The Reluctant Entrepreneur
It seems odd to think of a person opening a shop, knowing that they're not at all
interested in selling or in face-to-face interaction with customers. But that's
exactly what many Internet business owners have done. And they've done it well.
The Internet has opened doors to a new breed of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who
don't feel comfortable selling, or who aren't good at expressing themselves verbally.
Many of these people would never have opened a traditional business, whether due to
shyness or being introverted; it's the anonymity of the Internet that has enabled
them to do what they would otherwise not be able to achieve.
Take Barb Niehaus. Barb is the founder and owner of
Moms@ Home Working, a website dedicated to finding a balance between work and family. She
handles every aspect of her business from marketing to customer service. She's also painfully shy.
Prior to launching her web-based business, Barb worked at home for over 13 years.
"This was an ideal situation for me as I could never envision myself in an office
setting with a large number of colleagues. I did own a consignment shop for 5 years
but actually hired sales personnel to handle the customers as I was uncomfortable
with that aspect of the business," she says.
So how does a person who shudders at the thought of selling something in person
run a business from soup to nuts?
"The Internet has definitely enabled me to complete tasks that I would never have the
confidence to complete in a 'real' brick and mortar business or job," says Niehaus.
"A web-based biz is perfect for me. In everyday business transactions, I have to 'sell'
ads to potential sponsors, network with other online business owners and correspond with
dozens of readers and clients. The beauty part of the Internet is that I do not have to
communicate face-to-face at all," says Niehaus. "In an email, I can appear brimming with
self confidence that in 'real' life I sorely lack. My business has grown and thrived
despite my shyness."
Lisa Simmons can relate to that. Lisa runs Ideal Lives.com, a website that offers resources
and ideas for parents & professionals supporting someone with special needs. Formerly a
professional therapist in the human services/disability field, Lisa agrees that the Internet
offers a comfort zone that allows introverts to shine.
"...it's much easier to be myself when I'm capturing my thoughts in an article for my
site or responding to a visitor's email," says Simmons. "If I was required to meet each
of my visitors face to face my life would be much more stressful. This way I don't have
to have an instant answer or feel like I'm on the hot-seat."
Through the Internet, Simmons can achieve things that she couldn't imagine doing in
a traditional business setting.
"Public speaking has always given me a case of nerves and the idea of speaking to thousands
of people is very intimidating... yet that's what I do through Ideal Lives. I'm able to
share the tips & practical resources that I know about with 6000-8000 people every month."
And Lisa and Barb aren't alone. According to a survey by California-based Hagberg
Consulting Group, nearly 70 percent of today's CEOs describe themselves as "introverted".
Certainly entrepreneurs are no exception. Says the group's President, "A lot of entrepreneurs
are borderline extrovert/introvert who can put on a mask and appear to be very outgoing."
Mike Banks Valentine, of WebSite101.com knows all about that. "...the web allows me to be
able to toot my own horn when I can't or won't do that in the "regular" world. I've been
self-employed for over 10 years because that lifestyle builds and promotes my self confidence
like nothing else. I am a recognized expert in several places online where in the "real" world,
few people pay attention because I'm quiet and unassuming, reserved and introverted."