Multipreneurship, Or How to Become a Modern-Day Richard Branson
The idea of working on multiple things at the same time has always been a dream of mine. I felt a similar excitement when years ago I came across Emilie Wapnick’s work on multipotentialites.
Reading Greg’s post I thought of Richard Branson and his Virgin Empire.
When I think about an entrepreneur that works in a bunch of different industries there are few names that pop up as quickly as Branson’s.
Greg comes from a Silicon Valley and VC background and much of his post focuses on how multipreneurship, based around communities, can serve as an anthesis to the VC startup world.
And I think he could be right about that…
But the question I was more interested in was:
“Is multipreneurship a way to become a mini-Richard Branson?”
In other words, is this a framework for building tiny business empires that play in different industries and scratch multiple itches, while maintaining personal autonomy?
On the surface it sure seems that way!
But first, some definitions…
Serial Entrepreneur vs Solopreneur vs Multipreneur
Before we dive into how multipreneurship works, and how to become a multipreneur, we have to define what it’s NOT.
A Serial Entrepreneur is someone who focuses on one fast-growth startup, grows it to a certain size, and then either sells it or uses the cash flow from it to start a new fast-growth venture. While they work on multiple businesses over their lifetime, it’s rarely at the same time.
A Solopreneur is an entrepreneur that above all else aims to build a business that is solely built around them. They don’t hire employees, use freelancers & contractors sparingly (if ever) instead relying on SaaS and automation and focus above all on maximizing profitability instead of growth.
The solopreneur route has gained a lot of popularity in recent years with creators like Justin Welsh and Dan Koe attracting millions of fans.
Multipreneurs differ from serial entrepreneurs in that they work on multiple businesses at the same time, instead of in a sequence, and create an ecosystem of products & services.
Multipreneur ≠ Beefed Up Solopreneur
It’s important to note, that a multipreneur is not just a solopreneur on steroids.
As Greg Isenberg says in his Multipreneur Manifesto “Trying to juggle 5+ businesses solo is like playing dodgeball with a dozen balls coming at you simultaneously - it's a spectacular failure waiting to happen.”
Instead, multipreneurs focus on building “small, capable teams for each venture.”
Bonus points if you can create teams that can cross boundaries and work in several of your businesses (more on that in a bit)
Now I know what you might be thinking…
I know, I’d normally be right there with you, but having a team doesn’t mean bloated salaries, tons of people, or huge responsibilities.
You can instead use freelancers to slowly bring people on to help you and only pay for help as you need it. Eventually, you can build an army of freelancers that span across your companies… like I said more on that a bit further down.
Micro & Macro-Multipreneurs
If you Google “multipreneur” you won’t find a ton…
But one of the first legitimate resources on this business theory is a book called Multipreneurship by a Greek business professor by the name of Nicholas Harkiolakis.
In the book, Harkiolakis separates multipreneurs into two camps:
The big difference between the two is that one (micro) is localized while the other (macro) is much larger, multinational, and most likely internet based.
He points out that Macro-multipreneurs can be led by a “high profile individual” and create massive economic success (cough Richard Branson)
In today’s world people connect more with the individual than a brand - Richard Branson has more followers than Virgin, Tim Cook has more followers than Apple, and Gary Vaynerchuk has built a $200m+ business empire on the back of his personal brand.
But you don’t have to be a massive influencer to be a macro-multipreneur, you just have to build your empire in the borderless online world.
In my view it’s less about how much your businesses are worth, but the medium in which you build them.
I actually find the concept of the micro-multipreneur more fascinating…
My wife Sarah and I started a newsletter earlier this year called CincyScoop focused on sharing news, events, and important stories from around Cincinnati in a fun and entertaining way.
We saw this as the chance to build a community in our hometown and perhaps one day use it as the starting point of a Cincy-based business.
Imagine running a small collection of businesses in your hometown!
This is the exact definition of a micro-multipreneur and also agrees with Greg Isenberg’s view of multipreneurship being “community-first”.
Remove Emotions (If You Take A Lot of Swings, You’ll Miss A Lot)
Richard Branson started Virgin as a magazine when he was a teenager, but it wasn’t really financially successful until he launched Virgin Records in the 1970s.
As Virgin Records grew Branson began to invest in other verticles like aviation (Virgin Atlantic) telecommunications (Virgin Mobile) and even space flight (Virgin Galactic).
But not all Virgin companies have been a success!
In the 1990’s & 2000s Richard Branson launched:
Virgin Cola which aimed to compete with Coca-Cola (and got smacked by the soda giant)
Virgin Cars - revolutionize car shopping by bringing it online
Virgin Brides - yes… it’s exactly what you think it is
All of these were massive failures, however…
Through each of those the greater Virgin group learned new things, received a bunch of media coverage (for Virgin Cola Richard Branson drove a tank through a giant wall of Coke cans), and attracted new talent they could feed into their other companies.
No matter how much of an entrepreneurial genius you are, if you try a lot of things, you’re going to have a lot of failures.
You need to remain unemotional in order to cut what’s not working, learn what you can from the experience, and make space for what is working or for the next venture.
Another important thing on the topic of emotion…
When I was younger I never wanted a partner. I wanted to do it by myself in an attempt to prove that I was good enough and “prove myself”. AKA I wanted an ego boost.
That’s a terrible idea in any business venture (as I’ve learned) but even more so if you want to be a multipreneur.
Remove your ego from the equation!
If you’re going to do a lot of things not only do you need the support of a team, but it’s also not a bad idea to partner with others on some businesses.
Perhaps there is an influencer who already has the trust of an industry or a partner who has experience in a new-to-you industry, or simply someone who can bring full-time energy and focus.
Don’t Play Fair - Lean Into Your Advantages
One of my oldest mentors was a top McDonald’s consultant (today he owns several franchises and is a multimillionaire)
He taught me that when it comes to McDonald’s, the real money is made when someone owns 3+ restaurants in the same city, because at that point you can share resources between the restaurants and maximize profits.
Mutlipreneurship is very similar!
In an interview with Greg Isenberg, Jesse Pujji, founder of Gateway X a tech-focused venture studio, shared that one of their core values is that all their brands must have a common culture and operating system.
In theory, an employee should be able to jump from company to company without any issues.
This makes a ton of sense from a hiring point…
There are roles that are important to the success of a company, but a small company may not have enough work in that department to warrant a full-time person. Think of positions like design, development, or accounting.
When you’re getting started contractors are your greatest friend here.
But as you grow you may be able to bring someone on in a full-time role, but spread them out across multiple companies.
When all your companies have a similar operating process & culture, a developer could easily jump from Co1 to Co2 to Co3.
Neither Co is large enough to warrant a full-time developer, but combined they do.
Teams are an obvious place for this, but it goes beyond that!
Consider how your Cos can share audiences, relationships, internal SOPs, data, etc
What you learn in one Co you can apply to the others!
This is your unfair advantage. Lean into it and use it to accelerate growth and maximize profits.
How to Start Your Multipreneur Journey
During his interview with Jesse Pujji, Greg Isenberg suggested that if you want to be a multipreneur you should start by doing the opposite:
“Find one business and go really hard at it for 5-7 years”
From that you will learn the fundamentals of running a business, and you can create an assett to cashflow your multipreneur journey.
I agree with this… before you can run a bunch of businesses, you should probably learn how to run one business well.
However, I would ammend that by starting with a Portfolio Career.
This is something I’ve discussed in the past, but the quick summary is that a Portfolio Career is the combination of a regular job (for stability) and a side hustle like freelancing or selling some sort of product (for growth).
Portfolio Careers are like multipreneurship-lite!
It’s a great way to get a taste of the multipreneur life, develop the productivity and organizational skills you will no doubt need to run a bunch of businesses and start generating enough cash flow to invest some of it into small “bets”.
Multipreneurship is actually a natural evolution of a Portfolio Career.
Why Become a Multipreneur
At this point you may be thinking: “this all sounds like a lot of work”
Multipreneurship isn’t for everyone. It’s probably much simpler to just build one business and focus on that and enjoy your free time.
But multipreneurship comes with some really big benefits…
In his book Multipreneurship, Harkiolakis makes the case that focusing on one promising venture in good times is likely the best idea. You can double down on that business and maximize profits.
However, a multipreneurship angle is better in times of economic instability or rapid change. A portfolio of small business gives you a diversified income stream that is more resistant to economic shifts.
For example, imagine right now you owned two businesses - an AI agency, and an HVAC business.
The AI agency would be on a rocketship trajectory as more and more businesses figure out how to adopt AI, but if that were to ever change (like it did last year with Web3 businesses) you have the HVAC business which is very robust (if your AC goes out you’re getting it fixed) to level out your income.
Like I said, multipreneurship isn’t for everyone… it’s for a special type of crazy, but if you’re subscribed to this newsletter, I imagine you’re probably that type of crazy…
So I hope you enjoyed this 😊
Reply to this email and let me know what you think! Is multipreneurship something you’re interested in? What businesses would make up your dream Multipreneur Empire?