Annemarie and I are on a three week trip to the West Coast to visit our sons Matthew and Michael and our daughter-in-law Erika in San Francisco and then spend some time at our home in Arizona.   The first stop on our trip was a four day visit to Portland, Oregon.

One of the things we found interesting about Portland was the prevalence of food carts throughout the city.   These semi-permanent carts usually are clustered together in small parking lots and are a vibrant part of the personality and atmosphere of the city.   On one of our walking tours of the Downtown area we encountered one such cluster of about twenty food carts with a wide variety of ethnic foods as well as several serving more traditional fare of soups, sandwiches, and other familiar foods all with an individual flair.

As we waited for our food while standing on the sidewalk along with a throng of other people, I was struck by the realization that each cart was a small business that appeared to be owned and operated by either a couple or a few friends and relatives.  It was also very noticeable to me that many of the owners of these small businesses were, let’s say, very interesting and somewhat exotic in their appearance and dress.

What really caught my attention was how serious and dedicated the owners were about the quality of their food and their customer service.   They obviously took pride in their small business and many of them displayed various local awards they had won for their food.   What intrigued me the most about all of this was the fact that in any other setting I would never have recognized most of them as the owner of a small business.

When we talk about being an entrepreneur and part of the business community, we tend to think that you need to conform to traditional standards if you want to succeed in business and be part of the system.  What I learned from this experience was that the pride of operating something that you can call your own and being rewarded for your efforts transcends all of our notions of what it means to be part of the system.

When it comes right down to it, the system belongs to everyone and is really all about having the opportunity and desire to pursue your dreams.