Journalist Angela Neustatter and her entrepreneur son Cato Hoeben wrote a book together, The Lifestyle Entrepreneur, on the growing opportunities to leave behind the office and make a living off your interests. Things didn’t always run smoothly, but they eventually made a great team; this is how they did it.
As I watch my son Cato, now 35, off to give a lecture on his entrepreneurial lifestyle, up flash the memories of him as a small boy setting up a street stall to sell old toys, computer games, and comics that were no longer wanted. And later concocting an orange juice cocktail, to sell for a couple of coins after a game of football with mates.
He did sciences at university and for his MsC and I assumed he would go into the traditional workplace. But his individual business drive took him in another direction, and that is the subject of The Lifestyle Entrepreneur, a just published book we wrote together. It is based on Cato’s journey from workplace employee to running his own small businesses from home, earning well and happier than he ever was in a formal job.
That’s the good news, but translating his motivation and pleasure in being an entrepreneur and writing a book as a team, telling the good, the bad and the nail-biting ,was an altogether tougher number. Cato and I have always had a good mother-son relationship, give or take the hair-tearing I have done trying to get him to study for exams, be punctual and quit teen tantrums. The idea of doing a guide book to help others see how they might join the ever increasing number of people wanting to set up their own enterprises, in a way that often has a lighter environmental footprint than big office life, seemed a fun notion.
The publisher had a contract ready to sign before we’d stopped to think how precisely we would research and write a book. Cato’s and my workstyles are very different: he does everything online, never printing documents out but filing everything in virtual folders and on Dropbox while I, tend to have sheafs of printed pages. I expected him to pore over these with me and let me stick ‘post-its’ alongside his neatly computer drawn mindmap laying out the core principles of the book. I exploded that this wasn’t how I worked and we ended our first meeting at loggerheads convinced the other would sabotage the chance of a smooth working method.
We had a couple of explosive rows and were hit with the panicky feeling that we might not get the book done. Cato’s exasperation nearly went off the Richter scale when I failed to grasp the technological stuff that is a vital part of an entrerpreneur’s skill base in the digital age. I’m sure I heard my son mutter “never again” on more than a few occasions. I wondered what had happened to the old fashioned idea of children seeing their parents as the wiser generation.
We started off writing the first chapter together, then editing each others’ versions.Cato worked on the practical information – building online communities and markets, ways to get funding, the psychological issues you may encounter. We melded our chapters together seeing the point of what each contributed and as we saw the book coming together, we paid each other lavish compliments. He also made me realise how much more green-aware he was in the way he ran his office, always turning the computer off when he went out; shredding documents he collected and re-cycling them, wearing thick sweaters and only putting heating on when he was so cold his voice went funny and his fingers froze.
Cato spends quite a lot of time in Seville where his wife is based and when he was away we conversed happily by email and sent each other documents which I only occasionally managed to lose in the ether when opening them. After I lost a vital Dropbox file he wrote sternly on the document he replaced it with ‘MOTHER DO NOT TOUCH’.
But in the end, when we held the first copies of the published book and flipped through the chapters and final plan of action for Lifestyle Entrepreneurs, a delighted sense of “hey we did it” came over us both. We hugged and agreed we couldn’t have done it without the other.
The Lifestyle Entrepreneur; How to Turn Your Interests into Money by Cato Hoeben and Angela Neustatter is published by Gibson Square at GBP 8.99 bit.ly/the-lifestyle-entrepreneur
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