How Many of You Became Entrepreneurs Accidentally?

In June of 2004, I finally did it. I handed in my resignation as Director of Choral Activities at James Madison University, and began packing-up the formidable accumulation of books, music, and files from four degrees and 24 years of academic life. Distilled onto one little piece of paper that began with the words “kindly accept my resignation” and ended with “sincerely,” my life as an Accidental Pren-her â„¢ began. Accidental because I didn’t anticipate it happening, and pren-her (female entrepreneur) because I always knew I had it in me.

Is this You?

An Accidental Pren-her is a woman who finds herself starting up a business for the very first time. Surprised, to say the least, because she never thought she ever would, nor had she, ever before, seriously considered doing so. Yet, here she stands, wagging her head in disbelief as she begins her journey (the journey that so many women have taken before her) from Accidental Pren-her to entrepreneurial woman.

What had she been doing with her life before she began her journey? Perhaps she had been climbing the competitive corporate ladder or entrenched in the Ivory Tower of academia. Maybe she had managed a non-profit arts organization, been a political activist, or a stay-at-home mother. At one time, she had been happy doing what she was doing. Then something happened. What happened? Something unexpected that changed her life. An influence so powerful that it is now shaping who she is, how she views her life, and what she wants to offer to the world.

For some women, this all began when they were downsized. For others, when they were fired from their job or quit on their own thinking: there must be more to life than this! Still others began the entrepreneurial journey after their children left home. The loss of a parent or other loved one causes some women to rethink their life, as does divorce, near fatal accidents, recovery from a serious illness, and spiritual awakenings.

Top 10 Characteristics of Accidental Female Entrepreneurs

Have you had something happen in your life that has changed the way you are viewing life? Is there an Accidental Pren-her within you yearning to be set free? Read the following list. If you can say, “Yes, that’s me!” to eight or more, there’s a good chance you are an Accidental Pren-her.

1. You want what you are doing to make a difference in the world.

2. You like living life on your own terms.

3. You are not easily defeated. Where others see failure, you see opportunity.

4. You are a creative and innovative thinker.

5. You are a calculated risk-taker. Fear tempers you, not stop you.

6. You are highly self-motivated.

7. You have a wide range of interests and do many things well.

8. You engaged in entrepreneurial activities as a child.

9. You like making money.

10. You have an abundance of sustainable energy.

If you are an Accidental Pren-her, or one in the making, what you’ve just read will have a resonating rightness about it, deep within you. So, what do you do with all this rightness?

The first thing is to understand that everything in life happens for a reason and that there are no accidents — only “accidents by design.”  The second thing is that whenever the unexpected lands in your path, it is always a stepping-stone to where you intend to go.  Thirdly, there are no train-wrecks, only trains changing tracks.

So, take your accident and turn it into a design. Read all you can about other women entrepreneurs who have gone before you, and seek out mentors who can support your vision and help you along the way.

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Dr. Susan L. Reid on accidental entrepreneursAbout: Dr. Susan L. Reid is a business coach and consultant for entrepreneurial women starting up businesses. She is the author of “Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Journey to Business Success.” Her website is

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Susan L Reid Dr. Susan L. Reid is a business coach and consultant for entrepreneurial women starting up businesses. She is the author of "Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Journey to Business Success." Her website is

19 Reactions
  1. Looking back, I remember reading that list of characteristics and knowing that they described me. But I still had no idea what I wanted to do. I realized it was about finding out who I really am and what my passions are. Everyone’s heard that before, but really digging for the answers pulls them from your heart. Then the business you want to create is born and grows with you. It’s a body, mind and soul experience that shouldn’t be missed if you have even the slightest inclination.

  2. “The loss of a parent or other loved one causes some women to rethink their life, as does divorce, near fatal accidents, recovery from a serious illness, and spiritual awakenings. . .”

    For me, Susan, it was divorce and spiritual awakening. I got down on my knees one day & simply gave up. It was only a matter of weeks before my life began to change drastically and a special opportunity came along – and bam! My life slowly started to become what I had envisioned it to be.

  3. I absolutely agree that there are no accidents- only “accidents by design”. All of my experiences have prepared me and brought me to the place that I am today – and I am grateful for them. I have known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur but it was a process to find what I am truly passionate about and how to share that with the world. Being still and listening to that inner voice that Susan calls “your inner samurai” has been invaluable.

  4. Carol McClelland of Green Career Central

    An illness triggered by extreme burnout was my catalyst to find a way to work that supported my being and my health. That was eighteen years ago now, and I still celebrate June 3rd, my Freedom Day, each year. What I’ve learned since then is that sometimes the train continues to change tracks. As a business owner I have strategically changed tracks when I refocused or expanded of my business. More recently, my business took an amazing, unexpected turn. I had a light bulb moment about a year ago to take my career change expertise and my love of nature to help people find a green career. With this business I’m stepping into a new level of entrepreneurship. I’m just as excited now as I was years ago when I first launched my business.

  5. I completely relate. My experience was getting fired from my job. I knew I needed a change but wasn’t sure what to do. I picked up candle making as a hobby to pass time and found people actually wanted to buy them! Things exploded from there. I never would have imagined myself running my own business and have been pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

  6. It would really help women who wants to tackle and change the accident into entrepreneurship. Great job.

  7. Love, love, love it. That’s exactly what happened to me. The story I tell skims over the fact that I worked for two crazy people, refused to sign a nasty non-compete, and found myself out on my ear!

    Making something from nothing is powerful. Long live the Accidental Pren-her!

  8. I strongly believes in ‘experience’. That may be anything only if I have experienced it I would consider them and when it is a choice for Entrepreneurship I had followed the same thing but after reading your article I thought of overcoming the problems even in a short period.

    I thank you very much for providing useful information on beautiful deals.

  9. I was a teacher, but always wanted to be a journalist. In Dec 2003, I sang a concert, strained my voice, and for some reason, my voice never recovered. After 3 years of teaching with a microphone, after numerous doctors and procedures and even a sinus operation and voice therapy, my voice still wasn’t back to normal. I couldn’t take the daily stress of my voice stopping me from being myself, and I took a leave of absence.

    After 9 years of teaching, I’m working on my blog and trying to turn it into a more comprehensive website. I’m writing almost every day, and I finally feel like a journalist. Thank God I met the right guy during those 3 years; his income, and my tutoring jobs, can support us until I get my feet under me.

    Losing my voice was the most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to me- for over a year, every word hurt. I couldn’t sing, couldn’t go out to restaurants and bars with friends, couldn’t read to my nephews, couldn’t call to someone in the next room. Every aspect of my life suffered, but it forced me to do what I’d always wanted. At least something positive came out of a very, very negative experience, and I feel lucky that I have the chance to try to be an entrepreneur.

  10. Linda Childs at Bookmark This Spot

    Thanks so much Susan. Like you, I’ve been (and continue to be) involved in the music world. I certainly would never have considered developing a business around another interest. As you mentioned, “everything happens for a reason.” My getting a part time job in a bookstore awakened a dormant passion I’ve had since I was a child: a passion for books. When you create from the inside out, trusting that Inner Samurai, you gain the courage and confidence to do what you truly love and succeed. I totally agree with Dana
    “It’s a body, mind and soul experience that shouldn’t be missed if you have even the slightest inclination.”

  11. You’re right, Dana, many Accidental Pren-hers resonate with the characteristics of women entrepreneurs though can’t imagine them ever unfolding into a business, yet alone a successful one. As you said, the decision to jump ship, change careers, or begin is a total mind, body, soul experience . . . and well worth the journey.

  12. For me it was a spiritual awakening, followed closely by loss of job and death of parents. Like you, Chris, these events dashed me to the ground. Then, when I gave over to the experiences, my life began to re-shape. Like the mythical Phoenix rising from the ashes, so, too, do we all.

  13. Yep, extreme burnout is another event that can cause us to re-examine our lives. I love that you celebrate your Freedom Day, Carol!

  14. Getting fired is a perfect example of an event that transforms lives. How wonderful, Amanda, that you have been able to turn your hobby into a successful small business! That’s the epitome of turning your passion into a product!

  15. As a singer myself, I can easily imagine how traumatic it would have been for you to have lost your voice, Stamford. I would have tried to make it work, too. Though, now, look how wonderful things are for you. Your accident has become an accident by design! Best wishes in your writing and journalism career — just another way of using your voice.