Tampa, FL

Dear Nonprofits: Let’s Own Our Entrepreneur

I’ve been running my small business for the last 11 ½ years. Somehow – by luck, hard work, determination, amazing support or a magic combination of all of the above – I’ve managed multiple clients and their projects, my own financials and payroll, marketed myself and our services through blogs, books, trainings…  all while raising a family, caregiving for my recently deceased mother, surviving a high-conflict divorce, maintaining a social and professional life, and somewhere along the way keeping my sanity.

Throughout that time, I’ve always found myself to be hypercritical of the word entrepreneur – and quite frankly, had shied away from using it to describe myself. Up until recently I never identified with this word.

Much like how I felt about “consultant” 11 years ago, entrepreneur felt like a dirty word to me. It felt grainy, seedy, inauthentic, overused… none of which I wanted to identify with. It was not in my life plan to start my own company. It was not part of my roadmap. But it became a necessary part of my circumstances and it’s since offered me the flexibility and empowerment it turns out I needed all along.

As I continue to become accustomed to the new realities of 2020 and the past decade, I’m learning to own much more of my own professional and personal circumstances.  Including “my” entrepreneur.

Yet even with that ownership came my question: why am I fighting being labeled as an entrepreneur? Is it because I don’t think I’m creative enough to run a business and be innovative? Is it because I don’t believe in my own capacity for greatness and I’m stuck in living my life in a small way? Is it that I don’t have the right people on my team to help be me successful in my efforts? Hard no on all of that.

In truth and vulnerability, it’s me. Getting in my own way as I sometimes do. Overanalyzing the what could’ve been or should’ve been instead of accepting reality. I am in effect should-ing all over myself instead of accepting what is.

I AM an entrepreneur. I run, organize and operate my small business amidst chaos – more so this year than EVER. My life is about financial risks made to serve my community, the nonprofit business sector and leaders committed to both.

Much like innovation or calculated risk, I’ve found that the nonprofits I serve also of shy away from their own entrepreneur. Particularly, the idea that they are a business. Just like I, admittedly, shied away for years from the fact that I am a business owner and yes *gulp* an entrepreneur.

As a trainer, I LOVE to use an old saying I heard from a colleague years ago in my Board Basics classes: nonprofit is a tax-exempt status, not a way of life. Nonprofits SHOULD make money. It’s what that money goes back into that separates them from the for-profit and public sector… it’s about the mission.

But why does our sector get so hung up on this idea?? Hung up on the idea that we CAN’T make profit… that we CAN’T be creative and innovative as a sector? We already operate from bare bones budgets, we already use (and sometimes abuse) our volunteer power to make things happen, we already ask our staff to wear 15 or more proverbial hats. So, WHY do many of us think we aren’t a viable business and economic impactful force?

According to the most recent Florida Economic Empact Report, nonprofit businesses generate nearly $105 billion dollars in annual revenue and hold assets of around $260 billion – just in Florida. In fact, Florida’s nonprofit business sector employs 6.5% of the state’s overall workforce; comparable in fact to Florida’s construction industry (6.6%) and manufacturing sector (5.2%).  And that’s with all of the other factors against it – including being 51st in the nation in volunteerism and 47th in number of nonprofits per 1,000 residences. That’s not just big business, that’s entrepreneurial spirit in action.

So, fellow nonprofit leaders I beg you. Join me in owning your entrepreneur. Embrace the term, embody it even. Let’s be proud of the work we do and the fact that we evolve to meet the increasing needs of our surrounding communities. And if you haven’t heard it yet today… you’re doing a great job. Please keep up the great work! We need you to.

Which nonprofit business do you know that truly owns their entrepreneur and have mastered the Great Pivot known as 2020? Share their or your success story in the chat or on our social media feed.

Interested in learning more about the business of your business? Join us on November 18 for our virtual workshop where we’ll focus on putting your Living Your Values – Putting Your Integrity, Gratitude & Resilience in Action.

Did you have plans that went awry this year? Contact us to learn more about our collection of consultants who can help guide you through life, professional and directional challenges you might be facing. We have over 15 professional coaches in our Coaching Connection – from strategy to marketing to life and more!

About the Author: Liz Wooten-Reschke is President/CEO of Connect For More, a Florida-based consulting firm that engages leaders and empowers philanthropists to help them accomplish their mission. Liz focuses her efforts on delivering interactive keynote & conference presentations, providing ongoing support & coaching for key leaders, facilitating virtual and in-person retreats, and customizing engagements to enhance board governance, agency strategy and leadership experience with clients. Liz is a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator, BoardSource Certified Governance Trainer and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. She is a proud member of the University of South Florida Alumni Association Board, a fourth generation Floridian and Key West Conch. She lives in Tampa, Florida, with her husband, four children, two dogs, and one cat. For more information about Liz or her work, please visit her company websitefollow her on Twitter, or visit her Amazon author page.

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