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The Five Levels of Entrepreneurship

It's a big day for entrepreneurship in Columbia and Montour Counties, and you need to look no further than the excellent work of our friends at DRIVE, the Bucknell Small Business Development Center, their incubator Startup Danville, and our partners at 1 Million Cups for proof.  Today, following a gathering of the Chamber's Montour County Task Force, where we discussed ways to best serve businesses in Montour County, I had the privilege to join a burgeoning crowd at StartUp Danville's office in the DRIVE Professional Building for an amazing gathering of community members whose sole interests lay in helping entrepreneurs succeed.  If you're unfamiliar with the 1 Million Cups program, check out more on their website, but suffice it to say - there's nothing better to help a local entrepreneur than to brainstorm with like-minded business owners who have tackled similar challenges in setting up their businesses.  After the group heard from two small businesses and brainstormed ways to help them grow, the group of more than 30 professionals continued to celebrate entrepreneurship with an interactive podcast recording, a networking lunch, and they'll culminate their day in an open house at the Ben Franklin Technology Center, who is honing in on innovation in their space next-door to the (current) Chamber home on Market St.  (Stop by between 4 pm and 7 pm to say hello!)

In honor of this entrepreneurship-themed day, take a moment and consider what the road of entrepreneurship looks like, and how valuable Chamber members can be as resources to this always-in-development community of business owners.

Embarking on the road of entrepreneurship can be frightening, uncertain, and turbulent — especially at the start. On your journey, it's helpful to have a mental roadmap and to know what to expect from yourself along the way. Nobody is 100% clear and consistent from the onset and you'll naturally have fluctuating states of mind about the whole thing. Author and entrepreneur, Farshad Asl, provides such a roadmap called the "Five Levels of Entrepreneurship", which we'll summarize for you here.

Level One: Encouragement

At this stage of your entrepreneurial journey, you're just slightly over the fence and have convinced yourself to leave regular job safety behind. You're feeling a combination of fear and anticipation for what lies ahead and sometimes worry about financial security and whether your plans will work out. During this stage, it's important to clarify to yourself why you're doing this.

Develop a clear business plan, start researching and developing marketing strategies, and put the first pieces of the puzzle together. Ask yourself "Why should consumers be interested in my product?", "What value can I bring to them?".  (Need help with a business plan?  No worries, the Small Business Development Centers have free consulting that can help!)

Level Two: Engagement

During the engagement stage, you're off the fence and are fully invested in your new entrepreneurial life. However, that doesn't mean that you don't have moments of compromised confidence, but it's equally as exhilarating as it is terrifying! You're fully emerged in your future vision and are beginning to foster a growth-positive mindset. You're making developments every day and are gaining a clearer vision of the task at hand.

Level Three: Established

This is the middle stage of your entrepreneurial journey and you're about to cross the bridge between conceptual and practical. You're experiencing a lot of mental clarity and you're focusing on expanding your network and vision. The more time you spend with a mentor at this stage to soak up and valuable lessons you can, the better.

The next stage awaits you, but passing from level three to level four is the biggest transition on the whole journey. You're already making money at this stage, which is why many entrepreneurs get too comfortable at this level. Don't let your progress stop here.

Level Four: Expert

This is a hard-won level to achieve and it's also the most transformative. At this stage, you're realizing the value of delegating authority to others to free up your own time. You're helping others step into leadership roles and have developed a zest for bringing out the best in people you work with. You're focused on creating new opportunities and can easily catch the attention of investors.

Fully settled into your new life as an entrepreneur, you're helping and encouraging others to do the same. It took a great deal of maturity and flexibility to reach this stage and you're enjoying the fruits of your hard work.

Level Five: Entrepreneur

This is the highest level of your entrepreneurial journey and you've broken free from an array of limitations. You're no longer bound by financial difficulties and you'll never doubt your own abilities again. The years of hard work, late nights and the stress of uncertainty have paid off and you're life is everything you dreamed it could be.

The road to entrepreneurial actualization is long and arduous. With enough confidence, intelligence, and perseverance, you'll make it.  Better yet, with resources like the Bucknell SBDC, Wilkes SBDC, business incubators across the region, networking groups like One Million Cups, BNI, Penn State Extension, Commonwealth University - Bloomsburg Campus and the Ziegler Institute for Professional Development, and clearinghouses (like your Chamber hopes to be), you've got a leg up where you might not realize you had one.

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