1.3 Activity 3
Entrepreneurial impressions and stories
The life experiences of an entrepreneur can often provide the basis of a good story. These narratives can be interesting, informative and compelling, they may contain elements of drama, personal tragedy and, as in the following example, humour. But what do these stories actually tell us about entrepreneurship?
1. Read ‘An early entrepreneurial experience?’ a short account by Fraser Doherty (founder of ‘SuperJam’) describing an early childhood experience of visiting a chicken farm. As you read, make notes addressing the following questions:
- a.Which aspects of the story do you see as distinctively ‘entrepreneurial’?
- b.What practical lessons might you draw from this account?
- c.What does the story tell you about this entrepreneur in particular?
You may find it useful to take a brief look back at Activity 1, which charts the growth of Doherty’s ‘SuperJam’ business, and at the other activities in this course, which have examined some different aspects of entrepreneurship.
2. Talk to a colleague, friend or family member who has an entrepreneurial background; ask them if they are willing to share a similar short anecdote or to describe a memorable event that illustrates their life as an entrepreneur. Alternatively, locate a short anecdote in an entrepreneurial autobiography or a short autobiographical article (articles should be easily located online as many prominent entrepreneurs make this kind of material freely available on their personal websites).
3. Write a short summary of the anecdote and analyse it using the same three questions that you applied to the Fraser Doherty story and compare the answers.
An early entrepreneurial experience?
I started my entrepreneurial journey very young, although some people start even younger than I did. In a lot of ways, starting at such a young age has an advantage: the naivety of youth makes any dream possible! When I was about ten, I visited a chicken farm and was fascinated by the business of collecting eggs from the hens. I asked the farmer if I could have a box of eggs, so that I could hatch them into chickens of my own, and sell the eggs. The farmer gave me half a dozen eggs and laughed, saying that there was no way I could hatch them into chickens. She joked that I’d have to sit on them for three weeks.
When I told my parents about the idea, they weren’t too pleased at the prospect of having chickens running around, as you can imagine, but they said that I could give it a go. I suppose they doubted that I would manage to hatch out the eggs. I then had to figure out how I was going to keep a box of eggs warm around the clock for about three weeks. I thought about using lots of hot water bottles, putting the eggs in the oven on a really low temperature or maybe leaving them in the greenhouse. Obviously, none of these ideas was going to work. Eventually, I had the idea of keeping the eggs on top of the cable TV box under the television. It was quite warm there if the telly was left on all the time.
I waited anxiously for weeks, checking every day that the eggs were OK. Finally, one morning, everyone was sitting eating breakfast and we could hear a little chirping coming from under the television. The fluffy yellow chick had hatched out of its egg. I named her Henrietta, which, being ten years old, I believed to be quite a witty name for a hen. Later in the day, another two of the chicks hatched and so I had to start thinking about what I was actually going to do about them.
(Doherty, 2011, pp. 9–10)
This activity should help you to reflect on some of the issues that have covered during this course. For example, is there evidence here of distinctively entrepreneurial mindsets or behaviours? In addition, you might consider whether there is evidence here of external influences, and of how these might have helped to either encourage or challenge the entrepreneur (Activity 2). You might also refer back to Activity 1 in order to put Fraser Doherty’s story into context, and to see how this early experience might have influenced his subsequent entrepreneurial career.
If you have been able to make contact with an entrepreneurial individual, it could be interesting to have a broader discussion about the issues we have covered in this course. For example: What is their perspective on the search for an entrepreneurial personality? Where (and how) did they develop their entrepreneurial abilities? How much importance do they attach to informal networks? Given the high profile of entrepreneurs you might also talk to people who do not have an entrepreneurial background, to get some different points of view.