I never believed I would become an entrepreneur. Growing up, I had the impression that only folks who didn’t have a university degree and couldn’t land a good job settled for entrepreneurship.

At every turn, my parents would remind me to study hard and get good grades. My dad was ecstatic when I graduated from university. He would boast to his friends that he’d become the father of a university-trained engineer; which is no mean feat by the way – my parents deserve the praise. J

Lucky for me I landed a great job just after school, and so began my journey into the ‘good’ life with a steady paycheck. However, in all my years in a corporate job, I noticed there was a growing void forming on my insides.

True, the money was steady and gratifying. But I still felt empty inside, and it was getting worse with the passing of the years.

The money wasn’t the problem. In fact, I found that after a promotion or pay raise, I would be excited for just a few weeks and then, the void would continue ‘eating’ me from within.

I wanted more.

I wasn’t sure what it was I wanted at the time but I believed the ‘good’ life should mean more than just a job with a paycheck.

I projected my thoughts 30 years into the future and I didn’t like the look on the face of my retired self. I looked tired, worried and full of regret.

That’s when I started my search for a solution that would fill the void inside me. And that’s the first time I ‘consciously’ started to explore the idea of entrepreneurship.

In my opinion, there are two main categories of entrepreneurs. There are those who become entrepreneurs by chance, and others who embrace it by choice. If you ask me, the chance entrepreneurs are the lucky ones; they found the easy path.

Choice entrepreneurs like me know that choosing and following the path of entrepreneurship on a conscious level is one of the hardest decisions you may ever make in your life, especially if you’re crossing over from a corporate job.

As a person who follows, advocates and studies entrepreneurship, I believe this article provides a unique and interesting perspective on the 3 biggest reasons most people ‘consciously’ choose to become entrepreneurs.

All the reasons you’re about to read influenced and played a big role in my decision to quit the ‘satisfaction’ of a steady paycheck and devote myself to the pursuit of entrepreneurship.

I’ve arranged them in no particular order.

Let’s meet them:

1)  Money

It’s no surprise that money comes first. Actually, it’s deliberate. That’s because many people who become entrepreneurs do it for the money. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Money is good. Money gives you more options in life and affords you the unique power to provide for yourself, your family and everyone who depends on you. Money settles the rent. Money pays the bills. Money can solve a lot of life’s problems. It makes you self-sufficient. It makes you feel powerful.

And because it’s human nature to want more money, we jump on any opportunity to make more of it. Apart from a job, a rich family/husband/wife/partner, winning the lottery, or a huge inheritance, entrepreneurship is actually one of a few legit ways to ‘touch’ money.

This is why more people who have a job are setting up a side business to bump their income. It’s one of the reasons people are willing to quit their jobs, like I did, to pursue promising business opportunities. It’s the reason more young Africans now prefer to take on entrepreneurship in place of job hunting.

While many people are likely to start a business because of the money, what we often don’t realise is that money will never be enough.

I’ll explain.

You see, money is good; but money for money’s sake is an empty and soul-wrenching experience. If you’re in doubt, there’s an interesting statistic I’d love to share with you.

Did you know that up to 70% of people who win the lottery end up broke within seven years?

We may never be able to fully explain why people who come into ‘free money’ end up losing it all. However, this reality just proves that money for money’s sake is just never enough.

By the way, have you ever wondered why most of the world’s richest and most successful people look for meaningful ways to give out some or all of their hard-earned money later in their lives?

Why are the world’s most successful entrepreneurs — like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Richard Branson — giving away all their money to fight poverty, eliminate diseases, improve lives and make the world a better place?

Why would they spend all their lives making a lot of money only to give it all away?

Some call it philanthropy. Others call it charity. For me, I think it has a lot to do with the next big reason why people choose to be entrepreneurs…

2)  Impact

Sadly, not a lot of people think about impact at a young age. We’re often too preoccupied with making money and solving our life’s problems that ‘impact’ almost always feels like something we should worry about in retirement or toward the end of our career.

Impact was one of the things that was missing in my life, and caused the big void on my insides. Indeed I was making some impact at my job, but that wasn’t the size, scale and type of impact I wanted to make. I knew I could give more, but employment didn’t provide the outlet I needed.

And entrepreneurship is one of a few ways to cause real impact in society.

I was born into a world that has the luxury of television, airplanes, microwave ovens, and other symbols of modernity. In my lifetime the internet shrank the world, and the telephone transformed from a bulky, clumsy and stationary contraption into a suave personal device that fits into my pocket.

I don’t just want to enjoy the world and leave. I want to contribute something, however small. I want to matter. And I want to do it while I still have the vigour, ambition and relentlessness of youth.

These were the thoughts that haunted my sleep until the day I grew the balls to resign my job and embrace the tough, unpredictable but exciting world of entrepreneurship.

As an African, I am fortunate to exist on the continent at this time in history. Like the daring entrepreneurs, explorers and visionaries who built America, Europe and the Far East, our generation of Africans has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform our continent.

Right now, Africa is challenged by several serious problems – hunger, unemployment, poor education and several others. To solve these problems, we will need the contribution of both thinkers and doers. Africa needs its visionaries and entrepreneurs right now more than ever.

I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking like this. There is a growing number of entrepreneurs – like these ones — who are building businesses that solve serious problems on the continent. These social impact entrepreneurs are proving beyond every doubt that it’s very possible to make money and cause great change and impact at the same time.

Personally, impact matters a lot to me. It’s the reason I founded Smallstarter. I wanted to contribute my knowledge, skills and experience in sparking an entrepreneurship revolution in Africa. Today, all the ‘Thank you!’ emails, letters and messages I have received from entrepreneurs across the world, especially from places like Somalia, Liberia, Sudan and as far away as The Fiji Islands in the South Pacific are my biggest sources of joy and fulfilment in the work I do.

But, even with impact, it’s still not a complete package until you have the last element of the triangle, which is one of biggest reasons people decide to pursue entrepreneurship.


3) Freedom and Control

I once saw an ad by an automobile maker that read: ‘Power is nothing without control.’

It’s true. I love it!

Actually, power is dangerous without control. No matter how much money and impact you make as an entrepreneur, it’s not worth much if you don’t have any freedom for yourself or control over your life.

I’ve worked with a couple of client entrepreneurs who complain that their business now feels like a job. They’re making good money, and have a strong positive impact on the lives of their employees, partners and customers. But inside, they feel there’s something missing. They feel caged. They feel like they’re not in control of their lives.

Most people cannot relate with this, yet. But employers can. That’s why they preach a ‘Work-Life’ balance. If all you focus on is work or business, it’s only a matter of time before you burn out. If you’re unlucky you could come down with clinical depression, or worse.

Doing what you want to do with your life and having the freedom and control to direct your life is a rare gift in our modern world. Most people don’t think about it until a troubling tragedy — like a debilitating illness, divorce or family trouble — hits them.

Money, work or business should not control your life. YOU should control it!

I know several women who embraced entrepreneurship so they could spend more time with their kids and play a more central role in their upbringing. Sacrificing your career for something like this may sound unthinkable to many people, but hey, it’s up to us to choose how we live and run our lives.

But I must warn that while ‘being your own boss’ sounds alluring, there’s a lot of painstaking work and sacrifice that goes into a business, especially in the early years. You may not have as much freedom and control as you want but the plan should be to put in all the hard work now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later.

What’s Your Biggest Reason For Becoming An Entrepreneur?

Pardon me if you have a reason for becoming an entrepreneur, and it’s not covered in this article.

As the world is a very diverse place, there’s a possibility your reason(s) could be different. But I’ll be happy to hear from you all the same. Let me know what your unique perspective is in the Comments section.

And if you have something to say about the reasons I’ve shared with you in this article, you’re welcome to have your say in the Comments section below.

For all those who are trudging through the unforgiving storms of entrepreneurship, take heart.

Contrary to what we see on magazine covers and blogs, the journey of entrepreneurship isn’t always as glamorous, magical and superlative as it looks. You will need a lot of guts, hard work and persistence to succeed on this journey.

But rather than obsess over your fears and frustrations, just enjoy the ride.

Trust me, it will pay off in the end.

To your success!