Business, Start-Up, or Lifestyle

The other day I read an article about starting a lifestyle business versus a start-up. The gist of the article was unless you were a start-up with VC money, you don’t matter; it is not a real” business. It seemed like a silly distinction at the time, but I have been thinking about what this means to me today in broad terms of how I define work.


I think of a business as something more traditional: a bakery, an electrician, a dry cleaning store, or a bookkeeping business. Usually service-based, generally with a physical presence. These places are not raising VC money (unless they become chains or franchises) and having IPOs.


I have worked for three start-up companies. One manufacturer, a fintech company, and an education finance company. Two of them, I have enjoyed, but all of them were incredibly fast-paced and required a lot from the employees. Each had different goals for the long term, but they all were sold in the end. In two of the business, investors existed, one went public, which brought other requirements, and one was just a low-margin grind.


When I think of a lifestyle business, I think of web-based entrepreneurs, small manufacturers, coaches, and designers/artists. You may have a Shopify or Etsy storefront. A micro web service or something in a particular niche. Many of these can and do grow very large. But do they have to be considered successful or respectable? On more than one occasion, I have heard people say, Oh, they have a toy business on Shopify.” But they need to understand that the business is enjoyable, extraordinarily profitable, and provides a group of people with a very nice living.

Having worked in all of the above, I continue to lean more toward lifestyle options. Your desire lies based on your wants and needs, which can change with time. As I have gotten older, mine sure have.

  • Having a say in your strategy instead of being told what to do (especially if they are wrong).
  • Not controlled by a corporate mental time clock.
  • Preventing yourself or at least minimizing the corporate grind culture.
  • Having the freedom to experiment

Your mileage may vary, but discounting the other options without being able to define what you want out of your work life is silly.