Chris Guillebeau is an entrepreneur, author, blogger and speaker championing the cause of entrepreneurship. He is the author of “The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future” (see my review). He is based in Oregon (at least part of the time!) and has spoken right here in Bangalore as well. Chris joins us in this exclusive interview on entrepreneurs, role models and quests.
YS: What were some of the unusual responses and reactions you got when your book was released?
CG: Probably the most common is one of surprise: “You can really start a business with almost no capital?!” And indeed, you can. We show examples from all over the world, with people from many different backgrounds, who have all been successful. More importantly, we show exactly how these people did it, down to the finances and lessons learned along the way.
YS: How was the India leg of your global tour?
CG: It was fantastic! I had a great time meeting thousands of students in seven cities throughout the country. I’m thrilled that many young people are interested in entrepreneurship instead of traditional employment. I do believe that in the future it will be much more common to work for yourself, so those who begin experimenting now will have an advantage.
YS: What are your observations on the entrepreneurial drive in emerging economies?
CG: I feel very positive about it overall. Perhaps the one concern or weak point is a lack of role models. In speaking with thousands of students, I learned that many are motivated by the idea of pursuing entrepreneurship, but they feel pressured to take “safe” jobs with multi-national companies. When the brightest young minds in a country like India have the desire to make someone else rich, which is essentially what employees do, it’s not a positive sign.
That’s why I think the answer lies with more people leading the way from within the country, perhaps helping others think through what really is safe and what really is risky. Many of us find that taking responsibility for your own career is the safest choice of all.
YS: What are some interesting new examples of solopreneurs you have come across after your book was published?
CG: I meet so many. In Delhi I talked with a student who created a website to help Indian students with U.S. college applications. This business is now producing more than $75,000 a year in net income with no employees. In Hong Kong I met someone who had created an unconventional P.R. agency that now had nine employees. Micro-entrepreneurs are everywhere these days!
YS: How should entrepreneurs strike that delicate balance between ‘Stick to your vision’ and ‘Adapt to a changed world’?
CG: I don’t think those values are in conflict. Hopefully your vision involves serving people in some way, so if you do that, there are times when you adapt and times when you lead. The more important value is to focus on that key point of service itself.
YS: How should people keep themselves open for adopting an entrepreneurial career later in life?
CG: Later in life is a great time to start a business, because you have a whole history of life experience you can draw from. As the old proverb states, the best time to start was yesterday, but failing that, today will do!
YS: What is your next book going to be about?
CG: The next book will be all about quests—life journeys that people undertake out of a desire to do something meaningful and challenging. I’m wrapping up my own quest to visit every country soon, and along the way I’ve met a lot of other people who have also set out on a quest! I hope to tell their stories in a way that encourages readers to pursue their own big dreams.
Follow YourStory’s research director Madanmohan Rao on Twitter at @madanrao
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