What can we learn about entrepreneurship from the Amish?

Strict religious sects like Mennonites and the Amish are disproportionately successful entrepreneurs.

December 4, 2019

Mario Tama / Staff

Burgeoning Bezoses, take note: Ruthlessness and cunning aren’t the only attributes that will get you ahead. As The Guardian reports, Amish and Mennonite business owners stay on top of trends while remaining true to their values.

Going from ag to cultural 

Mennonite and Amish community members are known for low-tech — or no-tech — lifestyles. They often dress in modest clothes and drive horses and buggies. Some operate farms that have been in their families for generations. 

But staying in business means adapting with the times, and the foodie movement has been a boon to some.

In Kutztown, Pennsylvania, 3 men transformed a 200-year-old barn into a contemporary farmers’ market where church members sell locally grown produce as well as artisanal items like handcrafted pastries, bourbon-flavored honey, and garlic-flavored cheese curds. Fancy a cappuccino? They’re made with milk produced on nearby dairy farms.  

But there’s more to success than cinnamon buns

A sociologist who studies Amish communities found that 95% of new Amish businesses are still going strong after hitting the 5-year mark. That’s remarkable given only half of startups usually make it that long. 

But Amish values lend themselves to business practices that contribute to a high success rate. These include:

  • Camaraderie with competition. The idea of trade secrets isn’t pervasive among the Amish. One farmer will gladly teach methods to another farmer… even a direct competitor.
  • Flexibility with finances. Community members might make loans among themselves or adjust asking prices to accommodate buyers who aren’t flush with cash. 

Investment in hyper-local economies. Community members will go out of their way to support one another and their local businesses. And because many Amish don’t drive, it’s especially important to have a strong local economy with ample services and products.

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