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July 04, 2024 4 min read

Hey there, everyone. Brendan here, writing to you on the Fourth of July to discuss... well, the title of this blog. I'm not one myself, but I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and now work for two more, and I can tell you that small business owners are a different breed entirely.

I have seen Evan and Steffani outside of work on multiple occasions, but even then I sometimes wonder if they ever leave their office. I can guarantee that if you combined every CEO, politician and attorney on earth, they still wouldn't have been to as many meetings as my bosses. Every day I work in person, though, I see them push through obstacles and maintain the same verve, the same passion that inspired Nakee's creation in the first place. I feel the strength they radiate, as odd as that may sound. 

That's what I wanted to talk about today, really. There's something that drives people to take that risk and open a small business, pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, time after time after time. Some may do so with the ambition of striking it rich, but I believe the more common desire is a noble one than that. Hear me out.

In the spirit of the holiday today, I think there's no better way to frame it than the idea of declaring independence. When you were growing up, did you have that friend in high school who never seemed to run out of energy? The one who always looked to cheer up others, to share their zest for life and who you could never, ever see working an office job? I bet if you looked up a lot of those folks you'd see many of them became entrepreneurs, and that very last part is a cornerstone of my argument.

I believe that a lot of people who open a small business do it to maintain a greater control over their lives and to 'declare independence' from working for a big corporation or having their schedule set for them. Albert Camus wrote that "in order to exist, man must rebel," and I believe he was right. There is, I think, a desire in all of us to live a bit more freely than the constraints of modern life allow. Some choose to subvert that by thrill-seeking and adventuring, others by creating universes of fiction. The entrepreneur in a way blends aspects of both, and creates something to share with the world, building around it in spite of the many stumbling blocks they may confront. 

I see this in my parents, who owned a shoe store together for almost twenty years. When I was a child, I didn't fully understand what it was that drove them to go in, day after day, even when customers had been rude or issues arose. There was the matter of putting food on the table, of course, but when they retired I believe I saw the real reason. After the announcement went out that the store was closing, they received kind letters and visits from customers near and far, even gift cards and other presents. People were thanking my folks in so many different ways for the work they'd done, the services they'd provided to the community. As I always am, I was proud to be their son as I watched this happen time and time again. 

I know that my parents relished the relative independence they had as business owners, but as John Donne wrote, "no man is an island." Alongside that independence, they had a symbiotic relationship with those around them, both fellow store owners and customers. Just as important as the independence is the result of their risk, the answer to the equation of their labor and their passion. I can tell from the way they talk about it that seeing kind reviews means so much to Evan and Steffani, because it validates the work they put in-- and I, in my own small way as the marketing guy, feel the same. This all may sound fundamental, and perhaps it is, but that wouldn't make it any less worthy of being remembered from time to time.

Small business ownership exists in a superposition, because they are simultaneously the lifeblood of the economy, yet are constantly threatened with extinction. Their vital nature to how we function as a nation is undeniable, and yet the career path of owning a small business is seen as a sacrifice (this is also true for teachers and health care workers, but we'll talk about that another time). Like the stars on the American flag, small businesses are a constellation of independent ambitions and ideas, united yet unique. 

I'm going to go have a hot dog (don't tell the bosses). Hope you all enjoy your holiday, and don't forget to buy some super-delicious, uber-nutritious Nakee Butter. Trust me! Alright, that's me done for the day. This is Brendan, signing off for now. See ya!

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