Not every small business owner is an entrepreneur

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Essentially, an entrepreneur is a person who starts a new business venture.

That's not all you need to do to be considered an entrepreneur though. While every entrepreneur is a small business owner, not every small business owner is an entrepreneur.

We tend to think of entrepreneurs as people who have a talent for seeing opportunities and the abilities to develop those opportunities into profit-making businesses. 

For example, American P. T. Barnum is perhaps one of the world's most famous entrepreneurs. At one point, Barnum had signs posted in his Museum stating, "This Way to the Egress!" Excited visitors who followed the signs ended up outdoors - necessitating going back to the front of the Museum and paying another entrance fee if they wanted to continue their tour!

And we associate being an entrepreneur with being a visionary. Entrepreneurs don't open hardware stores. They create entirely new methods of production (Henry Ford), commercialize new technologies such as the personal computer (Steve Jobs) or invent life-changing devices that we can't imagine being without (Thomas Edison).

Entrepreneurs dream big

Lots of people have made money hauling away junk but entrepreneur Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? turned it into an empire. And then there's Richard Branson, whose Virgin Group empire at one point included over 400 companies. And Jeff Bezos, e-commerce pioneer, whose online bookstore has morphed into a behemoth that sells everything.

And we expect entrepreneurs to have big ideas. Elon Musk is a prototypical example. Although it's hard to imagine now as it's become so ingrained in our society when Mr. Musk co-founded PayPal the idea of paying for things using online money transfers was strange and marvelous.

Since launching PayPal, Mr. Musk has been busy developing even bigger ideas though. Through his company Tesla Motors he's working to bring fully-electric vehicles to the mass market while his company SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. Not out there enough for you? How about a Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system that would send riders through tubes in pods? ​

A common misperception about entrepreneurs is that entrepreneurs are wild risk-takers. Entrepreneurs do take risks, but only calculated ones. One of the abilities successful entrepreneurs share is the ability to evaluate risks.

Are entrepreneurs born or made? The debate still rages, but the current consensus is that successful entrepreneurs share a constellation of personality traits. In other words, some people are naturally more entrepreneurial than others.

A Few Favorite Quotes from Entrepreneurs

Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming. - Richard Branson

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” - Sara Blakely

"If you decide that you’re going to do only the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table." - Jeff Bezos

“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.” -- Estée Lauder

"Going from PayPal, I thought: 'Well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity?' Not from the perspective, 'What's the best way to make money?'" - Elon Musk

“I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”- Steve Jobs

What About You?

You don't need to have all the traits associated with entrepreneurship to be a successful entrepreneur. The main quality you need is a determination to make your business venture succeed. The rest of the qualities necessary to be a successful entrepreneur you can learn.

Also Known As: Often used as a synonym for a business person.