I am an Anti-Capitalist Entrepreneur
I am an Anti-Capitalist Entrepreneur
I am an anti-capitalist entrepreneur, although I didn’t start my entrepreneurial career that way. I think the seeds were planted long ago, even if it took them years to root and firmly take hold. Overtime, I’ve come to believe that capitalism is immoral and has significant systemic failures. While I don’t pretend to hold the solutions to capitalism’s plight, or rather, the plight that capitalism wages on the citizenry, I am keenly aware of the system’s failure and have set my mind to being a different type of entrepreneur altogether: one that champions workers rights, and doesn’t believe that profits must come at the expense of principles.
In 2017, my lifelong friend, Liam, and I started toiling with the idea of starting a new venture together. Long, late-night conversations on his back screened-in porch eventually gave a name to the idea we’d been kicking around for some months: Apis Mercantile. At the time, our company was just an idea, a collection of tattered notebooks detailing our plans and an endless stream of mathematical computations as we calculated and recalculated our imminent wealth. We’d be millionaires inside of two-weeks, we thought. I’m exaggerating, but not by much. I wanted to win the game of capitalism, to sit at the apex of the capitalist elite. I envisioned a multi-national global honey conglomerate, sourcing honey the world-over and figurative money machines filling bags to be hauled off to my ever-growing bank account. It would be at this point in my entrepreneurial venture that the narrator of my life would read, “It did not go as planned.” Liam and I found ourselves pivoting from business strategy to business strategy until we finally gained some traction, although the success we found was modest and not what we’d originally envisioned. We worked long hours for little to no return, made thousands of phone calls and an incalculable number of emails. Running a business is more difficult than I could have ever imagined, but it has been a rewarding experience that has helped to shape my understanding of the world and how we, as a company, fit in it.
During our second year in business, we were meeting with various marketing agencies as we considered a rebrand of our company and products. After sitting down with one of the prospective agencies, they started the meeting by saying, “We have a no assholes rule.” What a way to start a meeting. “We don’t hire assholes, and we don’t work with assholes.” I was infatuated with this business philosophy and thought about it for weeks after the meeting. Needless to say, they won our business and have had an inordinate influence on, not only our brand image, but overall business philosophy. It was probably the first time I really thought to myself, “Wow, we really do have a choice in business. We don’t have to work with everybody that provides a service we want, even if they are really good at it, and we don’t have to sell our products to companies we don’t want representing our brand. It’s not all about the money! It was a liberating moment for me as a young entrepreneur, and helped to inform my thinking as I continued on my journey to anti-capitalism.
When I tell people that I am an anti-capitalist, they often ask, “Well, how can you own your own business?” “I am an anti-capitalist,” I reply, “but I am not anti-enterprise.” I don’t believe that the ideas are mutually exclusive. Yes, I oppose large, multinational corporate conglomerates that answer to no one but the winds of capitalism, but I don’t oppose the neighborhood entrepreneur! When corporations in a capitalist system are left unchecked, we’ve seen the result time and time again: the exploitation of cheap labor, tax avoidance, tax fraud, unfavorable and unsafe working conditions, and the bullying of competitive small businesses in the same space. It’s immoral and not conducive to producing or supporting a community that I want to live in. So, what does that mean for me as an anti-capitalist entrepreneur? It means that, while I am pro-enterprise and want to make a profit, I do not believe in making a profit at any price. That is to say, profit is not the guiding principle of my decision making. To me, it’s possible to make a profit without forfeiting your anti-capitalist principles. I want to make a profit, contribute taxes to the state and country to which I belong to further fund welfare programs, and provide a social good to my community. I want to offer a commodity at a fair price using ethical vendors and suppliers and run Apis Mercantile in a way that is honest, open, accountable, and focused on the welfare and well-being of the workers that make up the company. I want to make a profit while compensating employees fairly and offering benefits that improve their lives. A beehive is only as strong as the population of worker bees that make up the majority of the hive; it’s the perfect paradigm for an anti-capitalist company. The majority of the hive’s population is made up of worker bees, and each worker bee is female. Without proper stewardship of the worker bees, the hive will fail. As a company in the Charleston community, we must be cognizant of the role we play in our local economy and the role the organization plays in the lives of our workers and act proactively to address and meet the needs of both.
With anti-capitalist ideals as our guiding principle, we hope to work towards a new type of worker-oriented business that prioritizes people over profits. Just like a beehive, we’re only as strong as our workforce, which must be celebrated, nurtured and loved. Of course, we're only human and we're always working to continually improve our enterprise. Money and power corrupt, so it's important to be firmly rooted in our principles and set aside time for self-reflection and an objective audit of business practices. One of the primary motivating factors for me when starting this business was creating a community of workers that feel valued and are happy to come to work each day. I do love bees, and I am certainly a fan of honey, but more than anything, my journey to entrepreneurship started out because of a poor experience I had with my former employer. I thought to myself, "I can do better than this." And, I've set out to do just that. Be better. It's a work in progress, but work that I'm thrilled to do each day.