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Small-Business Owner Summer Reading List

June 21 marks the official start of summer. Whether your hectic small-business owner schedule allows for a little poolside reading time, or you can only manage one chapter before bed, we hope you delight in a few titles on our summer reading list. These reads, straight from the Evolution Bookshelf, are our top picks for reinvigorating your pursuit of the American dream and desire to seek a community where you belong.

Small-Business Owner Summer Reading List1. Hillbilly Elegy

As entrepreneurs, it’s important not only to understand the business world, but also the communities we serve. Hillbilly Elegy is a timely deviation from our typical business-focused titles. It explores the struggles of America’s white working-class by following the personal account of a former marine and Yale Law School graduate growing up in a poor Rust Belt town. This moving memoir depicts what upward mobility really feels like and echoes the loss of the American dream for many working-class people.

Hillbilly Elegy emphasizes the importance of having a strong support system to achieve success, which also applies to business growth. The network of small-businesses owners and expert advisors at Evolution reflects the philosophy that support yields success. We’re forever grateful to have this system in place, or as the book dubs it, our own “hillbilly code” to build each other up.

2. Glass House

A recommended follow-up to Hillbilly Elegy, Glass House dives deep into the financial changes in small towns across the industrial Midwest and United States. It focuses in on Lancaster, Ohio, a city that transitioned from a model of capitalism heavily weighted in the glass industry, to a drug-infested city struggling to pay for community basics over the last few decades.

Reading Glass House further solidified my belief that entrepreneurial businesses could be the solution to declining American cities. The formula is simple (but not easy) and will require a long-term commitment. Create a culture of putting entrepreneurs to work. Not only will this drive every community, but it will also drive spectacular and sustainable returns to investors that will, in turn, be reinvested into the next idea and leader.

3. Startup Communities

This book documents how entrepreneurs can feed off each other’s talents to drive innovation, new business creation and job growth within a community. Boulder, Colorado, is the benchmark community studied in the book, but it bears similarity to the growth of the startup community here in Northeast Ohio. The author details four necessary ingredients for building a startup community:

  • Entrepreneurs must lead the Startup/Scaleup communities
  • The leaders must have a long-term commitment.
  • The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it.
  • Continual activities / events to engage the entire entrepreneurial stack.

 4. The Innovation Blind Spot

A natural extension of Startup Communities, The Innovation Blind Spot also plays on the concept of building an entrepreneurial community—one that lifts up overlooked innovators to combat income inequality, stifled entrepreneurial ambition, social distrust and political uncertainty. It paints a dismal picture of where venture capitalists are currently investing their money: less than 5% goes to women, less than 1% goes to African Americans and Latinos, and just 23% goes to businesses outside of California, New York and Massachusetts.

The Innovation Blind Spot motivated me to challenge the exclusivity of access to business growth capital. Confront the status quo and open up new communities of untapped potential for the good of the investors, entrepreneurs and their communities.

5. Guardians of the Dream

Author Dr. Paul Hsu arrived in the United States in 1976 with only $500 to his name, grabbed hold of the American dream and never let it go. Hsu’s book tells how the business owner, engineer and presidential appointee turned his $500 into a $60 million company, in addition to stories of other immigrants who have fostered the entrepreneurial spirit to achieve great success.

Hsu is featured in one of Evolution’s podcasts, where he discusses challenges entrepreneurs face today, advice he’d offer to hopeful entrepreneurs and the future of entrepreneurship in the United States.

Happy reading, and happy summer! Do you have a favorite summer read you’d like to share with the Evolution community? Please leave your comments below.


Posted by: Brendan Anderson A co-founder and managing partner at Evolution, Brendan has spent the past 20 years as an investor and manager of businesses ranging from manufacturing to financial services. @Brendan_Andersn

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