Occupy Entrepreneurship

  • November 6, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 14 Comments

For the Occupy protesters and everyone else unhappy with the current economy and corporate power, there are things we can do to influence change.

Thousands of people are choosing to take to the streets as one form of influence. The demonstrations have gotten the media and the country’s attention. That attention will influence people, and maybe even lawmakers.

I tend to be sympathetic to the Occupy movement’s frustration and some of its message. I’m glad they’re out there, and am thankful they’re shining a spotlight on corporate greed and our corporatist government.

Franklin D. Roosevelt warned about the position we’re getting dangerously close to now back in 1938:

The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.

But I also know that corporate/governmental greed and power aren’t the only reasons why we find ourselves in this situation today. How we live, what we buy, who we vote for and who we work for collectively create the environment where private power can thrive. Our money and time feed them. Our apathy on voting day lets other people decide for us.

Some people choose to blame “the system,” and they’re right: the system is broken. The old game is no longer fair.

But we can do more than protest or complain. If our actions create the environment where private power thrives, we can cut off the oxygen. We can speak out and organize change. We can move our money elsewhere, kill our televisions, tell our government what we think and vote always.

We can examine every aspect of our lives and realize what our money is supporting. Think about every dollar you spend. Is it going to WalMart, or your neighborhood store owner? Are you buying a Budweiser or a microbrew? Are you depositing at Bank of America or a credit union?

Most importantly, are you driving to work at a Fortune 500 company, or working for yourself?

What if those Fortune 500 companies didn’t have so many smart people to leverage, because they chose to work for themselves instead? Where would the power in our economy lie with so many small businesses?

For everyone struggling in this economy, here’s the good news: during the worst economic recession in over 70 years we also find ourselves at the best time in history to start a small business.

The jobs have dried up, and they may never come back. We’re in a forever recession, and you can cling to the old ways, or be optimistic about new opportunities:

When everyone has a laptop and connection to the world, then everyone owns a factory. Instead of coming together physically, we have the ability to come together virtually, to earn attention, to connect labor and resources, to deliver value. -Seth Godin, The Forever Recession (and the Coming Revolution)

Leaving my corporate job was the best decision I’ve ever made. Yes, it’s stressful and difficult to make it on your own, but there is nothing more empowering than taking control and responsibility of your entire life by working for yourself.

The system is broken, but we can’t fix what was. The rules have changed. Are you going to use the new rules to your advantage?

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Madeleine Kolb November 6, 2011 at 10:53 am

Thank you, Corbett. As someone who retired from my job weeks before the September, 2008 financial implosion and lost a substantial amount of money from my 401(k) acount, I applaud your post.

And as someone living in Seattle when Washington Mutual Bank (WaMu) failed due to its reckless and outrageous sub-prime loans, I get that greed can destroy a once-respected bank with devastating impacts on its employees. The bank’s CEO, by the way, skated away with millions, although the federal government is still pursuing the matter.

I am very much heartened, however, by your thoughtful and hopeful take on our current situation.

Skip Blankley November 6, 2011 at 11:20 am

Once again, Corbett you have managed to nail it! You are dead on and made some very valid points!

I too am very thankful for everything the dedicated protestors are doing but I would also like to see everyone more active rather than reacitive. We need more action just like that of the ‘move your money day’ movement! It is ideas like that one that get so much done with a simple site and some clever marketing.

Not saying that what they are doing on wall street is not important and a huge part of the movement but I think without action in the form of actual progress we are just stirring things up rather than fixing anything.

And yes, it is unbelievably easy to start a small business right now. The fat cats are done, their shelf life has expired and it is our turn to rebuild the very foundation of this country’s economy one small business at a time. If you don’t want to build one the least you can do is support one.

Nancy Bartlett November 6, 2011 at 11:21 am

Corbett,

I’m not often inspired to comment on a blog post but this one did it. It’s the best thing I’ve read today, maybe this week. And the clearest reasoning that I’ve seen as to why the Occupy Movement is important to us all and worthy of support.

I especially appreciate that you moved from simple vilification and demand for action to the best action anyone can personally take to change their own situation.

Thanks for the renewed encouragement for building my small business and learning to use the new tools.

Gregory Ciotti November 6, 2011 at 11:43 am

While I agree with you about how much more rewarding (even if it’s scary) venturing out on your own can be, don’t you think that people sometimes overrate the digital world?

I mean, if everyone was into making digital products, and nobody worked for “the man”, who would produce the physical products that we use daily?

Point it, working for someone SHOULD NOT be as bad as it is right now, but that’s where working for yourself has it’s advantages: nobody can just pull out your whole career from under you like at a company doing cutbacks.

My point is, though, that we need people working for others in order for companies to grow; the world can’t survive if everyone’s an entrepreneur.

I know that wasn’t really your point here, just a tangent I thought I’d throw out there ;) .

Jay Walsh November 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Well, I was wondering who was going to be the first to tag “occupy” to “entrepreneurship, marketing, SEO…” whatever.

The reality is, we’re not in a “forever recession” as you put it. The economy swings at its own pace… and much slower than the hyper-reality that onliners live in. This swing will last a decade or two then it was start to swing back. We saw this starting in the 60′s up to the Wall Street 80′s. We then saw a 20 year respite and lived high on the hog from ’85 to ’05. Now it’s swinging back.

You adjust accordingly. And for some, this will continue during the remainder of their working lives. For others, it’s just another road bump in their lives. But it will pass in time.

If I had to guess, it’ll probably be at it’s worse through 2012 then plateau out until around 2018. Then, slowly, things will start to get better and we’ll be back to our salad days around the mid-20′s.

As for the Occupiers, what I am grateful to them for is starting the discussion. I’ve felt like the lone wolf in the woods these last 30 years, railing against the Fed, corporate cronyism, and a “me first” political system.

I’m glad people are finally getting pissed off.

Just my 1¢ (seeing as the other 99¢ are controlled by cadré of suspect individuals) :)

Thanks for a good post.

Al Brown November 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm

The economic problems we are experiencing were not caused by the existence of corporations.

They were caused by the government’s endless boosting of the financial sector and especially real estate. They were caused by the government’s subsidization of all manner of risk and the shoveling of more and more resources into unnecessary bubbles.

Both parties are deeply involved in this corruption. Both appointed and re-appointed the current chairman of the Federal Reserve, which handed hundreds of billions of dollars to private corporations at no cost so they could
loan it back to the government at a hefty profit.

Of course, there are corporations involved in this and they are having their way with our elected officials. Of course, it is we who elected them. Perhaps we should vote for some people with actual principles for a change.

No, having a soulless job at some corporation pushing papers or making widgets may not be the best thing for you personally. Or maybe it is. But that situation has nothing to do with the cancer growing in Washington.

Will Peach November 7, 2011 at 1:18 am

Take this is as the war cry it is.

Let’s get off our asses, live and work meaningfully and create great things.

Let’s not get sidetracked by money.

Let’s elevate human connection above all things.

Corbett you are god.

Corbett November 7, 2011 at 10:12 am

Hey Thanks Will. I’m no god, but people do tell me there’s a resemblance :)

Hugh November 7, 2011 at 6:06 am

A great post that reminds us that we must take responsibility for ourselves. I completely agree with you that protesting is not a bad thing, but we need to remember we need something to fill the void if/when corporations lose their power. That something is our own genius, our own entrepreneurial spirit that drives us to create valuable relationships and businesses that make the world a better place.

By the way, you misspelled Budweiser. How un-American ;-)

Corbett November 7, 2011 at 10:10 am

Whew, thanks for pointing out the misspelling, I wouldn’t want the millionth mention of that product today to go unnoticed :)

99% Economy January 9, 2012 at 11:33 am

I’m a little late to the party, but I just wanted to add in my hearty amen to this post. Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly convinced that the system is weighted so heavily against the little guy that we have no real recourse but to create our own system, whether that means going off-grid and living as self-sufficiently as possible, creating our own jobs by becoming entrepreneurs or freelancers, or both. In fact, I became so convinced that I even started a blog about it. :)

It’s great to see that others are not only thinking along the same lines, but also choosing to do something about it. If we of the 99% put our minds to it, I do believe that we can reclaim our country and rebuild a more just and sustainable economy.

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