What Is An Entrepreneur?

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It’s a term that so many people are struggling with in this day and age.

This week is small business week. With that comes all sorts of staggering information about how important small business is to our economy:

  • More than 99% of Ontario’s businesses are small and medium-sized (under 500 employees).
  • More than 97% of Ontario’s employer businesses were small-sized with fewer than 100 employees.
  • More than 2.8 million Ontarians worked for small and medium enterprises.
  • Large enterprises employed almost 2.7 million individuals.

We tend to look at the massive brands and organizations as some kind of lighthouse of power when, in reality, we would not have much of an economy were it not for the small business owners. The challenge is that we live in a day and age when a business (like Instagram) can have under ten employees, minimal (if any) revenue, and then be sold for one billion dollars (in this case, it was to Facebook). So, is Instagram a small business? Or do we need to take the concept of a startup and separate it from the flock, because the spirit of a startup is so foundationally different from an individual who is more than happy to make enough less money (with as little stress as possible) and wants to run a business that would never be worth a billion dollars.

So, if you’re limiting your income and growth potential on purpose, can you still be considered an entrepreneur?

I have set a very clear definition of what an entrepreneur is: an entrepreneur is someone who has a vision for the industry that they serve that has yet to exist, and is willing to take the risk to prove their vision by executing and running a business around it. Some would argue that this definition is too shallow. Some would argue that many small business owners should not even be considered entrepreneurs. So might even argue that children of entrepreneurs taking over a family business would be considered entrepreneurs too (I’m iffy on this one). This week, I was invited to take part in a live television panel on TVO‘s The Agenda with Steve Paikin. The title of the show was called, Small Business In A Big Box World. The segment lasts about thirty minutes, and I’m hopeful that I did us all proud. There was some heavy back and forth challenges and debates.

So, would you consider certain small business owners entrepreneurs? I would. Here’s why…

Also, in cased you missed it, here’s my CTRL ALT Delete solo session on The Agenda with Steve Paikin from a few months back…


  1. Mitch,
    I’m a long-time reader and big fan. You’re always on top of the threads of conversation that are relevant to what we do, whether they be obviously marketing or not. Great stuff.
    This is something I’ve been thinking about for some time too. In fact, I just spoke at the RISD (my alma mater) Entrepreneur Mindshare event and used that time to try and chip away — in my own small way — at this issue. Specifically, I’ve been interested in questioning the meaning of “entrepreneur” since it is a word that comes with so many different meanings (and baggage) to different people. I’ve come to think that we’re better off thinking of entrepreneurship as something beyond size and ownership — of ideas, of companies, or anything else — and simply about enacting change. When it comes down to it, entrepreneurs want to enact change and have an impact, which is something that can be done by starting something completely new, or by revitalizing something that already exists. My experience has certainly been in the latter. I shared my story here: http://www.newfangled.com/you_the_other_kind_of_business_leader.
    Keep up the great work 🙂
    – Chris

  2. I suppose there is a difference between a small business and entrepreneur…entrepreneur’s in my mind want to scale whereas small business want to stay small.
    The word entrepreneur has also been the buzzword for the past couple of years and in my mind would be considered, young, cool, hip, disruptive etc, whereas a small business is old (been around for a long time and does not disrupt). This is my perception of both words but the one thing that they both do is create jobs which is admirable and have all the respect in the world for.
    Good show mitch, that was exciting to watch.

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