Entrepreneurship is the Path Out of Poverty



“Give a person a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a person how to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.”

One of the questions I keep asking is, what skills do we need to survive or thrive in our new world?  It’s a world where you can’t count on a corporation for your job.  It’s a world where change happens faster than ever before.  It’s a world of global competition, where somebody, somewhere, with a lower cost of living can do your job for a fraction of the cost.  What kind of skills do we need to adapt and respond?  What skills do we need to teach our children?

There is a pattern and a way out.  It’s entrepreneurship.  If you look to the people that consistently bounce back, and if you look to the people that find a way out of poverty, and if you look to the people that get laid off, but then create a prosperous business, a common pattern is entrepreneurship.

In the book, Ultimate Guide to Google Ad Words, 2nd Edition: How To Access 100 Million People in 10 Minutes , Perry Marshall and Bryan Todd write about how entrepreneurism is the path out of poverty.

The Story of Paul in Kenya
Marshall and Todd write:

“But the epiphany occurs when I meet a fellow named Paul Mungai, who runs a cobbler shop.  Paul, ironically, is crippled, but he knows how to make and fix shoes.  And he knows how to run a business.  He started with just $50.00 of see money and now has, by Kenyan standards, a sound business.  He’s feeding his family, he’s paying his rent, his kids have uniforms to wear at school, and everyone in his care has enough to live on.”

I’ve heard similar stories like this before.   People can turn their lives around, and sustain themselves, when they can find a way to make a living.

Entrepreneurship is the Path Out
Marshall and Todd write:

“We exchange a few words and share our mutual understanding:  There is one and only one path out of poverty.  The one and only path out of poverty is entrepreneurship and business success.”
Well put.  Time and again, I’ve seen business create opportunity, growth, and new jobs.

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  2. I love the theme of this post and the story of Paul capped it off! Where I’m from kids look to a few things as their way out (of poverty) – sports, music, and entrepreneurship. From my own experience, I can note that the reality in what you’ve shared is the real deal.

  3. Well, perhaps. Depending on what this means.

    From another point of view the way out is co-operation. From another seed funding (Yunus has helped many tens of thousands of people become entrepreneurs who couldn’t have without Grameen Bank seed funding).

    In the wealthy middle class West there is also living frugally and saving and investing (especially for those in high paying jobs).

  4. This reminds me of a TED Talk I watched recently, “Jessica Jackley: Poverty, money — and love,” where the speaker talks about her own shifting views on poverty and how to help them. There are also stories in books like, “The World is Flat,” by Thomas Friedman that carry the idea of entrepreneurship even though the book itself is over 5 years old, some of its points just ring more true than ever.

    The flip side to this in a way is finding how to leverage whatever strengths, talents, or gifts we have to try to do things that haven’t been done before. Now if the education system could just help kids figure these out to get them onto good paths that help give them a better change to work win whatever field they want for those that have the brains and desire to get there.

    Just a couple of thoughts to add to this discussion.

  5. “We exchange a few words and share our mutual understanding: There is one and only one path out of poverty. The one and only path out of poverty is entrepreneurship and business success.”

    Very true. Find your purpose, be an asset to society, work hard and dream big. Never give up. Think about being wealthy. You can only win with these ideologies.

  6. @ Jk — Beautiful point — I think there are multiple healthy escapes, and I’ve seen sports and music work wonders too.

    @ Evan — So true. Perspectives and view points make all the difference (and increases options.)

    @ J.B. King — It’s making me realize how fundamental the law of supply and demand is. One of the key issues in today’s world is how quickly demand can change. It’s a very cutting question to ask, how quickly can we respond with the skills that are in demand? Luckily, some core, cross-cutting skills never go out of style.

    @ Jonathan — I like your precision — “be an asset to society” really hits home. Creating value is the way to flow.

  7. Entrepreneurship is the way out of poverty especially when the enterprise is authentic to the founder. Owning ones own business is the ultimate in autonomy and fulfillment. We started out with lots of individual craftsmen all trading with one another and it’s a business model that still works worldwide.

  8. @ Tom — Very well put, and I especially like your one-liner insight — “Owning ones own business is the ultimate in autonomy and fulfillment.” That’s powerful stuff!

  9. H JD .. this is definitely true particularly now – there are opportunities out there – it’s finding that niche, believing in it & delivering it ..

    As you said re Tom’s comment .. it is powerful .. being the believer and the deliverer leads to satisfaction ..

    Thanks – Hilary

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