Arlene Dickinson of Dragon’s Den fame spoke to a business crowd in Saskatoon last week, and I felt compelled to attend. Nuggets of wisdom are always welcome from the successful.
Her subject was success, failure and entrepreneurialism, and the message was that we need to celebrate success and reward failure. Failure, she said, is a hallmark of entrepreneurialism.
As I understand it, true entrepreneurs take risks, try things, fail, pick themselves up and try again. It is the nature of the entrepreneurial spirit to be “all in,” said Dickinson; entrepreneurs have to be willing to risk everything.
But in Canada, she noted, “we watch from a place of privilege.” We live in the richest country in the world: we can get into business easily, manufacture offshore cheaply and have a slew of safety nets supporting us. Canadians are risk-averse and we need to get “scrappier” to “drive this country forward.”
She is right, generally speaking, and I appreciated her passion for the subject.
I also found myself thinking that farmers are the ultimate entrepreneurs and plenty “scrappy” enough. They do risk everything, year after year, in the face of many uncontrollable factors. If the weather was awful last year, and the crop more or less failed, or the livestock industry got nailed by disease, they try again … and again.
Perhaps the traditional view of Canadian entrepreneurialism does not quite match the modern agricultural experience. Perhaps it does in processing, inputs and machinery, but on the land things are different. Farmers can no longer get into business easily. Farmland prices are high, equipment is expensive, inputs are pricey and most of the “manufacturing” happens in the field out in the sun, or in the barn.
Furthermore, all citizens of Canada have certain supports, such as health care, but many of them are more difficult to access in rural areas.
In so many ways, farming is the most entrepreneurial thing going. Some may not see it that way, since farming is also, for many, work of the heart.
My husband often says he is a reluctant entrepreneur, who runs his own business because there is no other way of being able to do what he loves so much. Like farming, that’s risky and brave and definitely entrepreneurial.