Entrepreneur, redefined

In the late 1980s, when I was young and at school, I remember being asked in class what we wanted to be when we grew up.

Among the architects, tradies, scientists and veterinarians, one of my friends said something most surprising: “entrepreneur”.

At the time I was barely aware of what this word meant. It brought to mind figures like Christopher Skase who owned television stations, seemed incredibly wealthy and dodged court by fleeing the country.

It wasn’t until I was fresh out of uni that I began working with a small high-tech business made up of people who worked hard, had fun, created really cool stuff and called themselves “entrepreneurs”.

This redefinition was a revelation to me.

Now, we are in the middle of the entrepreneur revolution. More small businesses are started every year as people move from regular employment at large corporations to more personal lifestyle choices.

The newest generation entering the workforce is also the most entrepreneurial. In a survey by Bentley University, 67% of Gen Ys entering the workforce said they would like to start their own businesses, and in general they expect a much more nimble and changing career.

Today’s entrepreneurs are savvy, connected and independent. Brought up on social media, technology and instant gratification, they use the tools available to run their businesses more effectively than has ever been possible before.

So what makes an entrepreneur as opposed to a small business owner?

I see it mainly as an identification with a set of principles. An entrepreneur  actively wants to grow their business and spends time and energy figuring out how. They are willing to try, and fail, and get up and try again. They show grit, take risks and push through the hard times.

You are familiar with some of the international poster-children of entrepreneurship: Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey.

But local entrepreneurs might be artists, consultants, crafters, techies, tradespeople or professional service providers, but no matter what they do they chase excellence and enjoy the ride.

What is your experience? Do you identify yourself as an entrepreneur?

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