What is it like to run your own business? Documentary films give you the opportunity to shadow entrepreneurs in diverse fields, from rock ’n’ roll to farming, on your own time. Although their subjects vary wildly, they all tend to deal with the universal challenges that business owners face, such as grappling with competition, growing an operation, and coping with interpersonal issues. Here are six small-business documentaries especially worth watching.
Charcuterie This beautiful short film about the art of curing meat is bound to make you hungry (unless you’re a vegetarian). In it, the Kocurek family of Kocurek Family Charcuterie in Austin, Texas, discusses the history of charcuterie, the inner workings of their delicatessen, and how their artisanal business fits into today’s slow-food movement.
E-Dreams This 2001 documentary about the online convenience store Kozmo.com, which used bike messengers to deliver products to customers within an hour, provides a glimpse into the company’s venture-funded ambitions and subsequent, quick collapse. The film serves as an anecdotal example of the dot-com bubble burst that killed many startups.
Meet Your Farmer In 2010 the Maine Farmland Trust commissioned eight short films focused on small farmers in Maine. The documentaries give farmers the opportunity to shed light on their labor and the challenges of maintaining an old-fashioned job in modern times.
Some Kind of Monster This fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary about the internal power struggles and hiring challenges faced by the members of Metallica isn’t your typical example of a small business. But its themes are likely to ring a bell for any business owner who’s struggled with power dynamics within a company.
Twilight Becomes Night This bittersweet film follows the stories of five family-owned businesses in New York City, including a hardware store, a barbershop, and a florist. As some are forced to close their doors, the film takes a hard look at what the disappearance of small businesses can mean for a community.
The Undertaking This episode of the PBS series Frontline focuses on Lynch & Sons, a family-run funeral home in Michigan. The documentary demonstrates the difficulties of helping clients make end-of-life decisions and offers insight into what happens behind the scenes at a funeral parlor.
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