Think Twice About Becoming Your Own Boss


No job? “Create your own” is an increasing mantra among the unemployed. With the national unemployment rate around 8 percent, people who can’t find work are becoming entrepreneurs, with 543,000 new ventures being created every month. Last year an astounding 6,516,000 new businesses were launched. Entrepreneurship is clearly the American dream to many.

But let me give you a reality check. Many of you are aware that I launched Today’s Chicago Woman (TCW) 30 years ago – with no business plan, no experienced staff in publishing. Just an idea and firm belief that a publication for and about Chicago area women would fill a gap in local publishing. THIS IS NOT A WAY TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR! And here’s why: just because you have a passion for something, doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed instant success. To make your dream a reality requires work and lots of it.

For starters, you need financing – unless you’re going to be a ‘consultant’ – and if you think it’s easy to get a bank loan, think again. True, the Small Business Administration, Accion Chicago and other lenders make it sound easy, but read the small print. It’s practically impossible, unless you’re earning a salary (do you see the catch 22 here?). Then there’s the time factor. Luckily, I truly enjoy journalism and all of its aspects. I like to work and don’t think of work as work. Plus, to get TCW up and running, I had the emotional support of my husband and we didn’t have kids so there were no family distractions. But that brings up the subject of focus.

To get a business venture off the ground is like getting an airplane to fly. Yes, it’s moving as it begins its journey, but it’s on the ground. To get it air born requires a HUGE amount of effort and that is a commitment that, more often than not, requires sacrifice on the part of a newbie business owner. And it also requires wearing many hats. For example, just because you’re a proficient writer doesn’t mean your publication is a viable venture. You need to have a working knowledge of accounting, sales; you’d better have strong people skills (more than one employee means office politics), negotiating skills and be able to think on your feat. Throw marketing your business into the mix, along with the effort of getting out there to build your network and you’ll soon find that maybe the corporate world wasn’t so bad after all.

Obviously, there’s much more involved in becoming an entrepreneur; this is just an overview, pointing out the most basic and critical issues that need to be addressed before moving forward with your dream of being your own boss. If you do decide to go ahead, there’s another factor that can make it all work and that’s plain old luck.


About Sherren Leigh

Sherren Leigh is president and founder of Today's Chicago Woman and Today's Chicago Woman Foundation. She muses about life - the good, the bad, the ugly - and anything else that's on her mind in “Girl Talk.” Sometimes funny, other times serious, she's always thought-provoking and often controversial.