I’ve been writing a lot about entrepreneurship lately, focusing on how it is easier than many people think and how people should view getting involved in a startup as a viable alternative to getting into the job market, especially during college and in this economy. One of the most common responses to these posts have been “I’d love to start my own business, but I don’t know the first thing about technology” or “running a big technology startup is too hard and I don’t want to move to the coasts.” I want to clear up this common misconception.
There are all kinds of entrepreneurs. They come in all shapes and sizes and start all sorts of industries. I think everyone agrees that high flying Silicon Valley tech startups and cutting edge biotech companies are clearly founded by entrepreneurs, but there are so many more examples of entrepreneurship that many people overlook. Founders of small businesses like gas stations or restaurants are entrepreneurs. So are people who start non-profits, people who start bands, artists who sell their paintings and people who create custom designed t-shirts. Self-employed consultants, programmers and graphic designers are entrepreneurs. So are people who sell parking on football Saturdays and Sundays around the country. The examples are endless.
Jean-Baptiste Say, a French economist and the person who coined the word entrepreneur, defined an entrepreneur as someone who “undertakes an enterprise, acting as intermediary between capital and labour.” I like his definition, but will add that an entrepreneur has to accept full responsibility for the endeavor’s success or failure. All of these endeavors fit this definition.
Whenever I talk about entrepreneurship, I’m referring to all of these different ways to be an entrepreneur. I think its critical for people who are thinking about starting something on their own to realize that they can be an entrepreneur and live the entrepreneurial lifestyle without raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, hiring huge amounts of employees and inventing something that will change the world. These other types of entrepreneurship are just as important, if not more important, than many of the big high tech, high visibility startups that you hear about in most newspapers. I think this distinction is really important and try to break it down whenever I talk with potential entrepreneurs.