What is an entrepreneur?

The word ”entrepreneur” often brings to mind high-profile celebrity businessmen with mansions, sports cars and private jets. Media reports encourage people to think that, from the moment they register their companies, all entrepreneurs are fabulously wealthy, filling their lives with conspicuous consumption. Adding fuel to the fire are big, overhyped startup events which strongly promote a “get-rich-quick” attitude – the very first question mentors ask is “What’s your exit strategy?”, even before they’ve discussed the business plan.

The online Oxford English Dictionary defines an entrepreneur as “A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.” Therefore, your local pizza shop owner is an entrepreneur. So is a guy who sets up a computer software company. The only difference is their field of business.

I’m an entrepreneur, too. I feel the best part about it is being your own boss. You have a job for life, because you can’t downsize or fire yourself. You can do almost anything you like, which is exciting and fun, but with freedom comes responsibility. You must provide a product or service that people want or your business will go broke. In addition, every successful entrepreneur has to be hard-working, reliable, and provide good customer service, so that people want to buy from you again.

This is the concept of entrepreneurship that I think is the most accurate and most common. Some entrepreneurs go on to form large companies, but despite the glamorous media stereotypes, this is quite rare. Most entrepreneurs run small businesses.

Being an entrepreneur in charge of a small business takes a lot of work, and that’s why some people choose not to do it. If you’re working alone, you must be multiskilled and very organised. Not only do you have to take care of the product or service that your customers pay for, but you must also do all of the administrative tasks, including marketing, negotiating and accounting. This usually entails working very long days – much more than the standard 37.5 hours per week in a “normal” job. If your business does well, maybe you could hire some people to help you. But that doesn’t mean you’re working less hours, since you’re now the human resources department as well, and have a leadership role. 

Anybody can be an entrepreneur, but the key phrase in the definition is “financial risk”. It costs money to start a business, and you might lose your savings or be unable to pay back a loan if things go wrong. Entrepreneurs who manage their risks well can make a good living. However, it’s impossible to control everything. Regardless of the business area, many entrepreneurs do not make much profit and most startups fail. 

Yet even with all the work and the risk, the desire to be an entrepreneur is strong. In 2018, some 93% of companies in Finland – more than 265,000 – had fewer than 10 employees. Who are all these entrepreneurs? They are the proprietors of small cafés, restaurants and shops; tradespeople like electricians, plumbers and carpenters; experts such as doctors, dentists, architects, engineers, psychologists and lawyers; artists, writers, musicians and other creatives; the list goes on and on. Friends create tech startups and families run farms for generations. If you think about it, most of the working population is made up of entrepreneurs or is employed by entrepreneurs. People often forget that small business is the backbone of the economy. 

Entrepreneurs are an essential part of the whole but still maintain their independence. Despite the hard work, most enjoy it, and feel it is a good way to make a living. That’s how I see entrepreneurship. After reading this, I hope you do, too.