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Posted by Philip on 9 May 2015, 11:37 am in , , , , ,

Should entrepreneurs close things down?

closed signThe easiest way to define an entrepreneur is "someone who starts things". I've been given the mantels of both creative and social entrepreneur (it's one of those things you are recognised for – you don't decide for yourself). Entrepreneurship might be explained as "start-up leadership".

So as a creative and social start-up leader, I've started lots of things – organisations, projects, websites – in the realm of creativity and social issues or change. Many have concluded of their own accord (projects, for instance, because they have a beginning, middle and end); and others I've walked intentfully away from (organisations where people have taken them in directions I've disagreed with, or I've realised I with my penchant and skills for starting things, need to be replaced by someone who can maintain and grow the entity).

In 2005 I started Diversityworks Trust Inc., the only start-up I have stayed with (as trustee and Executive Director) since its inception. I originally started the Trust to fundraise for Momentum'09, an international symposium on creative diversity. Due to the financial crash in 2008, we lost critical funding and had to downscale from the planned four-day event at SkyCity to one day in Royal Oak.

Looking back through our annual reports, our disappointment about Momentum'09, which spurred an agile change to an online project called Creative Momentum, was the catalyst for another six years of running projects of our own and with others – 13 in total, five of which are ongoing today (most will continue under the auspices of my company, Diversity New Zealand Ltd). I feel proud of the work work we've achieved.

Last Thursday, I met with my fellow trustees to pass a resolution to dissolve Diversityworks Trust. The last funded project, Unique Extras, lost funding in 2013. Since then, we've made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to attain funding.

But, to be honest, my decision to shut down Diversityworks Trust had nothing to do with funding. It was about passion. I only founded the trust to raise funds to do things I couldn't do through my company. Now, having reached the destinations I wanted to visit (or not, because they weren't attainable), why keep the vehicle running?

I observe a lot of entities, particularly charitable organisations, changing what they do to meet ever-shifting funding goalposts. Change isn't bad, but not for funding's sake. One of the things I am most proud of, in the ten years of Diversityworks Trust's life, is that we changed – a lot in fact – but only because we noticed the need and saw the creative opportunity that change was offering.

Now is not the time to thank everyone who has been a part of Diversityworks Trust over ten years – that will come after the final accounts are prepared, we close bank accounts, deregister with IRD, Charities Commission – the list goes on.

For now I reflect again on the title of this post – should entrepreneurs close things down? As a start-up leader, should I lead the shut down? More than ever I know the answer is yes.

It could have been so easy to feel a failure for not maintaining a "sustainable entity". Instead I led an innovative organisation that did some amazing work with some wonderful people, which will be remembered.

My question has changed: What will be next?

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