Entrepreneurship Defined – What It Means to Be an Entrepreneur

It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot in modern discourse, but do we really know what entrepreneurship means? Ask 20 different people, get 20 different answers.

In fact, that’s exactly what we did when we talked with real business leaders to get their own definitions of entrepreneurship. This is what they had to say about starting a business from scratch and finding success.

Born to Lead

Scientists may have not yet discovered a “leader gene” that makes people great motivators and communicators, but there might be something to that concept.

Some folks are just built to be great leaders, but these lessons can be learned and applied as well over time.

“Being an entrepreneur means that you are a leader,” said Joshua Tatum, Co-Founder of Canvas Cultures. “That is the most simple definition that there possibly can be. An entrepreneur runs their business and does what they can to lead their team to success. An entrepreneur obviously has so many other roles, but being a leader is the most important of all the roles that they carry.”

Maybe you don’t see yourself as a natural-born leader, but that just means a bit more work is required to reach your goals.

Risk Tolerance

Clocking in at a job and earning a paycheck has its own drawbacks, but it’s perfect for anyone who doesn’t tolerate a lot of risk in their lives.

Business leaders, on the other hand, love taking risks and seek them out in every scenario.

“An entrepreneur is someone who enjoys risks in their lives,” said Carrie Derocher, CMO of TextSanity. “Every entrepreneur faces the same challenges and concerns. The biggest of which is, will I succeed? No one ever knows if they will reach their goals through the businesses they start, but that is the risk that every entrepreneur faces. This feeling that you have when taking risks is not for everyone, but it sure does drive entrepreneurs to success even more.”

There is some degree of risk in all things in life – how much are you willing to take?

Outside the Box

We see it all the time in movies and read about it in books: the young entrepreneur who sees the world a little differently and is doubted by family and friends from the start.

This isn’t just a fairy tale – it’s the real story for many current leaders in business! Whether you’ve got a ton of support or not, innovation requires breaking down some barriers.

“An entrepreneur is an innovator,” said Jeffery Brown, President of Big Fig Mattress. “To be able to be successful as an entrepreneur you need to be able to innovate a specific field so that you stand out from the crowd. Entrepreneurs who do not wish to innovate an industry will find that success is far more difficult to achieve. If you truly want to be successful, then map out your goals to see what you can bring to the table.”

Don’t let the doubters get you down. That’s just a sign that you’re on the right path towards a breakthrough.

Dream Big

Some dreams end when we wake up in the morning, while others stay in our heads until we lay back down in bed at night.

We’re not saying that all business leaders have their heads in the clouds – they must also take action to make those dreams come true before their eyes.

“To me an entrepreneur is a dreamer,” said Steve O’Dell, CEO and Co-Founder of Tenzo Tea. “To be able to survive as an entrepreneur you need big dreams and the means to accomplish them. Entrepreneurs need to have something that drives them, and this usually tends to be some sort of dream. This dream is the origin of the passion that makes any entrepreneur want to be successful. The more ambition that an entrepreneur has the more likely they will be to disrupt an industry.”

It’s more than just a cliché. You’ve got to pursue your dreams relentlessly to make it in the competitive world of business.

Visions of Greatness

Wondering how those lofty dreams become real businesses we patronize online and in person? It all comes down to vision, laying the groundwork for fundraising, operations, products, marketing, and more.

“An entrepreneur is someone who holds great vision,” said Andrew Pires, Owner of The Maskie. “Vision is more than a dream or a goal, it is a skill that allows you to connect the dots to success. For example, if you see an industry that you would love to get into, you can dream about it, but that dream means nothing without a vision. Entrepreneurs can create a vision to success through multiple avenues of success that allow them to gain feasible success through their ideas.”

This is the grind that we all talk about in entrepreneurial circles, and it’s only made possible with a clear vision that works in theory and reality.

Motivated by Mission

There’s no doubt that motivation is a mystery. One day you have it in abundance, and the next day it seems nowhere to be found.

A key feature of the successful entrepreneur is their ability to manifest motivation at the times they need it most and ride that wave until they accomplish something great.

“An entrepreneur is motivated daily to further their mission and inspire others to align with their purpose,” said Dan Potter, Co-Founder of CRAFTD London. “All successful entrepreneurs have a sense of leadership that they use to implement their ideas and facilitate success. They create opportunities for others to receive benefits, whether from their product or service or through employment. Essentially, it is an individual who sees the big picture and channels their time, energy, and resources to manifest their vision.”

Figure out what motivates you beyond a paycheck, and this might just set you on the path to something bigger in business and life.


A business may be captained by one or two individuals, but there’s a huge amount of teamwork and coordination that must happen behind the scenes to achieve success.

Entrepreneurship is not a one-person show, in other words. It’s a team effort every time.

“An entrepreneur is a problem solver by nature,” said John Berry, CEO of Berry Law. “Entrepreneurs invest their time in building an incredible team who isn’t afraid to take risks and challenge themselves every day for their vision. Purpose goes way beyond profit. A successful entrepreneur has an inherent sense of purpose and utilizes it daily to motivate others and themselves to achieve things from outside the box.”

Look at your favorite modern business icons and observe how they assemble, manage, and motivate the people around them.

Far Beyond Driven

Society presents a very specific definition of success, but in reality, our idea of success must come from within if we want to make it happen for ourselves.

Ask any entrepreneur about this concept and they’ll say the same thing!

“In my opinion, an entrepreneur is someone who defines their role, path, and meaning of success,” said Katie Lyon, Co-Founder of Allegiance Flag Supply. “It requires tenacity and the ability to overcome hurdles using innovative approaches and thinking on a grander scale. Often, entrepreneurs will be managing and empowering their employees to follow their vision to foster an environment where others can succeed as well. They are self-motivated and inspired, starting a business or businesses of their own, seeing it through until it flourishes.”

Before you pursue anything in life, set your own parameters for success and discover the internal drive that will push you in the right direction.

Decision to Succeed

So many aspects of life simply come down to a stone-cold decision. Careers, relationships, health, and more – we need to decide to succeed before we take steps towards any goal.

“Entrepreneurs want to take the initiative,” said Brandon Werber, Founder and CEO of Airvet. “Generally, they have a clear vision for what they would like to achieve and have decided they have the ability and concept to fill the void in a specific sector. Despite hardships, a good entrepreneur remains versatile, is a problem solver, and can adapt. It takes leadership, innovation, and follow-through to achieve success. These are the defining characteristics of a good entrepreneur.”

If entrepreneurship is in your future, decisions must be made early and often – so get used to being in the driver’s seat now.

Genuine Passion

Starting a business isn’t something that happens by accident or serendipity. There must be a deep sense of passion about a subject or industry that needs to be expressed from within. That’s the only way to overcome doubts, fears, and other obstacles that stand in the way.

“I love being an entrepreneur because I am passionate about my business,” said Olamide Olowe, CEO of Topicals. “I was diagnosed with post-barbae folliculitis as a child and struggled seeing flawless skin on my screen constantly. I was also blatantly aware of the lack of black representation in the skincare industry. Since then, I have set out to shake up the beauty industry, creating a brand that states you make your skin look good, not the other way around.”

If you have a passion that simply can’t be extinguished, that’s a good sign you’re on the right track in the game of entrepreneurship.

Daily Inspiration

We’re all familiar with the “honeymoon” period at a new job or career shift, but what will motivate you once that phase is finished?

Top entrepreneurs don’t rely on fleeting motivators to keep pushing. They find inspiration in all aspects of their lives to keep raising the bar and achieve massive success.

“Being an entrepreneur means having the opportunity to be innovative, creative and inspired on a daily basis,” said Jared Zabaldo, Founder of USAMM. “When I see a need that should be addressed, as an entrepreneur, I can do that, as I continue to offer some of the most unique products on the market to my customers. I also love the adaptability that comes with being an entrepreneur – I can make important pivots on a moment’s notice.”

Think beyond the office and imagine the life you want to lead – and how your own business can make it real.

Highly Versatile

The traditional model of employment and productivity is all about specialization. That allows the division of labor to thrive and create a well-oiled operation overall.

However, the entrepreneur must be ready to take on any challenge, in any department, at any given time. It’s a completely different animal, and takes a brand new perspective.

“When I think about being an entrepreneur, I also center on versatility,” said Heidi Robinson, Chief Operating Officer of Because Market. “Almost every entrepreneur wears many hats, which offers an unparalleled opportunity to learn and grow – both as a professional and as a person. And when an entrepreneur begins to delegate and work on those projects that are soundly in their wheelhouse, they can get in the flow and achieve incredible things!”

Maybe you’ve been specializing for years but you’re ready to break out of your shell and try some new things. This is your chance.

Unyielding Focus

We’re living in an age of attention-span crisis – that much is certain. So many distractions can rip us away from our work but the business leader can’t afford to miss a beat.

Some people just have the natural ability to focus intensely, while others need to train themselves for years to master the mindset.

“Being an entrepreneur means everything to me,” said Timmy Yanchun, Co-Founder of LTHR Shaving. “Having started off as a neighborhood barber, I can see how that tenacious spirit of a true entrepreneur pushed me forward, allowing me to reach my goals. And to this day, I see every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow, and walk away more educated than I was the day before the experience.”

Whatever it takes for you to achieve max focus and eliminate distractions, do it. It could mean the difference between success and falling short.

Personal Rewards

Paychecks and pats on the back are great, but what motivates entrepreneurs beyond money and social recognition?

For many young business leaders, it’s a matter of making a name for themselves, their families, and the cultures they come from.

“Being an entrepreneur has been incredibly rewarding for me,” said Jing Gao, CEO of Fly By Jing. “Growing up in Sichuan, I was surrounded by all the beautiful and intricate flavors it has to offer. I have a complete love and dedication for Sichuanese food. When you create something that has so much heart in it, people always notice. I spent years perfecting every detail of my product and researching the perfect flavors to make it all come together.”

It can be tough to think beyond ourselves when starting a business, but that’s a necessary step on the long road to success.

Real Humility

How many stories of business tycoons and celebrities have ended poorly because they stopped pushing themselves?

Getting too comfortable is always a temptation, but it is also the usual indicator of a downfall.

“If you start thinking you are good at something, that’s often the day you stop trying to be better and open the back door for someone to come after you,” said Drew Houston, Co-Founder and CEO of Dropbox. “That’s why we always aim higher. We never feel like we’re done.”

No matter what level of greatness you achieve, it’s always important to keep climbing.

Strong Self-Belief

Whether you believe you can do it or you can’t – your right! That’s what the old saying tells us, and it certainly applies to the business world where self-belief is key.

“Being an entrepreneur requires not only a driven passion, but also the belief that you will be successful,” said Rachel Jones, Head of PR for Shop Hope. “This is why entrepreneurs are equal parts ‘dreamers’ AND ‘doers.’ Yes, our ideas may wake us up at 3 a.m., but we’ll be ready to start off our day when the alarm clock rings, fueled by creativity – and typically some caffeine.”

Look in the mirror and crush every doubt holding you back. That’s the only way forward.

A Taste of Freedom

We toss around the idea of freedom like it’s just another commodity, but it means so much more to someone who has worked for years on a personal business project.

The ability to direct one’s own life comes at a cost, and all the great business leaders have paid in full.

“I am a serial entrepreneur and have founded and invested in numerous startups,” said Grant Hosking, Co-Founder of Total Hydration. “To me, being an entrepreneur is having the freedom to take risks. I also love the freedom of being able to set my own schedule.”

If freedom is what you desire, think about what it really means to you and do everything in your power to achieve it.

Expression and Aesthetics

The wonderful thing about modern entrepreneurship is that the old-school gatekeepers are no longer guarding the perimeter of success.

Anyone with a vision, a passion, and a kernel of talent can make their ideas come to life, even in a “saturated” industry like skincare or haircare.

“I love being an entrepreneur because I have a natural passion for the beauty industry,” said Kaz Amor, Founder of VoCe Haircare. “The most exciting part is being able to express yourself creatively. As a hairdresser, it is fun to see how trends evolve from previous trends, for example, how we see the 90s making a comeback in today’s hairstyles. I love to use my business as an outlet to express my creativity and love for all things beauty.”

If you’ve got cold feet about starting your own business, remember that saturation is just another word for opportunity!

Appealing to Audiences

Entrepreneurs will hustle for years on end with no real idea of their own progress, then break through to the other side in the blink of an eye.

This is the “overnight success” that truly isn’t “overnight” at all. Oftentimes, happy customers will be the ones to legitimize the feeling for brave business leaders.

“Being an entrepreneur gives me complete creative freedom, meaning I can offer my customers designs that are not only unique but eye-catching and appealing,” said Jordan Dwayne, CEO and Founder of 6 Ice. “Not every fashion trend works for every demographic, so I enjoy providing options that will suit my target audience, while also taking the opportunity to broaden that audience when the situation presents itself. And at the end of the day, I hope that I’ve made a few people happy along the way – which is the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur.”

If you’re in the trenches and need something to look forward to, just think about all the people who will know and love your business down the road.

Loving the Lifestyle

There’s no way around the fact that starting a business is an all-consuming endeavor. It’s glamorized in the media, but the truth is that many entrepreneurs learn to embrace the wild lifestyle, stress, and everything that comes with the territory.

 “If you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle,” said Skype Founder Niklas Zennstrom. “It defines you. Forget about vacations, about going home at 6 pm – last thing at night you’ll send emails, first thing in the morning you’ll read emails, and you’’ wake up in the middle of the night. But it’s hugely rewarding as you’re fulfilling something for yourself.”

Not everyone is cut out for this style of living, but if you think you’ve got what it takes, what’s stopping you?

Taking Charge of Life

Speaking of taking action, that’s truly the defining characteristic of all great business leaders. They don’t wait for permission or green lights. They simply think of an idea and go all out until it succeeds or fails. Then, it’s onto the next!

“There’s nothing quite like being an entrepreneur, and the feeling that comes with accomplishing goals and achieving your dreams every day,” said Josh Stomel, Founder of Turbo Finance. “But, on an even deeper level, it means that I am in charge of my home/work balance, which is something that so many people struggle with in today’s hectic, workaholic environment. Being able to finish projects ahead of time and still have time to pursue the life you love is every person’s ideal structure, and as an entrepreneur, it’s in my own hands to determine how to ensure that is my end result.”

From Passion to Profit

In today’s gig economy, there are so many ways to monetize your talents and bring home some good money.

Writers, designers, coders – even people who design jewelry and trinkets in their garage. There is a market out there for you, and it may turn into something more. That’s the basis of the entrepreneur experience.

“Entrepreneurship, at its very heart, means making a career from your passions,” said Dr. Amir Yazdan, M.D., Founder of GroMD. “It’s that moment when a job becomes a career, and when a project turns into an innovative, exciting experience. While challenges may come your way, overcoming them brings a sense of satisfaction, as you grow both personally and professionally from the lessons that you learn along the way.

You have an innate talent for something in life, so tap into that passion and get that cash flowing.

True Empowerment

There’s a common thread between business leaders across age groups, industries, and backgrounds. They all have a deep sense of pride and accomplishment in what they do, and that keeps them moving forward no matter what.

“Entrepreneurship is both challenging and rewarding,” said Brittany Dolin, Co-Founder of Pocketbook Agency. “The ability to run a business based on things I truly care about is fulfilling. There is an empowering sense of autonomy in many aspects of being an entrepreneur; Setting your own hours, deciding where to work, and determining your own business and marketing strategies is gratifying. To answer to no one, despite working hard and learning a lot along the way, is a liberating feeling. That being said, I realize that I must create my own structure, set my own standards and take responsibility for any setbacks.”

It’s all a game of tradeoffs in life, but if you can settle for nothing less than total autonomy, entrepreneurship might just be your calling.

Seeking Solutions

There’s an unspoken rule of business that employees may not realize themselves – it’s the leaders that usually need to pinpoint and solve problems.

The majority of businesses start this way, in fact. A problem exists, a solution is theorized, then executed with precision. That’s how we’ve achieved so much in the internet era.

“Many entrepreneurs, including myself, pursue the creation of a new business venture out of frustration,” said Ming Zhao, CEO and Co-Founder, Proven Skincare. “I had been frustrated by the skincare industry and the false promises within it after not seeing the results for myself that I wanted. After more experimenting and speaking with skincare experts, I realized that skincare needs to be customized. Through hard work and more learning from and collaboration with both skincare experts and our other Co-Founder, Dr. Amy Yuan, I now run a customized skincare company!”

Start thinking of minor ways to improve your life or the lives of others. You might just stumble across the next million-dollar idea.

Creative Masterminds

Today’s entrepreneurs are more similar to magicians than you may think. The big difference is that they aren’t trying to trick or deceive!

They are able to conjure up concepts and ideas from thin air and bring them to life. Plus, they make it look effortless and seamless from beginning to end.

“Creating something from nothing is a feeling that never gets old, especially when your creations truly help make lives better throughout the world,” said Travis Killian, CEO and Founder of Everlasting Comfort. “Entrepreneurship is really about capitalizing on an idea that benefits others and provides a sustainable income for you and your employees.”

Are you an entrepreneur walking the path, or someone on the verge of taking the first step? We hope these words of insight and inspiration will give you the boost you need, wherever you are.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.