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Prescription for Entrepreneurship: Craziness


Barry Moltz makes you laugh. He talks about entrepreneurship and says things like, "If you want to make money, go find a job," and reminds aspiring business people that, if they fail, "the worst they (as in bankers, business partners, etc.) can do is eat you."

The author of the book, You Need to be a Little Crazy: The Truth about Starting and Growing Your Business, spoke Nov. 1 at an event sponsored by the Louisville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The event, titled, not surprisingly, "Prescription for Entrepreneurship: Craziness," attracted about 115 entrepreneurs to the Hyatt Regency in downtown Louisville. Guests represented both for-profit and nonprofit businesses.

"Yes, being an entrepreneur is hard," Moltz said to the audience. "It' supposed to be hard."

Moltz, a Chicago resident, has founded three start-ups. He also cofounded Prairie Angels, which helps early-stage companies, and the Prairie Angel Capital Fund, which accelerates Midwest "angel" investments.

He describes himself as a "serial entrepreneur." He sprinkled his talk with jokes and musings. "The typical entrepreneur," Moltz says, "sleeps like a baby. He goes to sleep at midnight and wakes up at 1 a.m., screaming his head off."

The entrepreneur might think about the financial commitment, the long hours, the headaches and all the hassles that come with self-employment. And then decide to become an entrepreneur, anyway. "Quite honestly, you can't help yourself," Moltz says.

Also, Moltz says:

  • People out there want to help. Find a mentor.
  • Downsize. Remember, most successful businesses in this country employ fewer than 20 people and record less than $5 million in annual sales.
  • Don't be afraid to switch gears. Telecommunications giant Nokia was founded about 140 years ago. Workers made rubber goods.
  • Finally, keep in mind something the late Gene Autry was famous for saying: "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."

Everyone who attended Moltz's talk was given a free copy of "The Entrepreneur's Ultimate Directory," a collaborative effort of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis' Louisville Branch and Greater Louisville Inc's Enterprise Corp. The directory offers tips to entrepreneurs in greater Louisville who need funding and other assistance.

Mark Crane, executive director of Enterprise Corp., an economic development group in Louisville, says entrepreneurship is on the rise in Kentucky's largest city. Inc. Magazine rated Louisville No. 9 among all U.S. cities in its 2001 "Entrepreneurial Hot Spots" rankings. The city has eight venture capital firms, with $368 million invested. In 1996, it had one venture capital firm and just $9 million invested.

"You need that strong spirit of entrepreneurship if you want a strong economy and if you want to attract and retain young people in your city," Crane says. "Entrepreneurs help make for a vibrant community."

But, remember, you do need to be a little crazy to do this. As Moltz writes in his book, "I am an entrepreneurholic. This is how I get my kicks."