What Makes an Entrepreneur?

September 19, 2011

Years ago I never would have envisioned myself becoming an entrepreneur. I’ve long been a creator and an innovator, but entrepreneurship seemed a long ways off, mostly because business — and by that, I mean the financial side — wasn’t my forte.

And yet here I find myself delving into entrepreneurship. I’m building a business out of helping small companies use social media and blogging. I’m launching digital courses and guides. I’ve even hired two awesome social-media-ites to help my company grow.

Still, when I hear that buzzword — entrepreneur — I’m not sure it fits me. Today’s entrepreneurs seem focused on building companies they can sell. They aim to create hugely influential brands and platforms (think: Facebook), ones that will change people’s lives. They start lean, with the goal of making millions later.

That’s not really the game I’m playing. I’m dipping my toes into entrepreneurship not because I want to build a hugely successful company that will eventually sell for millions, but because it’s helping me create the life I want to live. Developing client relationships and selling digital products is my way of meeting my three goals:

1. Do work I love. I’m using my communication skills in creative ways. Sometimes that’s in the form of journalism, sometimes it’s blog strategy or social-media marketing, sometimes it’s creating a product that will help you all get where you want to be. All of this work has one thing in common: It makes me feel good about what I’m doing, challenged, fulfilled.

2. Create my own flexible “workstyle.” Building a business requires more than the typical 9-to-5, but I can work those hours around my other life pursuits, making time for family and travel and writer’s residencies. It also allows me to work where I want, which is equally important for meeting this goal.

3. Make money. Not millions, but enough to maintain my lifestyle and eventually support a family. (Not that I’d shun millions if they came my way.)

So where does that put me? It puts me at Dictionary.com, looking up a definition. An entrepreneur, Dictionary.com says, is “someone who starts a business alone” (check) or a “person who takes risks” (yup, got that down, too).

In some ways, I think we’re all entrepreneurs of our own lives, creating a framework within which to thrive.

Do you have a little bit of entrepreneur in you? How are you using it to get where you want to be?

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    11 Replies to “What Makes an Entrepreneur?”

    • Andrea says:

      Great post!

      You are a “lifestyle entrepreneur” as defined here:
      http://venturebeat.com/2011/09/05/why-governments-dont-get-startups/

      • Alexis Grant says:

        That is a great link — Thank you! Funny, because as I wrote this, the term “lifestyle entrepreneur” popped into my head, but I didn’t know where I’d gotten it from. That fits me perfectly. According to this list, I’m also a small business entrepreneur!

    • Sarah says:

      When I think of the word “entrepreneur” I get scared because to me, that word seems to indicate a person super comfortable with taking risks, which I am not. But, like you said, I am someone who wants to do something she loves, on her own (or mostly her own) timetable, and pursue different options that what’s out there. So in that case, I suppose I do have a little entrepreneur in me 😉

      • Sarah, there is nothing to be scared of! 🙂 Working for someone else in this day and age is more of a risk than doing your own thing. Think about it… does ONE source of income from SOMEONE ELSE (your boss) seem safer than multiple sources of income based solely on YOUR efforts? If your company downsizes or one of your sales team is not performing and layoffs are around the corner, that is completely out of your hands. As opposed to the number of clients you can make money off of is riding on your ability to find and maintain them.

        By doing it in your spare time you are also removing the ‘risk’ as well. If you still have a day job with great benefits there is virtually no risk. Start it up on the side, use your nights and weekends as an opportunity to start something up. Turn off your TV or find another time waster to replace with marketing and selling your new product or service.

        It is not about ‘risk’ it is more about drive and purpose. If you really love what you are doing, even if it is for someone else, then by all means continue to do it. But if you feel like there is more to life/work and that you want to do your own thing then make that move. It is not about risk, you do not have to be adventurous by nature to start your own business. In this day and age you are a few google searches away from doing your own thing. 😉

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Hey Sarah! I think all of us are rather uncomfortable with risks, which is why they’re called risks to begin with 🙂 But we can hedge against failure through preparation, weaving a safety net, creating a back-up plan. Whatever you have to do to feel (almost) comfortable taking that risk. Oh, and you *do* have a little entrepreneur in you 🙂

    • So i just finished your eBook and came by the site to see what was new and it is kind of funny that you mention not being much of an entrepreneur in the book and that you might stick with the day job along with the ‘side-hustle’. So it is great to hear that the story continues and you are taking steps toward doing it right!

      So did you quit the ‘day job’ yet? 😉

    • k, just watched the vid interview below and realized that yes, you did quit the ‘day job’ and that the above article was explaining that. dots connected. best of luck!

    • I loved this line: “I think we’re all entrepreneurs of our own lives.” So true! I see so many people that act like they are stuck and are unhappy with where their life is and where it is headed, but the reality is, we can all make changes and “take risks” to create the lives we want.

    • Yes, of course you are an entrepreneur! I live in a bubble of entrepreneurs (grew up in Silicon Valley, am typing this in the office of a government-sponsored entrepreneurship program, where I work for multiple startups and on my own projects…)

      I find that everyone in my life is using entrepreneur jargon, like “lifestyle business” and “innovation” and more….

      And yes, no one is going to give you a job and lifestyle that’s precisely what you want. You’ve got to build it yourself!

      Good post. And good luck!!

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