To Tell The Truth

Myth #3

You have to be born an entrepreneur.

Reality: Somehow, people have believed that certain humans are born with something ingrained in their DNA that sets them apart from the rest of the worker bees. This myth manifests itself in such comments as "Oh, I wasn't born with that entrepreneurial spirit," or "Well, sure, she's a success in business--she's a natural."

Following this same line of un-reasoning, many believe there's one certain path that leads to entrepreneurship. But small business isn't like Fortune 500 life--you don't get your undergraduate degree, then your MBA, then methodically climb the rungs from assistant to executive. The path to entrepreneurship typically takes many detours, many turns. Sometimes the most successful entrepreneurs are the most unlikely ones.

When Kahn founded Cascadian Farm 26 years ago, he could have been voted most unlikely to succeed. An English literature graduate student with a fancy for Chaucer, Kahn decided to get "back to the land" and moved to the rural North Cascade area of Washington. Becoming an entrepreneur "was the furthest thing from my mind," he says. "In fact, I had an absolute anti-business bias. I moved to isolate myself from aspects of American society--certainly from business, which I perceived to be a large part of the problem with American society."

Learning to survive as a farmer, however, soon became fairly boring, says Kahn. "Now that I was burning kerosene lamps and making my own soap, what else was I going to do? I needed to be challenged," he says. "The notion of interdependence, of working to change the agriculture, became far more interesting to me. My desire for isolation gave way to an interest in working on social and political issues. I began to market products."

For Kahn, entrepreneurship was a means to an end. Although he's obviously not your typical entrepreneur, he scoffs at the idea that there is any typical entrepreneur. "There are as many different types of entrepreneurs in business today as there are people," Kahn says. "You can't make a generalization like everyone's a Donald Trump or everyone's a Gandhi. Today, you've got everything in between."

Born an entrepreneur? "It's a silly notion," says Kahn. "I can't imagine anyone believing entrepreneurship is somehow genetic. It's something you consciously choose. You don't fall into it like you fall in love. You make a lifestyle choice, and that's what I did. [Entrepreneurship] was the best way I found to achieve my goals."

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