want to be an entrepreneur is similar to asking why do I have hazel eyes? It’s the way I was made.
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Carissa Ganelli is the Founder and CEO of Commerce Drivers. Their first product, LightningBuy, is a mobile commerce platform. Carissa has wanted to be an entrepreneur her entire life. After graduating from Bryn Mawr College, she took a wrong turn towards corporate life earning her marketing stripes at Time, Inc. before getting an MBA at Kellogg. LightningBuy has to be successful because she has no Plan B for her career. Follow her startup on Twitter at @LightningBuy.