An African small business owner puts up a closed sign. The reality of entrepreneurship

“Escaping” Capitalism Through Entrepreneurship

Recommendations to create one’s own business have been the go-to when discussing the exhausting and debilitating experiences of capitalism. For those who work in exploitative environments, there is the ongoing cycle of working under harmful conditions that are detrimental to their well-being and survival. In awareness of this many seek resolution in entrepreneurship, assuming that they will be free from the effects of capitalism. Despite the invasiveness of capitalism in every aspect of one’s life, viewing entrepreneurship as a means of escape can result in the cycle of exploitation for marginalized groups. 

Exploitation is a part of capitalism’s framework, garnering capital from surplus labor and maintenance of systems that reduce access to financial resources—such as unemployment and poverty. The environments many workers must navigate in reduce their autonomy and create a series of physical and mental risks that are detrimental to their well-being. These risks range from physical strain, mental stressors, and over-exertion, and are dire to their lives and livelihoods—prioritizing profit over their safety and security. The benefits lie with the employer and other beneficiaries, remaining at the expense of workers. 

There are systems in place to ensure things remain as is or progress for capitalists. For starters, maintaining high unemployment rates allows them to not only acquire more profit but also use current worker’s surplus labor for their benefit. For communities that are already at a disadvantage for opportunities, owners use this to pay workers significantly less and advocate for cuts on financial support systems. Financial instability affects possible progress for marginalized groups, resulting in those seeking multiple sources of income through additional jobs. In enduring this many become exhausted, frustrated and seek resolution in entrepreneurship as a possibility of escaping the unsuitable conditions they’re placed in. 

What does it mean to work in an exploitative environment? Exploitation has been normalized as a part of work, with workers coming to terms with the reality that they must endure such conditions to survive. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are faced with prejudices varying from racism, xenophobia, and more, all that makes them susceptible to harmful treatment by employers. They are particularly targeted due to their identity and class status, further disenfranchising them of resources and reducing their availability of gaining personal necessities. This becomes a part of working for someone else and their only escape is to create a business of their own, rather than coming to terms with abolishing the current systems in place. 

Each identity intersects with another, leading to an overview of how marginalized groups are treated. Class identities play a pivotal role here, as it sets the foundation for what groups can access. For lower classes, they cannot acquire resources as those of the upper classes, particularly financial support and capital. With advances being afforded to the upper classes, this means those of the lower tiers must work at a higher rate to access a portion of what they need. Oftentimes, the prominent and most “successful” business owners didn’t “work their way to the top”. They achieved their capital through nepotism, cronyism, and their pre-existing privileges, being able to not only create their businesses but sustain them through the extensive labor of others. 

Entrepreneurship is a vast and complex process that relies on generating sufficient profits to sustain the longevity of one’s business. It requires extensive knowledge of the field and general market, identifying the most effective route for its survival. The business model created is used to serve the business and primarily the owner, ensuring that they acquire the financial means to support their interests. It is a risk-taking process, one that requires a significant amount of time, effort, resources, energy and more often than not—worker’s labor. To provide the goods or services for one’s business they will require the labor of others. 

For many, seeking opportunities in entrepreneurship means changing the power dynamic they weren’t benefitting from. A dynamic where someone of authoritative power determined their value, revoked them of their autonomy and more, making it nearly impossible to navigate on their own terms. The opportunity to “be their own boss” means that they can take back what was always deserving for them: the opportunity to exist as they see fit. As liberating as this can be, without clear understanding on the role of capitalism in these spaces, one can create similar environments for who they employ. 

Capitalism impacts all aspects of business markets, creating difficulty to efficiently maintain a business if not granted financial benefits and class privileges. For those with aspirations of creating their own business solely to escape the harmful environments they’re susceptible to, consideration must be given to the way capitalist efforts continue to invade any field. It must be centered around how capitalism disenfranchises communities, affecting how they acquire resources to survive. The problem isn’t solely that one must escape an exploitative employer, a toxic working environment, or simply “get rich”, it’s to understand that capitalism remains at the basis of the socio-economic and systemic issues that restrict persons of their autonomy and basic necessities. 

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Princess Avianne Charles, also referred to as “Avianne”, is a Trinidadian writer and blogger. With experience in the field of Occupational Safety and Health, she promotes safer spaces and advocates for human rights both in and out of the workplace.