I got a big surprise this week when I was named a Regional Entrepreneur of the Year by the national accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young.
Okay, I knew I had been nominated, but honestly, I really didn’t expect to win. Today, I’m writing this blog for one reason and one reason only: to inspire all the entrepreneurs out there who are pursuing their own dream, and who are going through what I call the “dumpster phase” of launching a new company.
Let me tell you, the words “Entrepreneur of the Year” sound much prettier than the way my career started out. The way it started was, frankly, pretty ugly … even for the advertising industry.
The way it started out was wanting more than anything else in the world to follow my passion and turn my dream into a reality. That dream was to work at one of the big New York ad agencies. But I got shot down by almost every single one of them.
The way it started out was not having any other career options … but who needed options? I didn’t want to do anything else. My passion and dream was to work in advertising. The problem was, no one, and I mean no one, wanted to hire me!
What I should have won way back then was “Unemployed Person of the Year.”
So … what do you do when you’re in that situation? What do you think I did? I started a company. I guess “entrepreneur” is just another word for someone who can’t get hired or hold a job in middle management.
I launched my own ad agency in a crappy little strip mall that had a great view of, yes … a dumpster. A giant dumpster. That’s the image I get in my head when I think back to the earliest days of this company. I might have been staring at a dumpster all day long back then, but I knew I was reaching for the stars, the American Dream.
Here’s the point: I knew a whole lot of people who thought I was crazy during the “dumpster phase” of my business. If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably know people like that, too.
I want to use this award to honor all the new business owners who are still in their dumpster years. Yes, it’s a good thing to have an award like this to celebrate individuals who take risks and innovate and add value to our economy. But the reality is that it is more important to celebrate the American private enterprise system, the American Dream, than it is to celebrate any one of us. So before we give anybody any award, let’s remember how lucky we are to live in the country we live in. And let’s never ever apologize for living in a country where anything is possible — yes, anything — a country where free enterprise and the American Dream still exist.
Today, I salute everyone with the guts, the courage, and the vision to follow a dream … everyone who is staring at a dumpster, but reaching for the stars.