In business school I took a class on poverty. That might seem like an unlikely area to study considering many entrepreneurs aim for prosperity, however, I might argue it was one of the most important classes I took at Syracuse. The professor talked about how poverty isn’t only for individuals and families if their annual pretax cash income falls below a dollar amount but rather poverty is made up of any lack of resources including financial, housing, education, family structure and more. She said we’re all susceptible to the three major causes of devastation in our lives: job loss, illness, death or divorce. She said in a sense, we’re all one day away from poverty.
Now this is a sobering thought to many would-be entrepreneurs in business school. Many are in business to create abundance, prosperity and fortune. Some are in it to create an entity that will outlive themselves—they love the idea of creating a legacy through an organization that they designed. But so infrequently do we, as entrepreneurs, think about poverty.
In the past year I stopped working full time to pursue entrepreneurship. I ventured out with savings, mutual funds, and a small nest egg. I went through a divorce and my ex-husband drained all of the accounts. As many know, cash flow can cripple a business and he almost succeeded. He also misappropriated funds and violated an operating agreement. He also filed my taxes without my signature and kept the refund. Again, this nearly crippled my dream. Add to it the fact that I had a serious illness that required me to have a portion of my skull removed, he refused to put me on health insurance and we had subsequent family deaths. If you look at the sobering fact: in 2013 I was nearly completely crippled. I was in poverty. I lacked resources. I lacked my health. I lacked my once nuclear family and I lacked my business partner.
But I thought back to the lessons I learned at Syracuse and I thought about poverty in context. Yes, I lacked funds but I had faith. Yes, I lacked health but I had a support system who could do physically where I could not. Yes, I had my funds depleted but I had a dream and once I was back on my feet I could pursue it. There were resources out there and I set out to find them because although I was crippled I was not defeated.
So here’s what I learned struggling in the process. Any government institution will require you to be on hold for at least 40 minutes and will most likely give you little information you need to make an informed decision. You will be told no at every pass. There is always some random guideline that you do not qualify for and therefore you have forfeited the opportunity to use it. Don’t lose heart. Just assume those resources are not for you.
In my opinion the government doesn’t make it easy on entrepreneurs. At all. Healthcare costs are astronomical. Resources are limited and hidden by layers and layers of red tape. Nothing is user-friendly. Unless someone knows you, most likely you cannot count on them for help.
But as an entrepreneur, and especially one in poverty, you have something far more powerful than you ever imagined. You have a story. You’re making a story of an American legend and that story will resonate with people. It’s riveting because you’re a real life David and Goliath fighting the only way you know how to fight.
So here’s what I’d encourage the struggling entrepreneur fresh out of business school that didn’t take this class at Syracuse. Poverty and prosperity are a state of mind as much as they are a real concept. Out of the greatest poverty we can create amazing entrepreneurial stories. Our country is rich with them from stories of immigrants coming through Ellis Island to prosper in the new world, to thread bare students going to Harvard on scholarship only to persevere and graduate the top of their class. Entrepreneurship is about struggle. Poverty and prosperity are a day away. Keep trying. Keep looking for resources because the best times of innovation come from abject scarcity.
About the Author
Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.
Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, the won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.
She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.
She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.
For more information visit her Google + Page.