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So You Want to Be an Entrepreneur?
- Emily Heyward
One founder’s advice on what you should know before you quit your day job.
Starting a business is not easy, and scaling it is even harder. You may think you’re sitting on a completely original idea, but chances are the same cultural forces that led you to your business plan are also influencing someone else. That doesn’t mean you should give up, or that you should rush to market before you’re ready. It’s not about who’s first, it’s about who does it best, and best these days is the business that delivers the most value to the consumer. Consumers have more power and choice than ever before, and they’re going to choose and stick with the companies who are clearly on their side. How will you make their lives easier, more pleasant, more meaningful? How will you go out of your way for them at every turn? When considering your competitive advantage, start with the needs of the people you’re ultimately there to serve. If you have a genuine connection to your idea, and you’re solving a real problem in a way that adds more value to people’s lives, you’re well on your way.
When I graduated from college in 2001, I didn’t have a single friend whose plan was to start his or her own business. Med school, law school, finance, consulting: these were the coveted jobs, the clear paths laid out before us. I took a job in advertising, which was seen as much more rebellious than the reality. I worked in advertising for a few years, and learned an incredible amount about how brands get built and communicated. But I grew restless and bored, tasked with coming up with new campaigns for old and broken products that lacked relevance, unable to influence the products themselves. During that time, I was lucky to have an amazing boss who explained a simple principle that fundamentally altered my path. What she told me was that stress is not about how much you have on your plate; it’s about how much control you have over the outcomes. Suddenly I realized why every Sunday night I was overcome with a feeling of dread. It wasn’t because I had too much going on at work. It was because I had too little power to effect change.
Thirteen years later, I have been fortunate enough to co-found a branding business, and to partner with some of the world’s best entrepreneurs, helping them launch and grow their businesses with brand baked in from the start. As a founder who works alongside many other founders, I’ve seen firsthand what leads to success, as well as what can go wrong. Here are a few principles that I’ve learned along the way, that aspiring entrepreneurs should consider before sending that “I quit!” email that you’ve been fantasizing about:
Identify a problem that you feel driven to solve.
Starting a business is not easy, and scaling it is even harder. But the strongest fuel is a personal connection to what you’re doing. It could be that you have experience working in an industry and understand its shortcomings firsthand. Or perhaps you’re part of a consumer segment that’s underserved by the current offerings. Maybe you’re simply met with a very specific frustration every day, that others are sure to share. However you come to your idea, you should feel like you have no choice but to start this particular business at this moment in time. It will make the mornings when you wake up and wish that it was someone else’s problem much easier to bear.
Consider your role as founder.
More than ever, people care deeply about who’s behind the companies they’re purchasing from. It’s hard to feel a personal connection to a nameless, faceless corporation, and far more rewarding to support brands that are built by individuals with a compelling story. Particularly on social media, so many brands gain traction by having their founders front and center as part of the narrative: speaking to their experiences, demonstrating humility and vulnerability, and putting a human face to the business. This doesn’t mean that in order to start a company you need to be prepared to be a public persona who reveals every aspect of your private life. However, a willingness to communicate directly with your consumers, in whatever form that takes, goes a long way towards establishing an authentic relationship. It gives people a reason not just to love your product, but to root for your company’s success.
Don’t go it alone.
I’m of the opinion that 99.99% of people who are starting businesses should have a co-founder. No matter how much you trust your team, you can never be completely honest about your fears, nor fully share the burden of responsibility when things get difficult. Not to mention the advantage that comes from bringing together complementary skill sets, and the better outcomes that are driven through healthy debate. What’s more, being a founder can be lonely. As everyone’s boss, it becomes very challenging to form real friendships at work — you certainly can’t bond by complaining about leadership anymore. If a co-founder isn’t in the cards, do everything you can to surround yourself with trusted advisors, mentors, and other entrepreneurs.
Determine how you’ll add value to people’s lives.
The startup landscape has gotten so competitive that within one month, you’ll see three nearly identical businesses launch. You may think you’re sitting on a completely original idea, but chances are the same cultural forces that led you to your business plan are also influencing someone else, at this very moment. That doesn’t mean you should give up, or that you should rush to market before you’re ready. It’s not about who’s first, it’s about who does it best, and best these days is the business that delivers the most value to the consumer. Consumers have more power and choice than ever before, and they’re going to choose and stick with the companies who are clearly on their side. How will you make their lives easier, more pleasant, more meaningful? How will you go out of your way for them at every turn? When considering your competitive advantage, start with the needs of the people you’re ultimately there to serve.
Take the plunge.
When my co-founder and I started our company, Red Antler, I wasn’t married and didn’t have kids, and while I had to dramatically cut back on my spending, I could live on the amount we were getting from our first couple of clients. However, everyone’s financial situation is different, along with the size (or lack thereof) of their safety nets. But what doesn’t work, at least not in the long-run, is to dip a toe in. I understand completely the temptation of keeping your day job until you’ve gotten your business off the ground. However, founding a company is more like having five jobs than one part-time job. If you try to do this “on the side,” it will take you much longer to reach any kind of milestone where you feel comfortable enough to quit your day job, and that milestone may never come. All the while, your competition is gaining traction. So whether you need investment, a loan, or a creative way to get some short term revenue (I moderated a lot of focus groups in the early days of Red Antler), recognize that the very long, exhilarating, terrifying, exhausting, but oh-so-rewarding journey ahead of you only begins when you fully commit to your vision and take control of your outcome.
There’s never been a more exciting time to start a new business: consumers aren’t just open to new brands, they’re craving them. Expectations have been raised across the board, with people demanding more transparency, value, accountability, and delight from the brands with whom they engage. Every category is ripe for disruption, waiting for the next business to come along and improve upon the status quo. However, it’s also never been more competitive. The barriers to entry for starting a new business keep getting lower, as technology becomes more accessible and user friendly. Does the world need any other startup? No. But does the world need your startup? It very well may! If you have a genuine connection to your idea, and you’re solving a real problem in a way that adds more value to people’s lives, you’re well on your way.
- EH Emily Heyward is the author of Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love from Day One (Portfolio; June 9, 2020). She is the co-founder and chief brand officer at Red Antler, a full-service brand company based in Brooklyn. Emily was named among the Most Important Entrepreneurs of the Decade by Inc. magazine, and has also been recognized as a Top Female Founder by Inc. and one of Entrepreneur’s Most Powerful Women of 2019.
What is Entrepreneurship? Entrepreneur Definition and Meaning
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While the definition of entrepreneurship has stayed constant for decades, the possibilities for aspiring entrepreneurs sure have come a long way.
Think about it: 100 years ago, what options did an entrepreneur have? If you didn’t have the skill to make something or the capital to buy wholesale products to resell, you were out of luck.
Fast forward to the 2023—there are 582 million entrepreneurs in the world. And there’s a simple reason behind this growth in entrepreneurship: the opportunities have exploded.
Today, we’ll take a closer look at what it means to be an entrepreneur. You’ll also hear from some modern-day online entrepreneurs who explain how they took the leap and how you can follow suit.
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What is entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is the act of creating a business or businesses while bearing all the risks with the hope of making a profit.
But as a basic definition, that one is a bit limiting. The more modern entrepreneurship definition is also about transforming the world by solving big problems like bringing about social change or creating an innovative product that challenges the status quo of how we live our lives on a daily basis.
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Entrepreneurship is what people do to take their career into their hands and lead it in the direction they want.
It’s about building a life on your own terms . No bosses. No restricting schedules. And no one holding you back. Entrepreneurs are able to take the first step into making the world a better place—for everyone in it, including themselves.
Importance of entrepreneurship
Why is entrepreneurship so important? Let’s look at a few of the top reasons.
- Entrepreneurs create jobs: Without entrepreneurs, jobs wouldn’t exist. Entrepreneurs take on the risk of employing themselves. Their ambition to grow their business eventually leads to the creation of new jobs . As their business continues to grow, even more jobs are created.
- Entrepreneurs innovate : Some of the greatest technologies in today’s society have come from businesses. Technological advances come from a need to solve problems, create efficiencies, or improve the world. In periods where there’s more advancement in technology, there’s usually an entrepreneur to thank for it.
- Entrepreneurs create change: Entrepreneurs dream big—many aim to make the world better with their products, ideas, or businesses. So naturally, some of their ideas will make a worldwide change. They might create a new product that solves a burning problem or takes on the challenge of exploring something never explored before.
- Entrepreneurs give to society: While some have a notion of the rich being evil and greedy, they often do more for the greater good than the average person. They make more money and thus pay more taxes, which helps fund social services. Entrepreneurs are some of the biggest donors to charities and nonprofits for various causes. Some seek to invest their money in creating solutions to help poorer communities have access to things we take for granted, like clean drinking water and good health care.
- Entrepreneurs add to national income: Entrepreneurship generates new wealth in an economy. New ideas and improved products or services from entrepreneurs allow for the growth of new markets and new wealth.
What is an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur is a person who sets up a business with the aim to make a profit.
This entrepreneur definition is a bit vague, but for good reason. An entrepreneur can be a person who has a home business idea and sets up their first online store on the side, or a freelancer just starting out.
The reason why they’re considered entrepreneurs—though some disagree—is because where you start out isn’t necessarily where you’ll end up.
But if your entrepreneurial mindset is focused on creating a profitable business, you fit the entrepreneur definition.
Entrepreneurs are some of the world’s most powerful transformers. From Elon Musk sending people to Mars to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs making computers part of every household, entrepreneurs imagine the world differently.
Entrepreneurs see possibilities and solutions where the average person sees only annoyances and problems.
Understanding what an entrepreneur is can help more people recognize the value they can — and already — contribute to the world.
Common traits for entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs have certain characteristics that set them apart from other individuals. The majority of people who pursue entrepreneurship:
- Think creatively
- Enjoy freedom and flexibility
- Understand basic finance principles
- Are ambitious and goal oriented
- Take self initiative
- Are problem solvers
Why do people become entrepreneurs?
Every entrepreneur has their own “why” that drove them into being their own boss. Whether entrepreneurs need more freedom or to make an impact, they all take control of their lives by living on their own terms.
Here are a few of the reasons why people become entrepreneurs:
- To change the world: Many entrepreneurs strive to make the world better. Whether entrepreneurs believe in space exploration, eliminating poverty, or creating a practical but game-changing product, they ultimately build a brand in the service of others. Some entrepreneurs use their business as a way to raise capital quickly to funnel into their noble causes.
- They don’t want a boss: Entrepreneurs often struggle with having a boss. They might feel suffocated and held back. Some entrepreneurs may feel they have a more effective way of doing things. Others may dislike the lack of creative freedom. Ultimately, they become attracted to entrepreneurship to succeed on their own terms. Check out 10 Obvious Signs You Should Be Working for Yourself .
- They want flexible hours: Entrepreneurship is popular with those who need flexible hours. For example, many people with disabilities enjoy entrepreneurship, allowing them to work when they can. Parents can raise their children at home or pick them up from school without feeling guilty. Students get the flexibility to work around their demanding schedules and courseloads.
- They want to work from anywhere: Along with flexibility in working hours, entrepreneurship is popular among those who don’t want to be tied down to a specific location. Entrepreneurs might not want to work from the same place every day, as this can get boring fast.
- They can’t get a job: Many find a path into entrepreneurship when they can’t get a job. Instead of being defeated by the situation, they create new opportunities for themselves. New graduates might start an online store the summer after graduation to gain some practical experience. A parent laid off in the coronavirus economy might start a business to ensure they can continue feeding their family while keeping a roof over their heads.
- They don’t fit into the corporate environment: Entrepreneurs often say that stuffy corporate environments restrict their growth. You can spot an entrepreneur in a corporate environment as they usually try to gain more control in their role and better understand how everything fits together.
- They’re curious: Entrepreneurs love finding out the answer to the question, “What will happen if …” They’re experimental and love learning. They regularly read business books to advance their knowledge. So naturally, entrepreneurship appeals to them because pursuing it allows them to learn the most in the shortest amount of time. Their curiosity allows their continued growth.
- They’re ambitious: Those who love reaching difficult goals and milestones are made to be entrepreneurs. Since there’s no limit to what they can achieve, entrepreneurs constantly find their projects growing bigger and better than they ever imagined. When obstacles come up, they find a workaround to their goal. They’re unstoppable.
How can I be a successful entrepreneur?
Let’s take a look at the top tips shared by startup entrepreneurs, and how you can use these tips to become successful.
Dez Stephens of Radiant Health Institute shares, “The one piece of advice I’d give someone who wants to be an entrepreneur is to start your business with no debt and no overhead. That’s how I started my company six years ago, and it greatly increased my inevitable success.”
Keval Baxi of Codal Inc. says, “One piece of advice that I’d give to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur is to be reliable. If you say you’re going to do something, do it.
“Leaders and managers that don’t follow through fail to gain the respect of their team and don’t encourage accountability. Make sure your team knows you’ll be there when you’re needed.”
Chrys Tan of Mindfuel Community says, “The one piece of advice that I would give to an entrepreneur would be to embrace failure. Failure is guaranteed when you are an entrepreneur, whether it is the failure to meet a number of targeted sales or even the failure of a business.
“But if you know that experiencing failure is guaranteed when running a business, you wouldn’t fear failure but embrace failure instead. When you embrace failure, you take on more risks, and you move past failures faster as well.”
Examples of Entrepreneurs
Let’s take a look at some examples of entrepreneurs.
Walter Elias Disney became one of the most well-known names in the world. You know him from the Walt Disney Company and theme parks like Disneyland and Walt Disney World. His brand started with Mickey Mouse and eventually expanded to include thousands of characters and whimsical fantasy worlds.
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. He faced challenges like loads of commercial failures, but he kept pushing through and stayed committed to his vision.
Mark Zuckerberg created several products before building Facebook. He created an instant messaging tool that his father used in his dentistry practice to communicate with his receptionist.
Zuckerberg also created music software that Microsoft and AOL were interested in buying, even though he was only a teenager. Within a year of Facebook’s founding, it already had one million users. Today, Mark Zuckerberg has a net worth of $65.7 billion.
Sara Blakely first started the Spanx brand in 1998. She was one of the first creators of women’s leggings. Her brand specializes in shapewear and includes items like bras, panties, and hosiery.
She’s also the inventor of arm tights, which allow women to wear their summer clothing year-round. At one point, Blakely was the youngest self-made female billionaire.
Entrepreneurship ideas for 2023
As a startup entrepreneur, there are so many ideas you can pursue depending on the business skills you already have and what you’re willing to learn. Here are a handful of business ideas to get you started:
- Ecommerce store owner
- Freelancer ( write a blog , accountant, designer)
- Teaching (online courses, author)
- App creator ( chatbots , social media apps)
- Service-based business (food delivery, cleaning, dog walking)
- Consultant-based business (wedding planner, life coach)
- Apartment rentals (Airbnb)
- Marketing businesses ( influencer marketing , SEO brands, PR firms)
- Affiliate marketing ( Amazon Affiliate , Clickbank, etc.)
- Blogger (Product reviews, niche blog, magazine)
- Vlogger ( start a YouTube channel , Twitch)
- Flipper ( domain name , website, house)
- Gig economy (driver, Fiverr)
- Real estate agent (condos, houses, commercial)
- Photographer ( product photography , sell photos)
- Stock Broker (buying and selling stocks)
- Website flipper
- Reseller business
How real entrepreneurs define entrepreneurship
Let’s take a look at what real entrepreneurs have to say about the meaning of entrepreneurship, and what it means to them on a personal level.
Founder and CEO of NeuroFlow Christopher Molaro says, “Entrepreneurship means being the one who is willing to take a leap and work hard enough to sacrifice everything else around them, all in the name of solving problems, because no one else is capable or possesses the desire.”
The meaning of entrepreneurship is slightly different for Jolijt Tamanaha , VP of Growth at Fresh Prints, who shares, “Entrepreneurs make their way down a never-ending list of problems with grit, passion, and energy. While intense, being an entrepreneur means you get to live life learning an incredible amount and maximize your impact on the world because you have to tackle the hardest problems.”
Here’s how Nicole Faith, Founder of 10 Carat Creations , breaks it down: “Being an entrepreneur means having a plan and vision but still succeeding or trying to succeed when the plan falls apart and you’re left with only your vision. It also means knowing when to give up, especially if your idea isn’t working due to external forces.”
According to James Sandoval, Founder, and CEO of Measure Match : “Being an entrepreneur means diving headlong into a [likely very risky] venture of your own making, working hard, long hours, often alone, to carve out a path to success and never, ever giving up.”
Entrepreneurship quotes for inspiration
Need some inspiration? Here are some popular entrepreneur quotes to keep you lit up and ready to go.
“The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” — Peter Drucker
“Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.” — Niccolo Machiavelli
“From my very first day as an entrepreneur, I’ve felt the only mission worth pursuing in business is to make people’s lives better.” — Richard Branson
“A person who sees a problem is a human being; a person who finds a solution is visionary; and the person who goes out and does something about it is an entrepreneur.” — Naveen Jain
“An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.” —Reid Hoffman
“The number one reason why people fail in life is because they listen to their friends, family, and neighbors.” — Napoleon Hill
“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” — Scott Belsky
“There’s lots of bad reasons to start a company. But there’s only one good, legitimate reason, and I think you know what it is: it’s to change the world.” — Phil Libin
“Being an entrepreneur is a mindset. You have to see things as opportunities all the time. I like to do interviews. I like to push people on certain topics. I like to dig into the stories where there’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer.” — Soledad O’Brien
For more quotes about entrepreneurship, check out our post of best motivational quotes for entrepreneurs .
Are you ready to be an entrepreneur?
There’s no single right way to be an entrepreneur. These people come in all shapes and sizes and can influence virtually any aspect of life as we know it.
In a sphere with so much diversity, there are a few things that all entrepreneurs have in common: they’re full of passion and ambition, and they use these as a driving force to build empires that solve some of the world’s toughest problems.
If you’re looking to make your mark on the world or advance society—or even break free from the exhausting and inflexible 9-to-5 job, you just might be an entrepreneur in the making.
Trust your gut, follow your instincts, and always keep your mind open to learning and exploring new opportunities that come your way.
What is entrepreneurship FAQ
What is the meaning of entrepreneurship.
The meaning of entrepreneurship involves an entrepreneur who takes action to make a change in the world. Whether startup entrepreneurs solve a problem that many struggle with each day, bring people together in a way no one has before, or build something revolutionary that advances society, they all have one thing in common: action.
It’s not some idea that’s stuck in your head. Entrepreneurs take the idea and execute it. Entrepreneurship is about the execution of ideas.
What are the different types of entrepreneurship?
- Small-business entrepreneurship
- Hustler entrepreneurship
- Large company entrepreneurship
- Researcher entrepreneurship
- Innovative entrepreneurship
- Scalable startup entrepreneurship
- Social entrepreneurship
What is the entrepreneurial mindset?
The entrepreneurial mindset is a person’s attitude to building an independent business. It means having an open mind and questioning everything in the hopes of creating something unique and innovative.
Want to learn more?
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What is entrepreneurship, friday, september 20, 2019.
If you ask most people about their impression of entrepreneurship, they might use words like “small business” or “innovation” or describe it as “working for yourself.” Some may go beyond that and paint a picture of an audacious Silicon Valley founder who boldly takes risks and tirelessly overcomes challenges.
For others, an entrepreneur is a free-spirited rebel who makes his or her own way in the business world. All these things help give color to the canvas of entrepreneurship, but they don't paint a complete picture of the thing itself.
So, what is entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurs are often viewed as innovators or even pioneers of new industries.
Simply put, entrepreneurship is the endeavor of creating, owning, and commercializing an idea, technology, product, or service, as well as assuming the risks and rewards associated with that enterprise.
It’s an undertaking fraught with uncertainty, offering no guarantees. So, if launching a business is so challenging and uncertain, why is entrepreneurship so alluring? To answer that, let’s look at the aspects of entrepreneurship and traits of founders that paint a more vivid picture of entrepreneurship.
The Relationship between Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Entrepreneurs are often viewed as innovators or even pioneers of new industries. Sometimes innovation is not a new technology, like an autonomous vehicle, but a new application or process. Amazon is now one of the largest companies in the world, but it started by simply selling books online instead of in brick and mortar stores.
Uber disrupted the taxi industry not by launching a fleet of cabs but by developing a ride-hailing app. In addition to bold, disruptive innovations, successful entrepreneurs innovate by striving to continually improve processes, reduce costs, or make products better. Entrepreneurs are associated with innovation because innovating gives the founder’s company a competitive advantage and offers entrepreneurs an outlet for their creativity.
How Entrepreneurship Is Different from Employment
Responsibility. Founders are often the first chief executive officers of their startup. The founder will be responsible for seemingly endless decisions ranging from hiring and firing to product design and purchasing commercial insurance. The founder may, at times, be the visionary who lays out the mission of the company. But at other times, he or she will be mired in the unglamorous tasks of regulatory compliance, tax and financial reporting, and other tedious but necessary duties.
And unlike an employee who is confident he will receive a direct deposit of his salary each pay period, an entrepreneur bears the burden of making payroll every month—even if she is not personally drawing a salary. When the founder is also the CEO, the buck stops with her. An entrepreneur’s work is never done. When a decision needs to be made, she has to make it, even after closing time.
An employee may lose the source of their paycheck, but the entrepreneur might lose his or her entire investment. Compensation. Employees, from the entry-level associate to the C-suite executive, are typically guaranteed a steady monthly salary. The trade-off for this steady income is that employees may not participate in the proceeds of the sale of a company nor are they commonly guaranteed a raise if the company’s profits grow.
By contrast, it’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to forgo salary despite working very long hours during the startup phase of a business. Founders are willing to do this because they have skin in the game. We call that “equity.” According to private equity researcher Matthew Brach, equity is “the right to all residual cash flow of an entity after all other liabilities and debts have been satisfied; but it’s also the basic form of ownership. Equity equals ownership.”
A founder is willing to make sacrifices in the short-term based on the hope of a future financial reward—which is sometimes quite substantial. When the founder eventually exits through a sale of the company, he or she will reap most, if not all, of the financial gains from the sale.
Risk of Failure. The other side of the coin is that entrepreneurs bear the risk of failure. While founders enjoy the greatest upside in an endeavor, they also have the most to lose. An entrepreneur invests time into a business, which can prove valuable in terms of opportunity cost.
However, founders often deploy personal wealth and capital to get the business off the ground, representing a significant monetary cost. The reality is that many businesses fail, and there's no guarantee that when a business closes down the entrepreneur will recoup the value of the time and capital they have invested in that business. An employee may lose the source of their paycheck, but the entrepreneur might lose his or her entire investment (which is sometimes the bulk of their life savings).
What Does an Entrepreneur Look Like?
Anyone who launches a new business, whether an environmental inspections company in Houston or a gaming startup in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, is an entrepreneur. According to a Harvard Business School analysis , entrepreneurs tend to share certain traits, such as a dogged commitment to hard work, resilient determination, and high-risk tolerance. They’re also self-assured and more open to new experiences.
While these traits are commonly shared by founders, they’re no litmus test for a would-be entrepreneur. Instead, developing these traits may allow a budding entrepreneur to intentionally cultivate entrepreneurial qualities even if they don’t come by them naturally.
Part of the allure of being your own boss is the ability to define success as you see fit.
Essentially, anyone with time, talent, and capital can become an entrepreneur if they take the leap of faith and start a business. Whether the founder’s business plan is brand new or it’s building upon a time-tested model, the entrepreneur must do the hard work of taking it from the theoretical into the tangible, recognizing that without this transformation, the idea’s potential remains unrealized. This means an entrepreneur will need a deep store of personal initiative and the acumen to see their idea through.
As we have previously written , most entrepreneurs start their businesses with funds from their own savings, as well as help from friends and family. To build something more than a small lifestyle business, a founder may need to accept outside finance.
There are various sources of capital for early-stage and emerging companies, including loans or equity investments from angel investors , and at a later stage, venture capital and private equity . Accepting investors’ dollars comes with strings attached, but investors and the capital they provide are an integral part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, sometimes multiplying the market impact a founder would otherwise be able to have.
Beyond Small Business
As mentioned earlier, people often associate entrepreneurship with small business. While this is true in many cases, the two terms aren’t synonymous. Many entrepreneurs don’t merely seek to be their own bosses. These growth-oriented founders aspire to develop a very large business or even become a unicorn, a startup business valued at over $1 billion, such as WeWork, Airbnb, and Epic Games. So, whether a business is among the 89 percent that have fewer than 20 workers or the company becomes an elite “unicorn,” each of these businesses could be considered a success on its own terms.
How Do You Define Success?
Part of the allure of being your own boss is the ability to define success as you see fit. Traditionally, entrepreneurs measure success based on their income, the growth in their personal wealth, or some other financial metric. But the free market also means that an entrepreneur can define success in subjective, personal terms.
An entrepreneur may judge her own success by commercializing a product that improves lives, provides employment to dozens or hundreds of people, or creates financial security and prosperity for the entrepreneur and her children.
Alternatively, a business owner may judge success based on the company’s social impact. This concept is often called social enterprise. Social enterprise revolves around “addressing a basic unmet need or solv[ing] a social or environmental problem through a market-driven approach.”
Why Pursue Entrepreneurship?
Enjoying the fruits of one’s labor, passing financial security to children, or blessing others with charitable giving are powerful incentives for many entrepreneurs.
People choose to become entrepreneurs for a variety of reasons, but there are a few primary motivators that nearly half of all entrepreneurs cite as being a major factor in their decision to launch a business. At the top of the list is the ability to be one’s own boss and the possibility of greater income. Entrepreneurs also say achieving a work/family life balance and creating an outlet for their ideas are very important factors in their decision to start a business.
Although entrepreneurship includes many sacrifices and challenges, it can be very rewarding, both financially and personally. The founder/CEO of a successful startup may earn a lucrative annual income, combining a salary and dividends. Perhaps even more appealing to founders, it has the potential to generate wealth that can be passed on to one’s children and grandchildren or given to advance philanthropic pursuits.
Ready to Launch?
Preparing for entrepreneurship starts with embracing the conviction that owning and operating a business is attainable. Even before settling on a business plan, a budding founder can begin preparing by developing common entrepreneurial traits like grit, determination, and a tolerance for failure.
Beyond these personal qualities, a would-be entrepreneur should set out to learn the technical skills within their chosen industry and financial skills that will be critical to managing their business, as well as the soft skills, like effective communication and wise decision-making, that will be required when leading a company.
It takes time, talent, and capital to successfully launch a business. With careful preparation, a commitment to continual learning, cultivating industry experience and know-how, and fostering the qualities unique to gritty go-getters, an aspiring founder can begin their own journey toward entrepreneurship.
Doug McCullough is a corporate attorney at the Texas law firm, McCullough Sudan, and is a director of the Lone Star Policy Institute. Doug is a co-host of The Urbane Cowboys, a podcast on policy, society, and innovation. He is a National Review Institute Regional Fellow and Better Cities Project Fellow. He is a regular contributor to Foundation for Economic Education, and has been published in Entrepreneur, The Hill, Washington Examiner, Arc Digital, Houston Chronicle, and San Antonio Express.
Brooke Medina serves as director of communications for Civitas Institute, a state-based public policy organization dedicated to the ideas of limited government and liberty. She sits on the board of ReCity Network, a non-profit committed to helping social entrepreneurs and community organizations tackle issues related to poverty. Brooke’s writing has been published in outlets such as The Hill, Entrepreneur, Washington Examiner, Daily Signal, FEE, and Intellectual Takeout.
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