People in Third World Poverty Are More Entrepreneurial Than You

I recently completed my travels to South America. This is my third time traveling to places in the world where most people are living in serious poverty. Do you know what I found in the Middle East, South East Asia, and South America?

Entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs everywhere.

Now these aren’t the type of entrepreneurs that you’ll find in magazines in America. No. This is something different. This is a constant hustle forced upon them given the conditions that they were born in.

Two Phases of Entrepreneurship

In this example, there are two phases of entrepreneurship. First, getting the business off of the ground and cash flow positive. Second, growth of the business.

Cash Flow Positive

This is where people living in less desirable conditions shine. Why? Because they have to. There is no other option. It’s not as easy for them to go out and get a job so that they have excuses not to start. If they can’t get a job, they’re forced to find something to sell.

Walk the streets of Siem Reap, Cambodia and you’ll find aggressive merchants trying to sell, negotiate, and haggle. Anything to get your money in his pocket.

The energy and unfazed nature of them hearing “No” 1000 times a day is amazing to watch. Inspiring actually.

This is where most Americans fall short. This is where the excuses come in. People here shut down after hearing no 10 times. Lack of capital, time, or anything else are the most common excuses to never start.

We in America try to skip this stage all together. We go straight to trying to get funding to validate our idea so that all of the “No’s” don’t hurt so much.

Growing The Business

This is where American’s shine and the developing world falls short. We get funding to skip the hard part of getting the business cash flow positive immediately. We then focus on growth at all costs.

As I walked the streets of Aguas Calientes, Peru, I decided to “interview” every merchant that I could find. Everybody that I talked to would have loved to grow and scale their business, but not one that I found had any real idea how to do that.

I then met an American that is dominating a certain part of Peru’s tourism economy. He had the grit to self fund the business and get it cash flow positive immediately. This was due to a need. He fell in love with a Peruvian woman and needed to stay in the country.

He also knew what foreigners wanted and knew how to scale.

Capital is not the problem

Most of these people have no assets and no savings. They don’t have backers. They have determination because they’re forced into entrepreneurship. They don’t have a choice and that’s what forces them too be entrepreneurial.

The basics of how many of them started is simple. They took whatever money they had and bought merchandise from a wholesaler and hawked it on the street at an up charge. Rinse and repeat until they had enough to set up a stand.

It’s analogues to buying on the clearance rack at Walmart and then selling it on Amazon.

Experience is not the problem

How much experience do you think these people have? They have less experience than you and less access to the resources of learning business. I’ve seen the internet connection there and you have a big hand up in comparison.

What they do have that you probably don’t, is a hunger to learn what will make them successful. They look around to see what’s working and emulate it. Fortunately for me, that led to a lot of 3 for 1 drink specials at all of the restaurants.

Culture and comfort is the problem!

Culture of Being an Employee

The school system along with our peers teach an outdated view of the world. It’s a view from 50 years ago that says if you study and work hard, you’ll have a steady job that will allow you to provide for your family. This world no longer exists for most people. Change is happening at an unprecedented pace. If you want to own your life and not be dependent on the whims of an employer, you have to think like an owner.

Comfort of Having a Steady Paycheck

The most dangerous thing for future entrepreneurs is to be on the biweekly nipple of corporate America. It allows you to make excuses.

Now I’m not saying that future entrepreneurs shouldn’t get a job. What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t rely on that job for your future. Doing so will allow you to rationalize never starting anything.

In my view, there’s roughly 80 work hours in a week. Use the other 40 to work on your business.

Culture of What Entrepreneurship Means in America

In America, being an entrepreneur means a certain path.

Idea -> Proof of Concept -> Seed Money -> MVP -> More Funding -> Growth

This is what people think is the set path to grow a business in America. While many businesses go down this path, they’re mostly the Silicon Valley types. I would venture to guess that most companies founded don’t get any funding at all outside of help from friends and family.

You don’t have to take the above path.

  • You can self fund your company.

  • You can work on it part time and keep your day job. There’s more work hours in the day than you think there is.

  • You can spend time creating partnerships to help hurdle some of the initial funding issues.

  • You can bring in multiple founders that share the same vision as you.

  • You do whatever it takes to succeed to get your venture off of the ground.

If you’re interested in learning more, checkout our resources at the B2C, B2B, and B2G pages.