Eric Taft
Eric Taft
Guatemala 2013-2014
Eric Taft is a recent graduate of Belmont University's Social Entrepreneurship program. Eric is traveling to Chimaltenango, Guatemala with his wife, Hilary, to work on an economic development compound for one year. This is a dream come true. Read More About Eric →

Entrepreneur as Autodidact

Sometimes I regret choosing Social Entrepreneurship as a college major.  As I work with Hilary and the Monte Cristo team to start Queen Bee from scratch, I often wish I would have gone to school for engineering, chemistry, or computer programming.  No doubt those things would have prepared me better for the more technical parts of starting a business.  To tell the truth, I’m under-equipped for most of the challenges I face and it’s a day-to-day effort to keep my head above water.  Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the money to do college again, so I put on my boots every morning and give it my very best.


There are many engineers, chemists, musicians, and craftsmen that have already mastered their trade and are starting their business miles ahead of where I find myself now.  As for me and the rest of my kind- entrepreneurship majors that lack technical expertise- our most essential responsibility is not that of design, calculation, or formulas.  It is the constant process of learning.


An autodidact is an individual that teaches himself what he needs to know.  Whether he reads books, scours the Internet, or acquires a mentor, he constantly seeks out information, not satisfied by waiting for standard methods of education to catch him up to speed.  My generation of entrepreneurs, those heavy with degrees but light of know-how, are by necessity autodidacts.


Queen Bee found its inspiration in two places.  1) Thistle Farms, a Nashville-based body care company that employs women that used to live on the street to make boutique lotions and body butters.  2) Burt’s Bees, a chapstick company that has gained popularity for its natural appearance, but that has fallen in favor now that it belongs to Clorox Bleach.  Aside from that inspiration, Hilary and I have taught ourselves everything- creating cosmetic formulas, running a laboratory, sales techniques, and distribution logistics.  We are currently juggling international shipping methods, Health Department certification, raw goods sourcing, and how to improve production efficiency. We’re learning something new every day.  The majority of this information comes to us in Spanish, so that’s another daily learning process.  Our most helpful resource is the Internet, but we’re always careful of the mountains of misinformation that exist, and it takes a lot of scouring to find the gems that really help the process.


Belmont gave us a great education in how to set up and run a business, and those engineers and chemists that never sat in a business class have their own self-taught journey ahead of them if they want to be entrepreneurs.  We find ourselves thankful for the many people we have found along the way that take the time to teach us, provide us things to read, or just offer a word of encouragement.  For our friends that are trying to start a business, we encourage you to continue on.  There are a lot of people that have more knowledge than us but never took their ideas to the world.  Just build a lab and make a mess, then clean it up and do it again.  Eventually something good will happen.


For those that have advice, criticism, or encouragement, we’re always open to suggestions.  If you have useful contact or stories to tell, we’d love to hear it.  Meanwhile, we keep reading, searching, and learning.  We don’t have time to wait and neither does Monte Cristo.  Keep your eyes open in July.  Queen Bee will be very busy.


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