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John Maxwell Team Certified Member

Priscilla Archangel is a John Maxwell Team Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker.

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    The Accidental Entrepreneur


    Most of what we accomplish in building a business involves balancing the right combination of the person, product and profit. The person must possess the right business and leadership skills.  The product has to be in demand for the market.  The profit comes from sufficient funding and management of resources.  But is it possible to accidentally be successful as an entrepreneur?

    Auntie Anne’s pretzels is a phenomenal success and today has 1200 stores across 26 countries, with 2012 sales of $410 million. The business wasn’t a likely candidate for such success though when it was started by Anne Beiler. Anne was raised in the Amish community and when she married at 19, her only goal was to become a mother. Unfortunately, a tragic accident killed one of her daughters and her marriage went into a crisis for six years. Thankfully she and her husband were able to restore their relationship. In an effort to support other families going through similar marriage and family issues, they opened a free marriage and family counseling center in their community. To fund this initiative, they purchased an Amish-owned store that sold pretzels, pizza and ice cream for Anne to run.

    Business owner holding an "open" signAnne lacked the education, financial backing, and business plan for this entrepreneurial adventure, but credits her success to her discipline, teamwork and perseverance instilled through her upbringing. Over time she improved on her recipes, narrowed the product to just pretzels, learned how to market, built a franchise operation, and found an angel investor. She credits her overall business success with using three small Ps, purpose, product and people, to yield one big P, profit. After about 17 years of ownership, she recognized that the company’s growth was outpacing her capability and capacity, and she made the difficult decision to sell it. The company still bears her name, but she has no financial interest in it.


    The Entrepreneurial Knack

    Contrast Anne’s skillsets as an entrepreneur with typical traits and characteristics of entrepreneurs as suggested by Kara Page of Demand Media. These traits include:

    • The ability to motivate yourself and others.
    • Integrity of your product or service, and yourself
    • Creativity to continually identify new ideas and opportunities,
    • Inquisitiveness to ask questions and engage in continuous learning about the competition and your own business
    • Willingness to fail and ability to evaluate what went wrong to keep trying
    • Sociability to meet potential clients, suppliers and develop networks.

    This challenges my paradigm of the skills that are really most important to be a successful entrepreneur, because what I expected to see, but is missing from this list are the standard items like education; experience in financial management, marketing, sales, or operations; strong leadership skills, etc.  As the business grows, the entrepreneur can hire people with these skills, but in the early years, the founder/entrepreneur frequently has to be a jack-of-all-trades. While Beiler didn’t appear to have a plan for a franchise business when she first opened her stores, she seemed to possess the majority of these skillsets.

    Accidental or On-Purpose

    Thus Anne looks like the accidental entrepreneur. In spite of her business deficiencies, she developed a good product and created a demand for it. The opportunity propelled her forward to success, and part of the motivation was being able to use the profits to help her community.

    So if you really feel a calling to entrepreneurship, but aren’t sure whether you have what it takes, are you focusing on the right skillsets? Are you shortchanging your abilities and experience? Have you creatively explored different approaches to accomplish your goal? Maybe you have a non-profit organization and entrepreneurship will provide the funding to support it.

    Admittedly, there’s really no such thing as an accidental entrepreneur. People simply approach business ventures differently based on their background and perspective. The true key to success is combining the right skills with your entrepreneurial passion and calling…in essence, being on-purpose…in line with what you’re called to do. Who knows? Maybe your entrepreneurial success will be a gift to those around you.


    Read more about Anne Beiler and Kara Page’s characteristics of entrepreneurs.

    Photo courtesy of IStockphoto

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