Why Did I Start A Business? Not Why You Think

I was talking to a group of students recently and I was asked to comment on what makes an entrepreneur. The student who asked the question wrapped it in the mythology of the entrepreneur driven by the idea, stubbornly, tirelessly proving its value to the world. She wanted me to tell about me wanting to build something big.

But I had to admit that my case was different. I was running away from boredom, not building castles.sandcastle

When I left a good job at Creative Strategies and started on my own, in truth it was not because of something I wanted to build, not because of a creative vision, but rather because I thought I could make enough money to keep my family whole and do what I wanted. I wanted interesting work, and I wanted to choose my work. I wanted to actually do the writing and research, not supervise others. It was important to me that what I spend hours doing was something fun — I always found writing and planning and working numbers fun — even though I didn’t have the idea that would create the empire.

Or maybe you like this shorter version: I was married, had kids, so we needed the money; and nobody else would pay me what I needed to make.

And the idea of a software product, that creative vision? Yes, that happened, but that came about 10 years later.

(Image: sandyfeet/Flickr cc)


  • Matt Giffune says:

    As someone that is in the position that you were in prior to starting your own business, this is spot on. With so much sensationalism about entrpreneurship thrown around on twitter, it’s good to hear some realness.

  • Tom Hagerty says:

    Excellent post… succinct and to the point. I agree but with a caveat. For anyone with outside investors involved in their venture, ten years will be way too long for them to wait while you “find yourself”. Most entrepreneurs have a heapin’ helpin’ of ADHD and the serial ones are off the charts… but I admire your realism and patience.

  • Lifestyle entrepreneurs: Be proud of your story says:

    […] does that look in practice? Take a look at Tim Berry’s account of why he started his business: When I left a good job at Creative Strategies and started on my own, in truth it was not because […]

  • Sue Kramer Harrawood says:


    Great post and thank you for being transparent. Choosing our work and those who we work alongside is probably one of the biggest reasons I hear from other small biz owners about why they began their businesses. I forwarded your post to my husband as he began his business recently and is someone who puts family first and has tremendous values.

  • Marlene Chism says:

    This same story is true for many of us, and as we grow the bigger idea and opportunity appears on the path, not out of a big strategic vision or intention to build an empire. It’s about loving what you do, and loving the journey first and foremost. Loved your post.

  • Sapitoviejo says:

    Tim, are you reading my mind?
    Great post.

  • Jeremy Powers says:

    Tim – I think your shorter answer is the most honest answer I have heard in a long time.

    “I was married, had kids, so we needed the money; and nobody else would pay me what I needed to make.”

    Exactly. If I can earn a decent living without sacrificing my ethics (as I consistently see well-compensated folks in big business doing), then why would I NOT run my own company?

    Risk? There is risk in taking a high-paying position in any large company, and the satisfaction is not nearly as great.

    Great post.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Thanks Jeremy, and I like your additional point too: every job has risk. And when you’re in a company you don’t control, you can fall victim to forces you don’t control too. Good point.

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