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Winning in entrepreneurial America
by Christine Whitmarsh
Mar 21, 2011 | 883 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As reported recently by this newspaper, the unemployment rate in the Reno-Sparks area dropped from 13.8 percent in December to 13.3 percent in January. Has the downturn turned into an upturn for 2011? Charlie Sheen might say, “Winning … Duh!” Easy there, Tiger Blood. The article went on to explain that the improved numbers have less to do with a better labor market than they do with local Nevadans “dropping out of the workforce.” Which, of course, led me to wonder … where are they going? Is there a magical planet where money isn’t required to survive?

Where are the jobs in America? We can rule out neighboring California, even with its “find yourself in California” commercials featuring joyous, emotionally centered celebs. The Golden State’s rapidly failing economy is making it so more and more Californians are “finding themselves” in the Silver State instead.

Could the answer be that the unemployed are becoming the self-employed? Recent reports reveal a spike in business license applications in Nevada. Is unemployed America becoming entrepreneurial America? If so, and speaking as a representative of the latter, this could well be the silver lining that we’ve been looking for in the Silver State.

I was at a business networking event last week where the keynote speaker, Sandra Yancey, one of the top entrepreneurs in America, said, “A bad economy is best for business.” She might be onto something. The Great Depression of 1930s produced such entrepreneurs-turned-business-giants as Baxter International, pioneers in intravenous medication, now a multi-billion dollar medical supply company. Ryder Trucks also drove out of those tough times. And the recession in the 1950s gave rise to one of today’s most recognizable octogenarians, Hugh Hefner and his company Playboy Enterprises.

Perhaps it is when our safety net is taken out from beneath us that Americans truly shine the most. When you take a leap of faith, leave your job and start a new business in a good economy, failure is an option because there’s a good chance of having something to “fall back on.” This is a phrase I’ve always personally despised, by the way, responding to those who use it with, “I don’t fall back, I fall forward.” A leap of faith in a lousy economy almost certainly assures that failure is not an option.

For this new crop of business owners created more by necessity than ambition or inspiration and for whom failure is not an option, the question is this: What kind of Great Recession entrepreneur will you be? Just because a business is started to prevent poverty doesn’t mean it can’t be transformed into an endeavor of passion and prosperity. Dropping out of the workforce as an act of desperation could be the trigger, but it’s up to each new entrepreneur to decide whether it will define their business.

Since taking my “leap” in 2003, I’ve defined my writing business as an extension of myself and a vehicle for … well … achieving my goals on my terms. Running a business means my clients, my services, my hours, my rates and, above all, my responsibility for making it all work. And when it doesn’t, there’s only person in the mirror to hold responsible for turning things around. There’s something extremely empowering and terrifying about that. Even more so with the realization that, after wearing the “self-employed” hat for as long as I have, the chances that a mere piece of paper (i.e. resume) could reflect what I could bring to another company’s table are fairly slim. The resume of a successful entrepreneur doesn’t come in the pretty, easy-to-understand wrapping paper and bow to which most employers are accustomed.

In other words, new business owners of Nevada, now that you’ve made the leap, your motivation and commitment to “winning” had better run deep.

At the same networking event, Sandra Yancey’s husband, Kym, another entrepreneurial success story asked the question: “Why are you doing what you’re doing?”

In tough economic times like these, it’s easy to forget these types of questions featuring “you”, “I” and “me,” as they fall into the shadows of the numbers — unemployed, underemployed, under water in your home, etc. Striking out on your own, according to your rules and your ambition, is a way to combat that and make your voice heard. So, rather than viewing dropping out of the workforce to take a shot at entrepreneurial America as an act of desperation, I see it as an act of bravery that celebrates the “tiger blood” that has and always will run through our pioneer veins.

Christine Whitmarsh is the owner of local writing firm Christine, Ink. She can be reached at
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