What is an Entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur is an individual who has identified a need in the marketplace and has come up with an innovative business idea to fill that need.

Entrepreneurs are willing to take on the many risks of implementing their idea, and to also take on the role as leader of their company or organization. They assume full responsibility for the execution, success, or failure of the business.

What does an Entrepreneur do?

An entrepreneur working on her computer at a coffee shop.

Entrepreneurs develop, design, produce, market, and eventually sell businesses with the end goal of financial profit. There are entrepreneurs behind every business in the country, no matter what the size and scope (think Coca Cola, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, McDonald's etc).

Entrepreneurs own and operate everything from small shoe stores to tech startups. A modern day interpretation may associate being an entrepreneur with having an innovative and creative idea for online use, and with someone who can use the power of the internet to fill a niche.

Owning your own business can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling. However, being an entrepreneur also means undertaking a lot of risk and initiative, and inevitably comes with a fair amount of stress and angst. Business owners are most likely to be the first ones at the office and the last to leave, and often put in extra hours in the evening along with forfeiting many of their weekends and holidays to make sure things are running as smoothly as possible.

Entrepreneurship demands having initiative and a strong determination to succeed. It also requires an immense amount of confidence, tenacity, and independence. This may mean making hundreds of cold calls and writing email after email in order to find investors or clients. It may mean learning how to generate social media buzz through online marketing campaigns. Or it may mean negotiating with manufacturers to determine production costs for a product.

There are various types of entrepreneurs:

A business entrepreneur has an idea or product for the business world. It is usually a new or different idea, something that has not been seen before, or something that provides a new twist or improvement for an existing sector.

A social entrepreneur has innovative ideas for social change, or new solutions to social problems, and dedicates their time to bringing these ideas to fruition. This might include issues of inequality or poverty; an example would be to create a new charity to address these issues.

A serial entrepreneur has many ideas and constantly starts up new companies or enterprises to implement those ideas. Generally a serial entrepreneur will have had good success with previous ventures, allowing him/her to start up new ventures.

A lifestyle entrepreneur starts up their idea or venture based on a sport, hobby or pastime they are passionate about. For this type of venture, usually large start-up costs are required. Often people who have been successful in the business world and have some of their own money to invest might make this transition.

While the stereotypical image of an entrepreneur is of someone building a business from the ground up, there are other options as well, such as buying or adding to an existing business (for example, a franchise owner or taking over a family-run business).

It should also be noted that becoming an entrepreneur and having a successful business takes a lot of time. Most businesses are built slowly, over years and even decades. This is not a bad thing, because building and growing slowly presents opportunities to learn and make adjustments. Handling new situations provides invaluable on-the-job entrepreneurship training that no degree program can ever offer.

In short, the best entrepreneurs start with an original idea; a plan and the ability to execute it; passion and relentless determination; and perhaps most importantly, a great deal of patience.

Are you suited to be an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurs have distinct personalities. They tend to be enterprising individuals, which means they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic. They are dominant, persuasive, and motivational. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

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What is the workplace of an Entrepreneur like?

Typically, the workplace of an entrepreneur will be office-based, but it can vary. The size of the workplace will depend on the size of the venture, and may start at home or in a small office and grow to a large corporation.

For some ventures, the workplace will be dependent on the specific idea or industry. For example, a sporting venture may require a sports facility and this would also serve as the workplace.

Frequently Asked Questions

What personality traits do successful entrepreneurs have?

When people dream of being an entrepreneur, they may see themselves as owning and being the boss of a successful and profitable business which offers them the freedom to work how and when they want. Unfortunately, this isn't reality (if it were, everyone would be an entrepreneur).

The truth is that most of us are not cut out to be entrepreneurs, for while it can be incredibly rewarding, it involves an enormous amount of work and takes a lot of grit, determination, and tenacity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that about 20% of new businesses fail in their first year, and about 50% fail in their fifth year. Despite these odds, thousands of new businesses launch every year - some will be extremely successful, some will be able to sustain themselves, and others will fold.

So then, what does it take to run a successful business? When you take a look at the entrepreneurs that run successful businesses, there are a handful of traits that these individuals all have in common. Let's take a look at a few of them:

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines vision as “the ability to see: sight or eyesight, something that you imagine, a picture that you see in your mind, something that you see or dream”. When it comes to being an entrepreneur, vision provides the drive and the courage to explore, to push, to perform, and to have the determination to keep going and eventually succeed. Successful entrepreneurs can articulate the purpose and goals of their business and describe the who, what, where, when and why.

Vision also creates the culture and framework within an organization which is a key component when facing the inevitable ups and downs, and when tenacity and resilience is needed from the founder, the co-founder and the immediate team. Successful entrepreneurs also need to be able to hold onto their vision by not only remaining fully engrossed with their business, but by also surrounding themselves with individuals that will empower them to grow and to push themselves outside of their comfort zone.

Entrepreneurs are individuals who have put their lives and their family's lives on the line to pursue a business idea that has about a 50% chance of succeeding over five years. Taking this path is incredibly challenging and competitive, and requires both determination and motivation. This determination and motivation comes from a drive, deep within, to succeed.

Each entrepreneur's drive is unique to themselves - it could be a drive to make money, to help others, to have autonomy, to create a team of like-minded individuals for a cause, to be competitive, to leave a legacy, or to simply take a risk. However, drive without passion isn't enough to have a successful business.

Undoubtedly, entrepreneurship involves having both vision and drive. However, without a true passion and love for what they do and who they serve, entrepreneurs will find it very difficult to overcome the challenges of starting and running a successful business.

Passion is what pulls entrepreneurs towards a mission, and is what creates the drive they need to have in order to succeed with their business. When an entrepreneur is really passionate about what they do, throwing in the towel and quitting isn’t an option, even when the stress becomes overwhelming and the challenges seem insurmountable.

Passion is what provides entrepreneurs with an alternative and futuristic view of the world, what drives them forward relentlessly, and what is needed to inspire and solidify each employee's commitment to the company.

Young entrepreneur sitting on a skateboard and looking at his computer.

Starting any business requires an entrepreneur to have the confidence to take their first step. But confidence needs to take on an even deeper meaning for entrepreneurs. Exuding a solid and quiet confidence (not to be confused with arrogance or egotism) as an entrepreneur is a very powerful character trait. It establishes feelings of trust and respect amongst employees and investors, and is a determining factor in being able to successfully negotiate and close deals. It can also be tapped into during difficult and challenging times when it is needed the most.

It is easy to have confidence when doing things one is good at or comfortable doing. However, entrepreneurs can only innovate and improve when they open themselves up to uncertainty, accept that things are not always going to be set in stone, and understand that there is always a place for learning and growth. At the end of the day, building confidence as an entrepreneur is something that can be worked on everyday through learning what's best for the business, by taking ownership of the things that can be controlled, and through taking calculated risks.

Humility & Empathy
Nobody likes dealing with egomaniacs - there's nothing more off-putting than people who view themselves as being better than others. Entrepreneurs need to make a conscious effort to keep their feet on the ground during even the most successful accomplishments.

Humility is often mistaken for low self-esteem, however humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking less about yourself. Practicing humility involves being perceptive, self-aware, kind, and empathetic. Entrepreneurs that make it a daily practice to embrace these traits - and are honest about both their strengths and limitations - will reap rewards in the long run.

The golden rule is simple - always treat people the way you want to be treated. The most successful entrepreneurs are able to give credit where credit is due, ask for help where help is needed, admit when they are wrong, and listen to constructive criticism. This makes for a more honest, compassionate and giving person, and ultimately makes for a respected and trusted leader.

Entrepreneurs can reach higher levels of success by keeping an open mind, by being willing to consider different viewpoints, and by giving new processes a try. Welcoming new ideas and perspectives can ultimately help business owners find better solutions to problems and be open and available to more opportunities that may benefit them in the long run. Being open-minded goes hand-in-hand with being humble, as being able to see past personal ingrained beliefs and letting go of one's ego can allow an entrepreneur to pivot quickly and take advantage of opportunities that may not have been part of an original plan.

Many entrepreneurs have room for improvement when it comes to being open-minded, as overcoming the need to be in control can be hard to do. Admitting to not knowing it all can procure a somewhat vulnerable feeling. However, developing an open mind can result in a strong sense of self without being confined by personal beliefs or the ideologies of others.

An effective entrepreneur and leader needs to be able to make a decision quickly yet effectively. An entrepreneur taking too long to make a decision due to their fear of making a wrong decision is a huge negative for any organization. Not making a decision is a decision in itself. Uncertainty, procrastination, and indecisiveness can only create anxiety and insecurity within an organization.

A leader is better off saying 'yes' or 'no' more often than 'maybe', even though some decisions won't end up being the right ones. Being decisive does not mean being impulsive or careless - it means being able to consider all pertinent facts relating to the decision-making process without over-analyzing or delaying a decision unnecessarily.

What entrepreneurs do need to spend time on is figuring out their long-term vision. A clear vision of the future will make all the smaller day-to-day decisions that much easier, as each smaller decision is either moving the company in the right direction or will end up being an important lesson to learn in order to achieve the vision. A clear long-term vision will also serve as a guide and a filter - with this foundation, many questions will answer themselves, which is faster than time spent engaged in an exhaustive mental debate.

The world of entrepreneurship is guaranteed to have downfalls and obstacles along the way. The defining characteristic of a successful entrepreneur is their level of optimism and how they turn these downfalls into something positive.

“All of my best successes came on the heels of a failure, so I’ve learned to look at each belly flop as the beginning of something good,” said Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group and Shark on Shark Tank. “If you just hang in there, you’ll find that something is right around the corner. It’s that belief that keeps me motivated. I’ve learned not to feel sorry for myself, ever. Just five minutes of feeling sorry for yourself takes your power away and makes you unable to see the next opportunity.”

Optimism helps entrepreneurs deal with problems more effectively by focusing on the solutions rather than dwelling on issues. Optimism supports creative thinking and the generation of new ideas, produces a tendency to act, boosts confidence and persistence, and makes it easier to bounce back after failure.

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How long does it take to become an Entrepreneur?

There is no definitive answer to this question because entrepreneurship is not necessarily achieved via degrees, internships, and professional certifications. On the other hand, it can be advanced by one or all of these. Becoming an entrepreneur often – but not always – involves completing at least a four-year bachelor’s degree. After that, entrepreneurs’ paths to success vary dramatically. Depending on their industry or business, some pursue graduate degrees; some take standalone courses to further their knowledge; others are largely self-taught.

This is one of those careers in which the number of practitioners may equal the number of routes taken to enter it. This is perhaps best explained by recognizing that entrepreneurship is more a state of being and a way of living than it is a career. And there is no timeline for how to be or how to live.

Are Entrepreneurs happy?

Entrepreneurs rank among the happiest careers. Overall they rank in the 93rd percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.

This notably high happiness quotient among entrepreneurs may very well be connected to the freedom, independence, and self-expression that generally depict entrepreneurship.

What are Entrepreneurs like?

Based on our pool of users, Entrepreneurs tend to be predominately enterprising people. This finding, of course, is entirely expected. The words ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘enterprising’ are inextricably linked. They both have their origin in Old French ‘entreprendre,’ meaning ‘to undertake;’ and in modern French entrepreneur is often translated as adventurer and contractor.

Should I become an Entrepreneur?

It has been said that there are two kinds of people in the world: entrepreneurs and everyone else. The dictionary says an entrepreneur is one who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk in a business venture in expectation of gaining the profit. In wider terms, entrepreneurs are the creators who live on their own terms. And more often than not, they share these traits:

They are independent and comfortable with times of isolation.
They are visionaries.
They are self-starters.
They are disciplined.
They are both confident and insecure.
They are creative and resourceful.
They are open-minded.
They are willing to take risks.
They are skilled at building relationships.
They don’t need to be liked.
They are planners.
They are smart budgeters.
They are promoters of their ideas.
They are lifelong learners.
They are delegators.
They embrace doing the little things to achieve the big things.
They are time managers.
They are communicators and they speak their mind.
They are dreamers, but not daydreamers.
They are passionate about problems and obsess over solutions.
They are persevering.
They are adventurous.
They are competitive.
They are flexible.
They read a lot.
They are patient and don’t mind being uncomfortable.
They can work from anywhere.
They enjoy deep conversations and debate.
They seek out feedback, advisors, and people that are smarter than they are.
They love to conduct research.
They look for opportunities and embrace change.

This list of characteristics is long. But it is not exhaustive, because the nature of entrepreneurship is that it continuously evolves to meet the needs of our ever changing world. Those among us who seek to enter this realm of venture and adventure must be prepared to face and accept its demands before reaping its rewards.

A great resource for aspiring entrepreneurs is Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, in which he asks the question, ‘What makes high-achievers different?’ Gladwell is a Canadian journalist, author, and public speaker. Since 1996 he has been a staff writer for The New Yorker. This ‘Outliers’ Study Guide summarizes and analyzes the book.

While thinking about the entrepreneur career path, consider and take inspiration from the stories of these renowned business leaders:

Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Drew Houston, Dropbox
Fredrick Smith, FedEx
Larry Page, Google
Joe Coulombe, Trader Joe’s
Kevin Plank, Under Armour
Bill Gates, Microsoft

Steps to becoming an Entrepreneur

As noted in the section above, entrepreneurship is more a state of being and a way of living than it is a career. The steps to becoming an entrepreneur, therefore, have their foundation in an entrepreneurial spirit instead of a specific and inflexible educational track.

Entrepreneurs are also known as:
Business Operator Business Leader Innovator Disruptive Innovator Business Entrepreneur Social Entrepreneur Serial Entrepreneur Lifestyle Entrepreneur