Entrepreneurs - Who Are They?

What We Learned

As you start talking about entrepreneurs in your community, it’s important to use consistent language and be ready to answer the question – what do you mean by entrepreneur? If you Google the “definition of entrepreneur,” you’ll get over 4 million results!

What we learned from our work with the Rural Policy Research Institute's Center for Rural Entrepreneurship was to “keep it simple.” The Center uses a definition for entrepreneur from Dr. Jay Kayne (Professor at Miami University in Ohio and Board member at the Center) – “a person who creates and grows a venture.” This definition encompasses:

  • Someone pursuing a high-tech, high-growth venture
  • An existing business owner who sees an opportunity to innovate
  • A micro-entrepreneur who is taking advantage of an opportunity out of necessity
  • A young person with a dream

As you begin to create an entrepreneurial community, it’s important to cast a wide net to capture the many faces of rural entrepreneurship – otherwise, it may be easy to think that your community has no entrepreneurs when in fact there’s plenty of entrepreneurial talent in need of your support.

While there are many different types of entrepreneurs, they do have some similar traits. They…

  • perceive opportunities
  • know how to harness resources of all types
  • are creative and innovative
  • know how to manage and spread risk
  • are independent and not afraid to be out in front of other people
  • tolerate uncertainty

One of the best ways to understand entrepreneurs is to confront the myths about who they are.

One useful tool to begin understanding and identifying your entrepreneurial talent was shared with us as part of the RUPRI Center’s Energizing Entrepreneurship training. You might find it a useful starting point in your communities. The tool will help you recognize the diverse kinds of entrepreneurial talent in your communities – potential entrepreneurs (those dreamers, aspiring and start-up entrepreneurs who are still thinking about or have just taken the leap), existing business owners (people who are running lifestyle businesses, who are interested in transitioning out of business ownership, or who may be running a business just to survive), and entrepreneurs who are actively growing their businesses and may be achieving significant growth and repeated success. The tool will help you begin to ask the right questions to discover the array of entrepreneurs who call your community home.