What Does being an “Entrepreneur” Mean?

What is an Entrepreneur?

I’ve often struggled with the challenge of defining entrepreneur, and I suspect a lot of people do as well. We can start with the textbook definition of entrepreneur. According to Merriam-Webster, an entrepreneur is “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise”. 

But is this adequate? Someone who does organize, manage, and assume the risk of a business certainly qualifies as an entrepreneur. But that definition might be too broad in some sense.

Using this definition, a drug dealer qualifies as an entrepreneur. Many would argue they qualify, and they do possess entrepreneurial traits. But I presume it’s common to expect a certain amount of legitimacy to accompany a business venture. At least if that business venture can qualify as “entrepreneurial”. On the other hand, the textbook definition of entrepreneur may also be too narrow.

What’s Wrong With This Definition?

I like to think of myself as an entrepreneur even though I have no business to speak of. This thought is nice because I have entrepreneurial ambitions, and believe I have the traits necessary to be an entrepreneur. I also believe the combination of the two should suffice.

I doubt I’m the only one that feels this way, and I also doubt I’m the only one who doesn’t like the label “wantrepreneur” since it carries negative connotations of pretentiousness. 

Ultimately, the textbook definition fails to capture what it really means to be an entrepreneur because it doesn’t provide any insight into what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

It’s obvious, on some basic level, to everyone what it means to be something more mundane and common, like a busboy or a cab driver, but it’s not obvious from the definition that being an entrepreneur means being doggedly determined yet flexible, self-aware yet capable of dealing with profound doubt, eager to learn, organized, level headed, unafraid of uncertainty, and much, much more. 

So, That Still Begs the Question, What is an Entrepreneur?

I think we can use the textbook definition, with the caveat that the right adjective needs to be applied for different kinds of entrepreneurs.

According to Wikipedia, an entrepreneur is best defined as a person who creates or extracts value. I think this is a good one, because it allows me to more easily call myself and others who seek to cultivate the nearly countless traits successful company founders possess as entrepreneurs. More narrowly, Wikipedia defines an entrepreneur as someone responsible for designing, launching and running a new business.

For the purposes of distinguishing between myself and those like me, and those who are leading existing companies and/or have had successful exits as “aspiring entrepreneurs” and “established entrepreneurs” respectively.

Drug dealers can still be called drug dealers.

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