When people look at your business that you founded and work hard at as a hobby, how do you respond?
As I began writing this article, I had a feeling it’s going to end up being more of a rant than an article with insightful thoughts. But after two and a half years into running my business, I thought it’s time I let off some steam. Let’s start with what it is with people who like to call your business a ‘hobby’ and assume it’s something you do ‘for fun’, until you grow up and get a ‘real job’.
I have had one too many experiences with people harbouring the above opinions. Apparently, to many people, a real job is one where you have to be employed somewhere chained to your desk for hours at a time. They see my business as a hobby because when they look at it from the outside: a quirky, fun place that sells cute stationery and yummy cakes; it seems like running the place is equally ‘fun’. Don’t get me wrong; I love my job and the different things I get to experience every day, however, running your own business, in the nitty-gritty sense of the word, is not ‘fun’.
My business isn’t a hobby because I have to deal with a lot of real-life issues while running it. The responsibility of paying the staff salaries each month is a real task, and so is the constant ledger you have running in your head of debits and credits, and payments and revenues. Cheques that are due, renewals and maintenance contracts that need to be updated, and maintaining staff harmony and work ethic are important tasks that can’t necessarily be classified as ‘fun’.
Having the responsibility of making sure that the accounts are in order and trying to strike a balance between working in the business and working on the business are serious matters that need a lot of thought.
The success of a small business ultimately depends on how hard-working the owner is. With office environments and ‘regular’ jobs, things can be more forgiving as there is a collective responsibility, and most often it is not the same person who is brainstorming new product ideas that is responsible for making sure the employees get paid on time.
Whenever I happen to go to events during regular working hours or bump into someone I know during a weekday morning, I am quite often met with the comment that goes something along the lines of, “Oh, I forgot you don’t work, that’s why you can make it!”
I don’t know what the general societal response to business owners are in other countries, but I really do think that the collective mindset here needs to change. I find it ironic that many people harbour the view that running a business is a temporary hobby, although the percentage of people with their own businesses here in the UAE must by far exceed those in other countries. I say this through observation by looking at the relatively small number of Emiratis and then look at the amazing businesses owned by Emiratis (be they big firms or small, home-based craft businesses). In a country that values entrepreneurship, especially women’s entrepreneurship, and small businesses, it is strange that we are still met with the general attitude that what we do is ‘fun’. We must persevere in the pursuit of turning our individual businesses and projects into a success, regardless of the general public opinion and with time, bring about a change in mindset.