In a BBC article today, Richard Reed, one of the founders of Innocent Drinks, is quoted on what it takes to become an entrepreneur (How to become your own boss):
Anyone, says Reed, could go home today, and for instance, make some jam and start selling it.
Earlier in the article,
“If you have ever organised a wedding or a holiday for a group of friends you have got what it takes to set up a business”, says Reed, who founded his company in 1998 with two friends from Cambridge University.
But later on he reveals
At the age of four my mum found me trying to sell jam jars with rose petals in as perfume for 2p to my neighbours. Aged seven I was going round cleaning their windows. At age 11, I was buying Smurf stickers and reselling them in schools.
This revelation somewhat undermines his argument that anyone can become an entrepreneur, as clearly he wasn’t just anyone then. Most kids don’t go around selling stuff at the age of four and then end up at Cambridge. On the basis of this biographical evidence one would be more likely to conclude that entrepreneurial capability is either innate (Richard had it at the age of 4 already) or that it is the result of one’s environment in childhood, such as specific socio-economic circumstances, existing socio-technical networks or specific incidents that shaped the child’s psyche and social skills.
Seeing this then makes me wonder, what compels a BBC journalist to write such an article about entrepreneurship? What’s the motivation here? As I take a closer look I realise that the article is meant to promote a new BBC series, Be Your Own Boss, which seems like a reality show in the footsteps of the Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice. As part of the drive to promote the show and its stars and makers, it obviously makes sense to put out statements like “anyone can be an entrepreneur,” as they are trying to attract the widest possible audience. Now the question is whether the show itself will be able to prove that proposition.