What Is an Entrepreneur? (+ How to Become One)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

An entrepreneur turns a need or idea into a business. Discover the different types of entrepreneurs, some characteristics they share, and more.

[Featured Image]  Two men, both wearing glasses and aprons, serve their customers at their business.

An entrepreneur takes on the adventure and risk of starting a new business. These businesses can begin either as side gigs or full-time business ventures. Entrepreneurs create their own businesses and build and scale them to become profitable. 

Learn what an entrepreneur does, the common characteristics of entrepreneurs, the four different types of entrepreneurs, and how to become one.

What does an entrepreneur do?

When hearing the word entrepreneur, you may think of someone who has launched a start-up. While this is true, an entrepreneur is a person who sees a need and works to create a business that solves that need. It’s someone willing to take a risk and turn their business idea into reality.

Common characteristics of entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs tend to be hardworking, innovative, and resourceful because, in the beginning, they’re often solely responsible for the success of their ventures. Building a business can be a 24/7 job. No matter how brilliant a start-up idea may be, entrepreneurs need the skills to develop and run a successful business, including: 

  • Adaptability: If a concept isn’t working, you may need to adapt quickly and find solutions.

  • Ability to network: Networking is often among the invaluable skills you learn as an entrepreneur. Growing a successful business requires a lot of time and effort. Creating a network of like-minded individuals can help you market your new business and stay motivated and enthusiastic when challenges arise. Collaboration and networking can also create opportunities to learn from other entrepreneurs.

  • Comfort with fundraising: Unless you have the resources to start your new business venture, you will likely have to spend a fair amount of time selling and seeking investment in your idea.

  • Leadership: As your company’s founder, you’ll need to make crucial decisions and build and manage a team.

While there can be flexibility regarding expectations around formal training, certification, or education requirements when starting your own business, entrepreneurs tend to have a drive and a passion for lifelong learning. It’s about your ideas, experience, and dedication to making your vision a reality. 

Who is an example of an entrepreneur?

Some famous examples of entrepreneurs include Richard Branson, Victoria Beckham, and JK Rowling. These self-made magnates had a vision and saw it through, pushing past hardships and staying on course. 

These individuals also show that entrepreneurship can look different and that you don't have to be an inventor or engineer to start a business. Famous examples of entrepreneurs illustrate the diversity and possibility of entrepreneurship.

Is being an entrepreneur a career?

Being an entrepreneur is a career, and it can be a lifelong choice that turns out to be lucrative. As an entrepreneur, you solve problems and innovate in a way that may bring value to the economy. Initially, it can be challenging, but the reward of working for yourself is worth it for many entrepreneurs. 

Similar to other careers, you can work as an entrepreneur until retirement. You may also start multiple businesses or just one. This long-term career path can lead to job satisfaction and financial independence.

Whether scaling your company long-term, starting new businesses, or working as a consultant for other entrepreneurs, it is possible to turn entrepreneurship into a lifelong, full-time career.

What are the four types of entrepreneurs?

The business model pursued determines the primary type of entrepreneur. The four types of entrepreneurs include:

  • Large company entrepreneurs launch businesses within an already established business by acquiring or creating a new internal division. Examples include Meta’s acquisition of Instagram and Google's launching of Google Maps.

  • Small business entrepreneurs open businesses with no plans for wide-scale expansion. Often, they open a single location and take on their own financial needs rather than reaching out to investors. Examples include local restaurants, gift shops, and independently owned retail shops.

  • Social entrepreneurs work to create societal change with their products or services. They aim to create a sustainable business that can solve a societal problem or address a social issue. Examples include Books to Prisoners and TOMS.

  • Scalable start-up entrepreneurs start businesses with the intention of widespread, long-term growth. They are innovators who often have a novel idea that shakes up a new market or launches it altogether. Examples include companies like Meta and Uber.

How to become an entrepreneur

To become an entrepreneur, consider the viability of your ideas and research whether anyone else is doing something similar. After assessing the viability of starting your own business, go in-depth by building your business plan, from financing to product development. 

Conduct research. 

Consider the following questions to help you learn about your new business venture:

  • Is your idea solving a problem that needs fixing? 

  • How can you disrupt long-standing industries or niche markets with modern technology? 

  • What does your competition look like? You’ll want to do a competitor analysis and determine whether your idea is a need others have and would be willing to pay for.

Build a network.

Once you’ve determined if your idea can become a successful business, focus on building your network with individuals who support you. Attend networking events in your area and connect with investors, lawyers, and anyone who can help along the way. Consider finding a mentor who can guide you and give advice as you work out the details of your business’s operations. 

Get organised.

Organising your idea into actionable steps and a clear plan is essential in starting a business. Create a business plan, consider having a business partner or professional review it, and offer feedback. You can also hire someone to write one for you or use free online resources to create one. 

Next, incorporate your business and open a bank account. Pick a location and get settled in. Create a proof of concept as early as possible to attract investors to help fund your business. Interacting with and getting feedback from investors and customers is valuable in shaping the direction of your business.

Get funding.

If you’re taking out a loan, determine what type of loan you’ll need and the payments you can afford. Gather all required documentation from the lender. Make sure you apply for the right loan based on your business and financial situation. Entrepreneurs may apply for several business loans, such as lines of credit, personal loans for business use, and loans through organisations like the Business Growth Fund (BGF). 

If you’re seeking out investors, be ready to present your business plan, including financial plans and why the investor would benefit from funding your idea.

Build and test.

Building and rolling out your minimum viable product (MVP) can help engage your first potential customers and validate your idea. Take this opportunity to see what works and what doesn't. This trial-and-error phase is essential to the long-term success of your business. 

You'll want input from a wide variety of people. Use the feedback to help you make decisions about your company’s progression. Your concept doesn’t have to be perfect. This step ensures people are interested in your product or service and allows them to fine-tune it based on feedback.

After gathering data and implementing changes from your test run, your product and business plan should be relatively polished and targeted to intended consumers. Having these details in order can make convincing investors to fund your venture easier. 

Scale your business.

Take the money you’ve raised and allot what’s needed to build and scale your business. Many successful business owners suggest starting with the end in mind to align your goals as you scale your business correctly. Manage your cash flow accordingly, and you may see growth that matches your initial dreams for the company or beyond.

Resources for entrepreneurs

You’ll find many resources available to entrepreneurs. Here are a few helpful ones for first-time and seasoned entrepreneurs alike: 

  • The Intellectual Property Office provides the assistance you need to file for a patent, trademark, or copyright.

  • PR Fire distributes press releases to search engines, news websites, and journalists.

  • UK Business Angels Association provides information about business investment and investors. 

  • LegalVision gives entrepreneurs access to legal forms and helps provide answers to common legal questions. You can also search for lawyers on its website.

  • Enterprise Nation connects you to a free network of small business mentors.

  • Your own board of advisors can provide counsel, advice, and support for your business.

Next steps

Learning more about entrepreneurship can be a great way to prepare for your venture. 

Consider the following programmes:

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