A Letter to Entrepreneurs, From Shopify COO Harley Finkelstein

shopify coo harley finkelstein

I have spent my life admiring entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs who built massive companies, and entrepreneurs who built small businesses with a lot of meaning.

My grandfather became one in the 50s, as a new immigrant to Canada. His reason was survival.

When my grandmother turned 60, she became an entrepreneur for self-reliance.

harley's grandfather's shop
My grandfather's egg stand in Montréal, Quebec.

And my moment came in 2001, when I started supporting myself as a student. My reason for becoming an entrepreneur was equal parts passion and necessity.

I’ve always felt that entrepreneurship is a profound way to build something of value, And when things are rough, like they are right now, it’s a way to survive. Maybe even thrive.

Some have accused me of being entrepreneur obsessed. And maybe that’s true. 

It’s been a decade since I joined a scrappy startup called Shopify and committed my life to helping entrepreneurs globally.

photo of harley sweeping the floors of the shopify office
Mopping the floors at the Shopify office in 2010.

In my first few weeks at Shopify, when we had about a couple thousand merchants, I remember thinking that one day we might help our one-millionth entrepreneur.

A few months ago, that happened.

Our entire company exists for one reason: to make commerce better for everyone. The way we do this: supporting entrepreneurs in everything we do. I want to play you something that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. It’s a call to our support team from a merchant. They’re a farmer in the US hit really hard by the pandemic.

For me, this is an emotional reminder of how Shopify can bridge the gap between a family business that fails, and one that survives. This is why we’re here. This is why we’re all here. And that farmer? She’s going to keep feeding her family and community because we were here. She’s gonna do great. The world looks a hell of a lot better with businesses like hers thriving.

There are so many wonderful things about starting a business… but there is one major downside.

It can be lonely. It can be isolating. And it’s not always clear who to turn to for help or advice.

Enter all of you. All of us.

We’re each on our own journeys, in our own corners of the world, seeking our own versions of success and independence.

Right now, we may be physically distant, but we are not alone. 

Together, we are the strongest collective of entrepreneurs on the planet. Community over everything.

Many of you have heard me say: we want to arm the rebels, we want to make sure entrepreneurs have everything they need to succeed—this was our objective from the start. And it’s more important now than it’s ever been.

We’ve been thrown a challenge unlike any we’ve seen before. But we’ve shown that it won’t break us. We are not fragile. We are resilient. It’s time for us to step up, to reach out, to build, and work, and push. This is our moment. Right now. Right. Fucking. Now.  

To our merchants, to our partners, and to anyone who ever bought anything from a Shopify store—thank you.

The future of commerce is here. And we are that future, together.