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Walk The Line

How far can you push the perfect opportunity?

By Michelle Prather

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When a truck dumps half a ton of lemons into your backyard, itwouldn't be an insane idea to start selling freshly squeezedlemonade. But when an unexpected flood threatens to ravage yourtown, is it right to unload your stockpile of sandbags with a signon your garage door reading "Neighborhood Special: 3 for$5"? There's a fine line between capitalizing on anobvious opportunity and taking advantage of an unfortunatesituation for personal gain. And entrepreneurs-opportunists bynature-often have to risk their reputations (in both the businessand consumer worlds) in the name of seizing their chances atsuccess, be it long-term or not.

We talked with some entrepreneurs who've spotted "surething" opportunities too potentially prosperous not to pursueand pre-existing businesses blessed by the gods of timing. Somehave cashed out, and others didn't generate quite as muchinterest as they'd hoped for. So can we conclude that when ablatantly opportunistic endeavor fails, it's because thequality so many successful entrepreneurs swear by-having passionfor a venture-was absent, and that consumers can smell a gimmickdevoid of value miles away? Or is spotting an opportunity andcapitalizing on it, by any means, rewarded and applauded in thisSurvivor era? A scientific answer, there is not. Each entrepreneurmust be his or her own judge-and await public opinion, ofcourse.

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