Characteristics of Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship takes many forms, but entrepreneurs share a major trait in common: An entrepreneur is someone who identifies an opportunity and chooses to act on that opportunity. Some entrepreneurs start a new venture by solving a problem that is significant, offering some value that other people would appreciate if the product or service were available to them. Other entrepreneurs start a venture by offering a “better mousetrap” in terms of a product, service, or both. There are many types of entrepreneurs who act on opportunities in different ways:

Type of Entrepreneur Approach to Venture
Innovators Find new approaches, methods, or products that add value through solving a problem in a unique manner
Creators Make something new or see a problem that other people have not noticed
Market makers Innovate or reinvent their market from a future perspective by asking what the market could evolve into
Expanders and Scalers Seek out opportunities to expand upon previously created methods, processes, or products
Entrepreneurs often possess immense focus and energy. Entrepreneurship requires extensive mental strength and determination because, as opposed to traditional occupations, there is no right or wrong path to achievement. Competition is intense, and innovation is required to face the challenges that result from starting a business. Entrepreneurs also must be willing to accept risk and failure. The key is that when entrepreneurs fail, they try to fail quickly and inexpensively. They test, analyze, figure out why they failed, evolve, and iterate. That is the meaning of drive, which is another main characteristic of entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial Attributes That Enable Drive

Entrepreneurial drive is something of an umbrella term for the wide variety of characteristics that compel an individual to pursue a unique and untested path relentlessly, regardless of the failures and obstacles. The characteristics below all overlap with drive in some way, to ultimately create a template for the entrepreneurial mentality:

The entrepreneur must be able to create and communicate an easily understandable vision of what the new venture does in order to successfully launch a new business. This is accomplished while inspiring others to join in the new enterprise.

The entrepreneur must be able to inject imagination and uniqueness into a new business venture. It takes skill and ingenuity to create a new venture equipped with strategies to outsmart the competition.

The entrepreneur must be able to maintain the vision of the company with unwavering diligence. It’s very easy to get sidetracked, especially if necessary to adapt the original vision. Ironically, there are many successful entrepreneurs who get bored easily.

Entrepreneurs must have a desire to succeed in a business venture under their own initiative.

The entrepreneur must be able to keep going even when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Opportunistic Nature
The entrepreneur must take advantage of an upcoming trend or unite unrelated processes to create a unique business venture. It helps, of course, to see the possibilities before they even exist.

Problem-Solving Ability
The entrepreneur must thrive on coming up with solutions to complex challenges.

The entrepreneur must be organized and regimented in pursuit of a successful business venture. This includes frugality, which is knowing how to stretch every cent so that expenditures are as low as possible.

Examples of Entrepreneurial Innovations

Many entrepreneurial ventures are innovative variations of an existing idea that has spread across communities, regions, and countries, such as starting a restaurant or opening a retail store. These business ventures are, in some ways, a lower-risk approach but nonetheless are entrepreneurial in some way. For example, Warby Parker, a profitable eyeglass startup founded by four graduate students at Wharton, disrupted a major incumbent (Luxottica) by providing a more convenient, affordable, and stylish product online for a large segment of consumers. In this sense, their innovation is about creating something new, unique, or different from the mainstream. Yet they attracted an existing, and in some ways mature, sector of an established industry.

In a different way, McDonalds, which is 90 percent owned by franchisees, introduced an “all day breakfast” menu in 2017 that was hugely successful; it targeted a larger segment (younger consumers) and brought back consumers who had chosen other options.

Entrepreneurship can exist at a large national or small local level. Simple awareness of one’s surroundings and daily life encounters can reveal multiple opportunities for entrepreneurship, especially in areas where improvements could be made. Airbnb’s founders asked “Why should the established model of hotels prevail?” “Why shouldn’t an individual homeowner have the freedom to rent out unused space and leverage that space into an income?”  Or, you might ask “What if we didn’t have to commute to work?” “What if we didn’t have to own a vehicle, but still had access to one?” “What if we could relax while driving to work instead of being stressed out by traffic?” These types of questions inspired national entrepreneurial ventures such as ride-sharing services like Uber, the self-driving vehicle industry, and local short-term bicycle access such as the free bike-sharing program in Pella, Iowa.

Entrepreneurial Mindset & Spirit

Entrepreneurial ideas result from having an entrepreneurial mindset, an awareness and focus on identifying an opportunity through solving a problem, and a willingness to move forward to advance that idea. The entrepreneurial mindset is the lens through which the entrepreneur views the world, where everything is considered in light of the entrepreneurial business. The business is always a consideration when the entrepreneur makes a decision. In most cases, the action that the entrepreneur takes is for the benefit of the business, but sometimes, it helps the entrepreneur get ready to adopt the appropriate mindset. The mindset becomes a way of life for the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs often are predisposed to action to achieve their goals and objectives. They are forward thinking, always planning ahead, and they are engaged in “what if” analyses. They frequently ask themselves, “What if we did this?” “What if a competitor did that?”—and consider what the business implications would be.

Often, the entrepreneurial mindset includes futuristic ideas that shake up the normal, conventional processes that are grounded in experience over time. Tried-and-tested processes and products that have a proven history of success can be a formidable obstacle to new ideas. A new idea may even appear as impossible or outlandish; however, an entrepreneurial mindset is open to new ideas. Open-mindedness supports creativity, problem solving, and innovation. Taking the time to explore new ideas, dream, reflect, and view situations from a new perspective contribute to the entrepreneurial mindset.

An entrepreneurial spirit—which can combine passion, purpose, positivity, boldness, curiosity, and persistence—allows entrepreneurs to carry a manner of thinking with them each day that helps overcome obstacles and meet challenges with a can-do attitude. The entrepreneurial spirit involves a passion for presenting an idea that is worthwhile and valuable, and a willingness to think beyond established patterns and processes, while still keeping in mind local laws and regulations, in the quest to change those established patterns, or at least to offer alternatives to those established patterns.

Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurs

“Social entrepreneurship is an approach by individuals, groups, start-up companies or entrepreneurs, in which they develop, fund, and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues.” [1]

Although the above definition seems clear, social entrepreneurship itself is a term that carries some complexity. Social entrepreneurs may create non-profit or for-profit ventures, or something in between. There is debate about companies like Tom’s Shoes, for instance, as to whether they are charitable or social entrepreneurial enterprises. A key difference, according to an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, lies in the value proposition itself. For the entrepreneur, the value proposition anticipates and is organized to serve markets that can comfortably afford the new product or service, and is thus designed to create financial profit….The social entrepreneur, however, neither anticipates nor organizes to create substantial financial profit for his or her investors…. Instead, the social entrepreneur aims for value in the form of large-scale, transformational benefit that accrues either to a significant segment of society or to society at large….This does not mean that social entrepreneurs as a hard-and-fast rule shun profit-making value propositions. Ventures created by social entrepreneurs can certainly generate income, and they can be organized as either not-for- profits or for-profits. What distinguishes social entrepreneurship is the primacy of social benefit, what Duke University professor Greg Dees in his seminal work on the field characterizes as the pursuit of ‘mission-related impact.'” [2]

The following video discusses aspects of social entrepreneurship.

The video and article below provide concrete examples of social entrepreneurship.

Article: Danone’s yogurt strategy for Bangladesh

In addition to social entrepreneurial characteristics that you can infer from these examples, this article published in the Social Sector Network identifies 7 Essential Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurs.

[1]  “Social Entreneurship.” Wikipedia,,size%2C%20aims%2C%20and%20beliefs.

[2] Martin, Roger L., Sally Osberg. “Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition.” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Stanford University, 2020,