Quit, Get Lost and Support the New Economy: Redefining Entrepreneurship

(3BL Media and Just Means) - It’s a new economy: slow living, locavores, new entrepreneurs, and community-based practitioners. The idea of what it means to be an entrepreneur and to start and grow a business is changing. According to Claire Wheeler, Vermont-based, MBA in Sustainability Alum from Marlboro Graduate College and Founder of Rework, a consultancy which supports local business owners to do the work they love, says that what our economy needs most is a bunch of quitters; entrepreneurs willing to pursue the change they want to make in the world, even if it means walking away from a cushy job.

“We're taught at a young age to go to work in exchange for the promise of security - a return on the precious investment of our smarts, skills and a whole lot of our time. We are told that if we put in our time now, someday we will retire, relax and enjoy life,” says Wheeler. “I realized that even though I had a good job and was doing good work, I didn’t feel good.”

The defining moment for Wheeler, when she knew she wanted to quit her job and commit to fostering her local economy in Montpelier, was her very first experience in her MBA program. Her professor, Beverly Winterscheid, Founder of Center for Nature and Leadership, instructed the class to hike a mountain, in total silence, in the middle of January. Her goal was for the class to “get lost.”

Wheeler wrote this about her experience in a recent blog post on Rework’s website:  “We were told to turn off our phones, left to retrieve some primordial skill of gauging the passing of time to know when to return to the parking lot. We didn’t have maps and even though the terrain was new to all of us, our professor was not the least bit concerned. Instead, she whispered the final words we’d hear all afternoon: ‘get lost.’”

The professor’s goal of this activity was for the students, as Wheeler puts it, “to let go of what we knew in order to find ourselves.” For Wheeler, “getting lost” was the beginning in a shift in her thinking about business and her role in it.  She knew she could use her MBA to support local artists and business owners in Vermont and intentionally join the “new economy.”  Rework, Wheeler’s consultancy firm, is designed to stay small. Their goal is to empower the local change makers, creative geniuses and community-based businesses through a variety of business solutions including project management, financial literacy, and work flow design, among others.

“I will never look back,” says Wheeler. “Today, I support a local midwifery practice with financial projections, project management and long-term business planning. I’ve helped a furniture maker streamline his accounting processes and a massage therapist create an online scheduling system. I love what I do because I'm eliminating the barriers, the small details of the day-to-day, so that the new economy can thrive.

Wheeler continues, “My passion is to support the success of these entrepreneurs by working with them on the parts of the business that they struggle with, that keep them up at night, that create stress, so that together we can transform that stress into solutions that work for them. Rework is about sitting down, identifying the challenge, and crafting creative solutions together that give clients less stress and more impact.”

Rework measures success in a new way too: growing in line with the needs the community and our clients; making strategic decisions which embody mutual support; and building a world which supports the flourishing of the earth and people, one business at a time. Notice that acquisition, expanding operations and making millions were not on this list. Wheeler wants Rework’s legacy to be about her community and not about building her own fortune. She continually reminds herself to “get lost.”

Wheeler writes in a recent blog post on Reworks’ website:

“By being willing to get lost, we give ourselves the opportunity to take a risk and reclaim our work. Individuals are quitting traditional employment to earn a living by offering their true gifts and following their passions. Non-profits are implementing enterprising models to sustain their missions. Businesses are adopting bottom-line strategies and multi-stakeholder operating models. This is not business as usual! This is a shift of consciousness, a new way of being.”

This is the new economy.

Thanks to Rework and to Claire for contributing pieces of their blog. Read it in its entirety and get inspired. Check out Claire’s MBA in Sustainability program at Marlboro Graduate College.