Last Updated: November 28, 2022
The entrepreneurship definition we like is the process of becoming a successful business owner who can support their own household and perhaps employ others in the neighborhood. Thriving communities zero in on helping people move from a hobby or a fledgling idea to a viable business.
At a minimum an entrepreneur does something new, or in a new way, or at a new location.
Certainly it's also possible to become a business owner by accident, grow into the role, and be wildly successful. Or sometimes entrepreneurs simply follow a formula and become quite prosperous. Franchises are examples.
However, this lower level of risk-taking entrepreneurship isn't what drives an economy
forward, creates wealth for a community, or helps a national economy
Real economic progress requires innovation, an action orientation, and creativity. Repeating someone else's success formula may work for a while for businesses, but today even a hyperlocal business such as a restaurant usually has plenty of competition. Businesses that contribute to their communities need continuous freshening of the business concept if they are to be able to employ people and increase prosperity in their neighborhoods.
By now nearly everyone involved in community economic development, whether that is a businessperson involved in business recruitment, an elected official, a commission member, or staff member, has been told that entrepreneurship is important. Often they don't fully appreciate why.
It all comes back to competition between neighborhoods, communities, and ultimately cities and regions. The best, brightest ideas will bring more jobs, income, and the kind of positive publicity that encourages further business investment.
By the way, if you are in a lower income community, it's doubly important that you learn to understand and then cultivate entrepreneurship that is success-oriented rather than providing a low level of subsistence for the owner. That's because it's unlikely that you will attract outside investment, except by those who want to invest minimally to exploit your situation. Grow your own businesses geared toward a realistic market for your neighborhood.
Not so long ago, when the truth became understood about the proportion
of overall job growth that small businesses generate, economic
development folks talked about the definition of entrepreneurship and the necessary traits for success as if some people
were born to start businesses, and others were not.
However, some experts think that nearly everyone can be an entrepreneur. A thought leader in this field is Saras Sarasvathy, who thinks that our entrepreneurship definition might be ignoring the largest category of folks—those who would like to be entrepreneurs but do not know how.
We'll stay out of that debate, but we do think it's useful for a community to understand the laundry list of abilities, natural or acquired, that would be important to an entrepreneur. It includes:
At the community level, it's fine to discourage idealistic people who think they want to start a business but who exhibit few of these characteristics and behaviors.
That's true because even when people have the right traits, it's easy enough to fail because of factors beyond local and individual control. So do encourage plenty of business start-ups when their proprietors show potential.
From the community standpoint, a city or town needs to provide an ongoing entrepreneurship support system if you want to broaden your economic base. As a general rule, the businesses with the best local support will reach profitability sooner, although of course superior business acumen might overcome even a hostile or indifferent community attitude toward business.
We like the technique of providing an economic development incubator or accelerator because of the networking and learning from one another, almost as much as the obvious economic advantages.
So if you need to expand your concept of entrepreneurship, just make sure you include the elements of enterprise formation, newness in some respect (the newer the better, usually), and investing your own or someone else's money in a business.
There is even conversation now about civic entrepreneurship, which points out that in the end, entrepreneurship may be more about a state of mind always in search of making something happen than about forming a successful for-profit business. We certainly like that notion too, but it is no substitute for providing jobs.
But as a community improvement website, we hope that you won't stop at the definition. We want you to learn to provide the risk-takers who start businesses with the kind of support that will enable them to succeed and grow jobs for your community.
Below are photo links to some additional pages on this website that will help you learn how to meet the needs of various kinds of entrepreneurs.