Have Big Idea? Want to Change the World? Start a Business


If you want to change the world, you may want to start a business.

You can find a million other examples of entrepreneurs who started businesses with an opinion instead of a spreadsheet. From Steve Jobs at Apple and Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia to my friend in Los Angeles who believed the world needed a different kind of dough nut.

I know what you’re thinking: Business is that boring professor armed with spreadsheets and calculators, lecturing you on exciting subjects like “Carefully Evaluating the Competitive Landscape” and “How to Exploit the Market to Produce the Highest Return on Investment.”

For some people, business is precisely that, and paying attention to such things is a smart thing to do if you want to open a new dry cleaner or some other worthy enterprise.

But business doesn’t have to be just that. The most interesting businesses, at least to me, are the ones whose founders had ideas they wanted, or even needed, to share. And instead of turning to art, science or politics to share them, they used a thing called a business to do it.

Let me tell you a little secret: I never did any market analysis to determine whether there was a possible niche for a Sketch Guy, or what kind of return on investment I could get from using Sharpies to sketch harebrained ideas on card stock. I just had a strong feeling: People needed a simpler way to talk about money. And that was the closest thing I ever had to a business plan.

My two eldest daughters are starting to think about what they’re going to be when they grow up. They’re concerned about the impact of climate change, and they have strong opinions about what should happen to stop, or at least slow, global warming.

As a father, I’m proud of their dream and want to encourage it. They could be environmental scientists, professors, policymakers, lobbyists, cinematographers or journalists. The list goes on and on.

But if they can get past Dr. Spreadsheet, they could also be entrepreneurs, and it may be an even more successful and fulfilling path.

Courtesy of Carl Richard, CFP, financial author in the N. Y. Times, “The Sketch Guy”.