There are many reasons not to start a business. It’s risky. It inevitably requires many long hours sweating all of the ten thousand details. Building a company from scratch requires wildly diverse skills that are not commonly possessed by a single person. And it usually requires more resources than a typical wage earner can easily muster.

A chemical entrepreneur with an eye on manufacturing faces some unique challenges that, say, a fledgling purveyor of roasted coffee beans could avoid. Most obvious it the issue of a physical plant. Not only must the chemist or engineer have a workable chemical process, but also have a highly specialized facility in which to do the processing. This requires suitably zoned land, local review boards, environmental permits, a local work force, process equipment, a minimum of raw material inventory, and buildings to contain it all.

Then the entrepreneur must provide an infrastructure of chillers, boilers, electrical distribution, liquid nitrogen for inert gas, an analytical facility, an R&D facility, quality control, as well as administration, sales, and technical staff.  There must be a steady stream of cash flow to provide a steady payroll. Taxes must be estimated and paid in advance.

There are many sobering reasons not to go forward with a chemical business plan if one is risk averse or, shall we say, comfortable. Indeed, one of the common character traits of people who are analytically-minded is the tendancy to rattle off all of the reasons why something won’t work. We’ve all experienced this in meetings. A problem arises and meetings are called. After the problem is identified, much of the remaining time is spent in a recital of the additional problems that are expected. Soon, the problem mushrooms into a phantasm with imaginary components of awesome magnitude.

We’re all good at digging up reasons why something won’t work. And chemists suffer no lack of ability here.

But this is where the true entrepreneur stands out from the herd. One mark of a successful entrepreneur is the ability to ignore, or filter out, pessimistic predictions of an outcome. There is a spark within the some people that compels them to go forward. Sometimes it is a special insight. But just as likely the entrepreneur has an inner drive- some might unflatteringly call it “narcissism”- that moves them forward because they are certain of the outcome. It is not uncommon for an entrepreneur to consider him or herself the smartest person in the room.

In Part 3 we’ll look at examples of what kinds of businesses chemical entrepreneurs have started.

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