Ingredients of an Entrepreneurial Spirit

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“Entrepreneur” is one of those words shrouded in mystery. What is an entrepreneur? We immediately think of tech bros in skinny jeans sitting on therapy balls at their desks next to a ping-pong table somewhere in the Silicon Valley. Then there are all of the meet-ups and networking events we see or hear of in cities with young, driven, good-looking people getting ready to go to market with their ideas. Is that what an entrepreneur is? If so, there’s a reason why it draws some and repels others. But what is an entrepreneur?

Simply put, an entrepreneur is “a person who creates and grows an enterprise.” (Markley et al. 2005b). The beauty of that definition is that while it certainly includes people launching a new app for the iPhone (and rightly so!) it also includes the young man in Lubbock, Texas starting a new automobile repair shop or the nanny in Cedar Rapids, Iowa who takes her business to the next level and opens a preschool for 15 toddlers. Interestingly, one in ten Americans are entrepreneurs. So maybe it’s not all that mysterious after all? It also is not an elitist endeavor as well.

With that said, what are the ingredients of an entrepreneurial spirit? Regardless if one is launching a new coffee shop or landscaping business these ingredients are key. I came across these ingredients in the book An Introduction to Community Development (2nd edition) edited by Rhonda Phillips and Robert H. Pittman. Interestingly, cultivating an entrepreneurial ecosystem is key in the role of community economic development in communities with a struggling economy. That’s where and how this conversation is pertinent to Intrepid and why it matters. It also is why we focus much on startups and have cohorts towards that end.

In the chapter “Entrepreneurship as a Community Development Strategy” by John Gruidl and Deborah Markley they set forth these ingredients that I alluded to above. They write, “To better understand entrepreneurs, it is worthwhile examining the ingredients of the entrepreneurial spirit: creativity, innovation, motivation and capacity” (Gruidl and Markley 2015). Let’s unpack them …

CREATIVITY

Entrepreneurs may not be the ones who come up with the idea, but are responsible for taking the concept or idea and making it a reality. They make it happen. They take it to market. It is one thing to see an idea, have an idea, etc, but how will you breathe life into it? This is why entrepreneurs are creative because it’s all about problem-solving and figuring things out on the fly. Ironically, most entrepreneurs are not even necessarily skilled in all areas needed when they start off, but learn along the way.

INNOVATION

Hand-in-hand with creativity is innovation. “At the heart of the entrepreneurial process, entrepreneurs perceive opportunities and transform ideas into commercial products or civic services that people want and are willing to pay for” (2015). It is taking an idea or process and adapting and making it better.

MOTIVATION

A common theme among entrepreneurs when it comes to motivation is this … p-a-s-s-i-o-n. We assume greed or something along those lines. Instead, passion or calling or a “I must do this” is what drives many entrepreneurs. That alone is one of the reasons behind the resiliency and adaptability of many entrepreneurs.

CAPACITY

“Successful entrepreneurs acquire the capacity they need to put their ideas into action” (2015). Capacity could be either about the space and margins in one’s life that it takes to start and grow a business or non-profit … and/or it has to do with expanding one’s capacity as the startup grows. Like I mentioned above, no one has all of the skills when starting off. They are acquired along the way.

These ingredients are a breath of fresh air because it opens the door to possibilities. Many fear starting down this path because they don’t know everything nor have it all figured out. The reality is … no one does. We’re all figuring things out on the fly as we go along. This applies both to starting a business, non-profit, or even a church. Be encouraged. If you’re contemplating starting something … go for it. You can do it!