Jenny here again, stealing airtime from important fashion happenings yet again. Last week I wrote an opinion piece on Women in Technology and it seemed to ring true for quite a few people. I’d love to hear your opinions on this week’s topic: What defines an entrepreneur and when can you claim that you are one? In my opinion there are three schools of thought: You’re an entrepreneur when you try something, when you risk something, or when you make it.
You’re An Entrepreneur When You Try Something
“My son is now an ‘entrepreneur’. That’s what you’re called when you don’t have a job.” A famous quote from founder of CNN and media mogul Ted Turner reveals that anyone can call themselves an entrepreneur, and the title is normally greeted with suspicion. I think that we’ve all seen examples of this in real life, from seeing an old colleague describe themselves as an “entrepreneur extraordinare” on LinkedIn, to watching Lord Alan’s tribe of wannabe apprentices each year on the television.
But perhaps you deserve this title if you are the kind of person who is trying to change things and move things forward. When I was younger I used to send letters off to big companies with my ideas in them, and I genuinely believed in them. In fact I still do… Birds Eye Woofles (dog shaped waffles) and Heinz Baked Beanies (at the height of the TY craze) may well be my best ideas to date. There’s no denying that the spirit is there, but is it enough to merit the title? Not in my opinion.
You’re An Entrepreneur When You Risk Something
So now we move it up to the next stage. You’re giving up your job, you’re working 24/7 to get your ideas off the ground, you’re burning through your savings, calling in all sorts of favours and risking the money of people that you care about. As Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop said, “nobody talks about entrepreneurship as survival, but that’s exactly what it is”. To me, this is the truly scary bit about trying to start your own business. Personally I’m happy to take the risk myself, but other people trusting you with their time or money, be it family, friends, colleagues or Angel investors, makes you want to make it work even more. I can understand people calling themselves an entrepreneur at this stage, because there are relatively few people with enough faith in their product, the drive to make it work, and the guts to actually do this! However, as Dragons’ Den normally proves, blind faith and entrepreneurship are different qualities.
You’re An Entrepreneur When You Make It
To me a true entrepreneur is someone who has been there, done it, and truly made it. Say ‘entrepreneur’ and I think Mark Zucherberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, James Dyson, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergey Brin – the list could go into the hundreds and everyone in it would be an inspiration to others trying to start their own business. The above are the people who I look up to.
So what am I? Well, I’m definitely not in the last category! I’d say that at the moment I’d say I am an inventor or a bit of a crazy engineer who believes in my idea and is trying everything to make my business work. Give it time and hopefully I’ll be what I’d class as an entrepreneur. What do you think? Are you an entrepreneur? Do you completely disagree? Let me know!
Oh, and I really can’t end this opinion piece without quoting my favourite entrepreneur quote ever:
“The problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.” – George W. Bush