Entrepreneurs and Their Communities: Part 4 "Who is an entrepreneur?"
Posted: October 2, 2012
Take a minute before reading further and answer the question: Who is an entrepreneur? You might start thinking about specific people such as Steve Jobs (Apple), Sam Walton (WALMart), Oprah Winfrey (entertainment), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Michael Dell (Dell Computer) or Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook). Now identify some businesses people from your community that you consider entrepreneurs. What types of businesses do they operate? What products and services do they offer? Who are their customers and where are their customers located?
Standard definitions for entrepreneur in dictionaries are very close to Marriam-Webster’s definition, “Entrepreneur – One who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” All of the entrepreneurs you identified in your community most likely fit this definition.
Scholars and practitioners have come to understand that people become entrepreneurs for a variety of reasons. As you think about “Who are entrepreneurs?” it will be helpful to get a handle on categories of entrepreneurs based on the reasons they create and run their own enterprises.
The entrepreneurs in each of these categories below are entrepreneurs as defined by Marriam-Webster. Can you can identify entrepreneurs in your community that fit into any of these categories ?
Lone Eagles and High Flyers – The typical one eagle or high flyer moves from an urban to a rural area that has scenic amenities to escape the pressures of urban life and start businesses in rural communities. These businesses are normally information-based and are facilitated by technologies like the internet. Lone eagles and high flyers contribute to the local economy of areas that have historically been dependent on traditional industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, retail, extraction or personal services. The presence of natural and scenic amenities and access to different forms of outdoor recreation are generally a prerequisite for these types of businesses to occur.
Lifestyle Entrepreneurs – Lifestyle entrepreneurs are individuals who create and own businesses in order to pursue a certain lifestyle or to live in a certain community. Lifestyle entrepreneurs are driven by the type of lifestyle entrepreneurship affords. An entrepreneur is her own boss and this offers unparalleled flexibility and control over one’s economic destiny and enables the entrepreneur to pursue long-held dream, or live in the community of their dreams without the restrictions imposed by working for someone else. These entrepreneurs do not necessarily seek large personal profits and growth as the primary objective of their business. A 2006 study found that lifestyle entrepreneurs most commonly engage in apparel retail, interior design, food service and hospitality firms. Lifestyle entrepreneurs often contribute to the community atmosphere, providing important goods and services in places where they are needed.
Social Entrepreneurs – Social entrepreneurship can be defined as a process involving the innovative use and combination of resources to pursue opportunities to catalyze social change and/or address social needs. Like lifestyle entrepreneurs, these entrepreneurs do not necessarily seek personal profits and growth as the primary objective of their business. Social entrepreneurs strive to achieve some form of social change. Social entrepreneurs may start a wide variety of ventures, from non-profit NGOs to for-profit businesses that address critical social issues. These individuals are still entrepreneurs, and not simply public service organizations, because of their willingness to create (social and economic) value, to take advantage of an opportunity and to innovate new ways of serving their social cause.
Immigrant Businesses – Much of American history relates to the history of immigrants coming to the United States in search of better opportunities and a better life for them and their families. Immigrants are 30% more likely to start a business than non-immigrants. Are there immigrant entrepreneurs in your community? If so where are they from? What types of businesses to these entrepreneurs own?
Back to the opening premise of this post, “Suppose you and some of your friends and colleagues have decided supporting and growing entrepreneurs would be an important part of a strategy to improve the local economy.” Understanding the types of entrepreneurs that are present in, or perhaps could be attracted to your community is an important consideration as the strategy is developed and implemented.