The day Brad Morgan discovered his dairy farm was failing was one of his best. “You’re broke, get out,” he was told. Instead of folding, Morgan said, “What have we got to do to get this right?” And that’s when he began creating a multi-million dollar manure business, “Morgan Composting.”
Morgan’s story is one of three successful entrepreneurial ventures documented in a new film, “The Call of the Entrepreneur,” which premiered to DC audiences last Wednesday at the E Street Theatre as part of the Renaissance Film Festival. It was produced by Action Media and Coldwater Media.
Acton Media is a division of the Action Institute, a think tank focused on the study of religion and liberty. President Rev. Robert A. Sirico authored the paper on which the film was based. Sirico’s arguments are embodied within the three diverse stories of entrepreneuership displayed in the film, according to Michelle Muccio, DC representative for the Acton Institute.
Set to a dramatic soundtrack, the film is sliced into three storylines and narrated in part by “Wealth and Poverty” author George Gilder, who captured the theme of entrepreneurship as a building foundation of society.
“An entrepreneur is the creative force in economics, the person who comes and looks at a desert or a jungle or a wilderness and sees a garden, sees an opportunity to create new value,” Gilder said in the film.
The film elevates capitalism through entrepreneurship as analogous to a divine endeavor and as the means by which all of the benefits of freedom have come to be. Executive Producer Jay Richards said in the film, “You can really think of the first farmers as the first entrepreneuers. Farms would make cities possible and those cities would make civilizations possible and those civilizations would make things like world wide commerce and technology and science and music and philosophy possible.”
Though it initially seems like the tale of the American dream, “The Call of the Entrepreneur” is an international story and is now being translated into Spanish and other languages. In fact, the film experienced its largest premier audience in Nairobi, Kenya with over 450 attendees.
“I think the film appeals to Africans and other non-Americans because it taps into themes that are universal, and appeal to the human spirit,” said Richards.
The film is sharply cut from vibrant sunrises over the Michigan farmland to flashes of New York City’s candy-lit night life and the busy, people-clustered streets of Hong Kong. Entrepreneurship is connected universally through the stories of Morgan to Chinese refugee Jimmy Lai, who tasted freedom in a chocolate bar at the age of 11 and never looked back.
In his lifetime, Lai has forged three distinctively different paths to entrepreneurship, always turning over a new leaf and charging forth with the next idea. He’s acquired success in every idea, including starting a lucrative clothing business, news magazine and media company.
Lai stepped out of poverty in the rural Chinese Guangdong Province toward economic freedom in Hong Kong at the age of 12. The chocolate bar had come from Hong Kong and was “the best thing” he’d ever tasted and so he knew that Hong Kong must be good. He began working in a clothing factory and made his way to New York City at 18.
There, armed with big dreams and a few unexpected mentors, he was presented with a copy of F.A. Hayek’s, “The Road to Serfdom”, which he says injected purpose and passion into his concepts for economic freedom and success. After moving up the management ladder in the garment industry, Lai eventually formed a multi-million dollar clothing company.
After the Tianaman Square massacre, he delved into media. He developed Next Weekly, which became Hong Kong’s leading weekly magazine, believing communication — newspapers and magazines — to be the pinnacle characteristic of freedom.
According to Muccio, the film attempts to show Rev. Sirico’s view that God calls entrepreneurs to help sanctify the world through human work. The stories restore faith in entrepreneurs’ ability to build lives, strengthen nations and economies as well as fulfill God-given destinies. The film denounces the myth that capitalists are self serving, arguing rather that they are almost wholly devoted to others.
A merchant banker featured in the film explains how world lenders actually permit and encourage the dream of the entrepreneur to become a reality. His take on the fluidity and success of Wall Street counters the famous Michael Douglas film of that name that portrays businessmen as callous and selfish — stomping on the little man.
Brad Morgan took an idea he was told would never work, finances he didn’t have, a handful of ambition and cultivated a radically efficient way to produce, package and sell manure when his dairy farm was going down. He thought beyond historical precedence and created a unique product for major profit. That is the entrepreneur: extraordinary and risk taking producers of freedom. His calling is what keeps the world moving.