Does Entrepreneurship Need To Be In You Genes?
As a consultant who helps small businesses grow and as a teacher of entrepreneurship (Kauffman FastTrac facilitator and former adjunct professor at The New School), I get asked all the time if entrepreneurs are born, made or accidental. Ruta Aidis, project director of The Gender Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (Gender-GEDI) and I are discussing whether U.S. high-growth women entrepreneurs are born, made or come apart through happenstance as part of the research she is doing. I’m helping her flesh out her quantitative research in 30 countries with case studies about how U.S. women lead their companies to greatness.
If lessons learned by Elisabete Miranda, president of CQ fluency, are any indication, high-growth women entrepreneurs are made through unyielding focus, hard work and powerful networking. Miranda isn’t part of the research I mentioned, but her story is illustrative of how some women morph into high-growth entrepreneur. She shares this trait with Nina Vaca, of Pinnacle, whom I’ve written about and is part of the research project. Both started as lifestyle entrepreneurs who, at a certain point, decided to go for the brass ring.
Learn by doing
For Miranda, it was a process of learning by doing. What now looks easy was built on what she learned from starting nine companies and her ability to do things differently in the 10th company.
You’ve got to have a hook to hitch yourself to a rising trend
Miranda came to the U.S. from Brazil in 1994. She didn’t speak English, but wider than the language gap was the cultural chasm. Her insight and the development of an increasingly integrated global economy helped drive the success of her sister in-law’s translation business, which Miranda joined in 2000. In 2006, Miranda bought her sister in-law out and in 2012, she rebranded the company as CQ (Cultural Intelligence) fluency. It’s name indicates the company’s approach to providing client communications with meaning and feeling.
Open your horizons
“I wanted to make a comfortable living for me and my family,” Miranda said. “I didn’t know I could think big.” She has no successful entrepreneurs in her circle of friends and family to serve as role models. Leading and growing a company aren’t common aspirations for women outside the U.S. But in the U.S. anything is possible, “it’s the American Dream,” she continued. She needed to expand her circle.
Take your network into the stratosphere
Miranda started to change the type of people she networked with. She wanted to be surrounded by movers and shakers. She joined her industry association and eventually went on its board. She was beginning to play in the big leagues. She became certified as a minority- and woman-owned business by local, state, and national organizations. She went on the board of the New York & New Jersey Minority Supplier Development Council.
Recognition leads to demand
Her hard work paid off with recognition and awards from the SBA, Women Presidents’ Educational Organization, National Minority Supplier Development Council, among others. She was invited to join EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women program and Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN). Magic started to happen. Companies now called her, asking to become clients and to partner on projects they were doing. This is another trait that Miranda and Vaca share in common.
Conquer your fear
We’re all afraid of stuff. Some people let their fears immobilize them. Entrepreneurs conquer their fears and just do it. For Miranda, pitching Fortune 500 companies when she didn’t have a good command of the English language was terrifying. She moved past her fear, did it anyway, and won lots of contracts.
Miranda is probably a little bit of all three types of entrepreneurs. She was born with a gene to take calculated risks and preserve. It was accidental that she was able to join her sister in-law’s business when she moved to the U.S. and later buy it. She made herself into a great entrepreneur through self development.
Are you a born, made or accidental entrepreneur?
Her story illustrates that if you play your cards right, using your natural talents, taking advantage of opportunities when luck sends them your way and getting the support you need, you can make yourself a success.
Get updated about Gender-GEDI and the book I will be writing about how 11 U.S. women entrepreneurs grew their businesses big.