Solopreneur, noun. A person who sets up and runs a business on their own. … ‘With the exception of solopreneurs, small businesses are run by more than just the boss.’ – Oxford English Dictionary
This morning I visited a windshield specialist (let’s call him Mike) operating out of a quirkily appointed but professional nook in a parking garage.
In most car service appointments, I drop my car off and step into some waiting area. Not so with Mike. He immediately engaged me in conversation, and I stood right by him and the car as he worked away, watching the whole process. It was just him and me – no other customers, no other employees. And so we both shared more than bits of our life stories.
Mike had worked in the military, in white-collar professional services, in finance. But he wanted to provide something of his own. So when his windshield got a couple of chips in a row, he began to notice the terrible quality of windshield repair services.
He started his own little one-man shop with astonishingly good Google ratings. He works with diligence and care, open 12 hours a day, with no staff to help him. He refuses to be acquired, or to “upgrade. He chooses his customers (he once turned me away because he knew he couldn’t solve a crack satisfactorily) and isn’t shy about rejecting business or criticizing bad customer behavior. And he seems perfectly happy with the work.
I was meeting a real artisan – something you don’t find much these days.
While the artisanal solopreneur approach to business isn’t the same mentality as that of the startups I’m used to, there’s a lot to respect in the approach. It’s entirely selfish, in the highest possible sense of the word.
Mike told me he had no interest in doing what society told him to do: to work less (he enjoyed being in his shop just fine, thank you), to go to church on Sundays (he seems to find his relationship with God in his work), to make a quick buck (he’d rather do good work).
It occurred to me also that Mike was a true, blue entrepreneur – one of those self-employed people who don’t fit within boxes, don’t follow rules, and march to their own drums. I’ve met many entrepreneurs, but not many people so well-suited for self-employment as Mike. I couldn’t see this guy bowing and scraping to anyone.
My time with Mike was more educational than any interaction with a franchise (where the heart and soul of operation is usually hard to find). In addition to getting my windshield fixed, I gained an interaction which made me think about my own path to business.
If, like me, you enjoy killing two birds with one stone, you might consider it a good deal to get an entrepreneurial education while getting your shopping done. If so, consider the solopreneurs.