The Nature of Entrepreneurship

If we look a little more closely at the definition of entrepreneurship, we can identify three characteristics of entrepreneurial activity:[1]

  1. Innovation. Entrepreneurship generally means offering a new product, applying a new technique or technology, opening a new market, or developing a new form of organization for the purpose of producing or enhancing a product.
  2. Running a business. A business, as we saw in Chapter 1 “The Foundations of Business,” combines resources to produce goods or services. Entrepreneurship means setting up a business to make a profit.
  3. Risk-taking. The term risk means that the outcome of the entrepreneurial venture can’t be known. Entrepreneurs, therefore, are always working under a certain degree of uncertainty, and they can’t know the outcomes of many of their decisions. Consequently, many of the steps they take are motivated mainly by their confidence in the innovation and in their understanding of the business environment in which they’re operating.

It is easy to recognize these characteristics in the entrepreneurial experience of the craft brewers. They certainly had an innovative idea. But was it a good business idea? In a practical sense, a “good” business idea has to become something more than just an idea. If, like Collective Arts, you’re interested in generating income from your idea, you’ll probably need to turn it into a product—something that you can market because it satisfies a need. If you want to develop a product, you’ll need some kind of organization to coordinate the resources necessary to make it a reality (in other words, a business). Risk enters the equation when you make the decision to start up a business and when you commit yourself to managing it.

To jumpstart your thinking around entrepreneurship, take this short quiz to align your thinking to Richard Branson, Warren Buffett, Marissa Mayer, or another famous businessperson. Please note: This quiz is very general and not scientific. It is just to prompt your thinking.

A Few Things to Know About Going into Business for Yourself

Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook while a student at Harvard. By age 27 he built up a personal wealth of $13.5 billion. By age 31, his net worth was $37.5 billion. Regardless of hurdles his company faced in early 2018, his success as an entrepreneur is solidified.

So what about you? Do you ever wonder what it would be like to start your own business? You might even turn into a “serial entrepreneur” like Marcia Kilgore.[2] After high school, she moved from Canada to New York City to attend Columbia University. But when her financial aid was delayed, Marcia abandoned her plans to attend college and took a job as a personal trainer (a natural occupation for a former bodybuilder and middleweight title holder). But things got boring in the summer when her wealthy clients left the city for the Hamptons. To keep busy, she took a skin care course at a Manhattan cosmetology institute. As a teenager, she was self-conscious about her complexion and wanted to know how to treat it herself. She learned how to give facials and work with natural remedies. She started giving facials to her fitness clients who were thrilled with the results. As demand for her services exploded, she started her first business—Bliss Spa—and picked up celebrity clients, including Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, and Jennifer Lopez. The business went international, and she sold it for more than $30 million.[3]

But the story doesn’t end here; she launched two more companies: Soap and Glory, a supplier of affordable beauty products sold at Target, and FitFlops, which sells sandals that tone and tighten your leg muscles as you walk. Oprah loves Kilgore’s sandals and plugged them on her show.[4] You can’t get a better endorsement than that. Kilgore never did finish college, but when asked if she would follow the same path again, she said, “If I had to decide what to do all over again, I would make the same choices…I found by accident what I’m good at, and I’m glad I did.”

So, a few questions to consider if you want to go into business for yourself:

  • How do I come up with a business idea?
  • Should I build a business from scratch, buy an existing business, or invest in a franchise?
  • What steps are involved in developing a business plan?
  • Where could I find help in getting my business started?
  • How can I increase the likelihood that I’ll succeed?

In this chapter, we’ll provide some answers to questions like these.

Why Start Your Own Business?

What sort of characteristics distinguishes those who start businesses from those who don’t? Or, more to the point, why do some people actually follow through on the desire to start up their own businesses? The most common reasons for starting a business are the following:

  • To be your own boss
  • To accommodate a desired lifestyle
  • To achieve financial independence
  • To enjoy creative freedom
  • To use your skills and knowledge

How can you translate characteristics into potential success? Experts suggest that you assess your strengths and weaknesses by asking yourself a few relevant questions:[5]

  • Am I a self-starter? You’ll need to develop and follow through on your ideas.
  • How well do I get along with different personalities? Strong working relationships with a variety of people are crucial.
  • How good am I at making decisions? Especially under pressure…..
  • Do I have the physical and emotional stamina? Expect six or seven workdays of about twelve hours every week.
  • How well do I plan and organize? Poor planning is the culprit in most business failures.
  • How will my business affect my family? Family members need to know what to expect: long hours and, at least initially, a more modest standard of living.

Before we discuss why businesses fail we should consider why a huge number of business ideas never even make it to the grand opening. One business analyst cites four reservations (or fears) that prevent people from starting businesses: [6]

  • Money. Without cash, you can’t get very far. What to do: line up initial financing early or at least have done enough research to have a plan to raise money.
  • Security. A lot of people don’t want to sacrifice the steady income that comes with the nine-to-five job. What to do: don’t give up your day job. Run the business part-time or connect with someone to help run your business – a “co-founder”.
  • Competition. A lot of people don’t know how to distinguish their business ideas from similar ideas. What to do: figure out how to do something cheaper, faster, or better.
  • Lack of ideas. Some people simply don’t know what sort of business they want to get into. What to do: find out what trends are successful. Turn a hobby into a business. Think about a franchise. Find a solution to something that annoys you – entrepreneurs call this a “pain point” – and try to turn it into a business.

If you’re still interested in going into business for yourself, try to regard such drawbacks as mere obstacles to be overcome by a combination of planning and creative thinking.

Sources of Early-Stage Financing

As noted above, many businesses fail, or never get started, due to a lack of funds. But where can an entrepreneur raise money to start a business? Many first-time entrepreneurs are financed by friends and family, at least in the very early stages. Others may borrow through their personal credit cards, though quite often, high-interest rates make this approach unattractive or too expensive for the new business to afford.

An entrepreneur with a great idea may win funding through a pitch competition; local municipalities and government agencies understand that economic growth depends on successful new businesses, and so they will often conduct such competitions in the hopes of attracting them.

Crowdfunding has become more common as a means of raising capital. An entrepreneur using this approach would typically utilize a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or GoFundMe to attract investors. The entrepreneur might offer tokens of appreciation in exchange for funds, or perhaps might offer an ownership stake for a substantial enough investment. Take a few moments to peruse Kickstarter or another site and see what types of businesses are proposed in your area or which are trending globally.

Some entrepreneurs receive funding from angel investors, affluent investors who provide capital to start-ups in exchange for an ownership position in the company. Many angels are successful entrepreneurs themselves and invest not only to make money, but also to help other aspiring business owners to succeed.

Venture capital firms also invest in start-up companies, although usually at a somewhat later stage and in larger dollar amounts than would be typical of angel investors. Like angels, venture firms also take an ownership position in the company. They tend to have a higher expectation of making a return on their money than do angel investors.

Distinguishing Entrepreneurs from Small Business Owners

Though most entrepreneurial ventures begin as small businesses, not all small business owners are entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are innovators who start companies to create new or improved products. They strive to meet a need that’s not being met, and their goal is to grow the business and eventually expand into other markets.

In contrast, many people either start or buy small businesses for the sole purpose of providing an income for themselves and their families. They do not intend to be particularly innovative, nor do they plan to expand significantly. This desire to operate is what’s sometimes called a “lifestyle business” [7]. The neighbourhood pizza parlour or beauty shop, the self-employed consultant who works out of the home, and even a local printing company—many of these are typically lifestyle businesses.

  1. Dollinger, M. J. (2003). Entrepreneurship: Strategies and Resources (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  2. Encyclopedia of World Biography. (2006). Marcia Kilgore: Entrepreneur and spa founder. Retrieved from:
  3. Bruder, J. (2010, August 12). The Rise Of The Serial Entrepreneur. Forbes. Retrieved from:
  4. Bruder, J. (2010, August 12). The Rise Of The Serial Entrepreneur. Forbes. Retrieved from:
  5. U.S. Small Business Administration. (2016). Is Entrepreneurship For You? Retrieved from:
  6. Waters, S. (2016). Top Four Reasons People Don’t Start a Business. Retrieved from:
  7. Allen, K. (2001). Entrepreneurship for Dummies. New York: Wiley.


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