Have you ever wanted to be a hero?

Our community, state and nation could use some more heroes right now.

Did you ever consider that you could be a hero by starting a business?

You could start a business that generates income for your family; provides a product or service that benefits the community; and employs people, enabling them to feed and house their families.

The success of the business and the compensation paid to employees would generate tax revenue. The profit could be reinvested for expansion, thereby creating more jobs and increasing the company’s ability to benefit your community and the broader society.

Out of the fruits of your success, you might choose to give to others who are unable to care for themselves, and your employees might choose to do the same.

As a child, did you ever envision yourself as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman? Did you picture yourself rescuing a baby from a burning building or storming an enemy base to free hostages? Did you ever imagine a scenario where you were the star athlete, making the winning shot, tackle, kick or run? None of us were born on Krypton. We’ll never have the Batmobile parked in our garage or an invisible jet on standby. Most of us won’t ever be called upon to risk our own life to save the life of another. Most of us will never be able to dunk a basketball, hit a drive like Tiger Woods, throw a 60-yard pass or hit a grand slam.

You could, however, become a real-world hero by starting a business.

In today’s economy, finding a job is good, but we need more job creators. Making a living is necessary, but creating opportunity is better. Earning a paycheck is important, but starting something so compelling that it grows and becomes a creator of solutions, products, services, jobs, and wealth could be vastly more significant.

How many different ways can you measure the impact of Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Michael Dell (Dell), Mark Zuckerburg (Facebook), Robert Swanson (Genentech), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Sam Walton (Walmart) and other well-known entrepreneurs?

From software and ‘mass customization’ that transformed the computer from specialized research hardware into a ubiquitous tool, to iPods and iPads, to social networking, to man-made insulin for combating diabetes, to delivering bargain-priced products to the masses, these entrepreneurs have created products and services, jobs and wealth on a phenomenal scale. Their companies employ millions of people worldwide, including thousands in Tennessee.

Five of the seven companies — Facebook and Genentech are not publicly traded — have a combined market value of about $900 billion. That’s roughly the equivalent of $3,000 of value for every man, woman and child in the United States. All of that value belongs to shareholders, including many employees.

Closer to home, we have examples like Mike Campbell, the one-time grocery store manager who founded Regal Entertainment Group, which today is valued at about $2 billion and is the world’s largest movie theater operation. Sandy Beall founded Ruby Tuesday, the international restaurant company that also creates business ownership opportunities through its franchising program. Jim Haslam (Pilot), Jim Clayton (Clayton Homes), Lynn Massingale (Team Health) and too many others to name have made similar impact.

These people aren’t bulletproof. They can’t fly. They’re not going to win the Super Bowl or the World Series. They are taking risks, but they aren’t risking their lives. They may not realize it, and they probably don’t think about it like this, but they are heroes. They are heroes because of their decisions to become creators of solutions, of opportunity, of value.

Turn a skill into a business. Identify a problem or need, and figure out how to address it. Decide to become a creator and not just a consumer. Be a hero.

Grady Vanderhoofven is the general partner of Meritus Ventures and the Southern Appalachian Fund, which make equity investments in companies located in Appalachia.


FG_AUTHORS: Shawn Carson

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