I started my first business in 5th grade when I convinced a neighbor to let me mow her grass with her electric lawn mower.
This project ended in immediate failure.
The mower was powered by a long extension cord – a cord that I walked over and cut in two just after I started mowing.
Such is the life of the entrepreneur, a life usually filled with far more failure than success.
According to The Balance Small Business, an entrepreneur is someone who develops a business around an innovation, who leads new ventures and takes on the financial risk for its success or failure.
My definition of an entrepreneur is an independent business person who develops a service or solution that the world didn’t know needed – and who has the passion and drive to continually perfect that service or solution.
Walt Disney was a failed animator whose creative vision never gave up and filled my childhood with wonderful stories.
Steve Jobs came up with an inventive approach to computer technology that now makes it incredibly easy for beginners like me to shoot and edit funny videos of my dog (#ThurbersTail) and have a blast doing it.
However, my favorite entrepreneurs are the millions of restless Americans who can’t stand reporting to a “boss” and simply want to develop their own product or service and rise or fall financially based on its quality and salability.
People like my beloved carpet cleaner who has honed their technology and technique to remove stains from rental carpets and furniture that no one else can remove – while not harming the environment.
People like the daughter of a co-worker I know who, as a sophomore, started a business in her basement making custom protective cases for smartphones — a business that turned her into a successful career.
The entrepreneurial spirit has captivated me for many years.
When I was 17 I decided to become a mason and was soon making a sizable chunk of money rebuilding stone and block walls throughout hilly western PA.
I got a great offer to go into the corporate world after college, but at 27 I jumped at the chance to start an advertising business with a veteran professional.
We risked everything to start an IT support business with a few others, but this entrepreneurial digital dream has sent me to the poorhouse.
For many years I have been working as an independent provider of communication services.
But I’ve also had solid success with a real estate rental business, and since having my pup Thurber, I’ve had several ideas for pet-related innovations.
To my great surprise, no one has invented a solution to end the pesky pet hair problem. So I’m determined to find a solution. I expect to come up with a clever innovation soon that will help me and tens of millions of other dog and cat owners.
I have long believed – and the data confirms me – that the entrepreneur is not only the lifeblood of our economy, but also of our quality of life (dishwashers, automatic transmissions and so on).
So why aren’t we doing everything we can to support our entrepreneurs? Why are patents still so difficult and expensive to obtain?
Why are we enacting so many unnecessary rules that make starting a business more difficult and costly?
The United States ranked 6th out of 190 economies in 2019 for ease of doing business, but we should be #1.
We must remove the regulatory barriers to unleash the creativity and innovation of entrepreneurs, because in the end we all benefit from their dreams.
Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]