What Is an Entrepreneur?

Not every small business owner is an entrepreneur

Elon Musk
••• Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Essentially, an entrepreneur is a person who starts and operates a new business venture and takes greater-than-usual financial risks in doing so. While every entrepreneur is a small business owner, not every small business owner is an entrepreneur.

Traits of an Entrepreneur

The consensus is that successful entrepreneurs share a constellation of personality traits. In other words, some people are naturally more entrepreneurial than others.

Entrepreneurs are often known as people who have a talent for seeing opportunities and developing them into profit-making businesses, and they're able to evaluate risk of doing so. Entrepreneurs are also associated with being visionary. They dream big and have big ideas.

However, the main quality you need to be a successful entrepreneur is a determination to make your business venture succeed.

Quotes from Famous 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

Examples of Entrepreneurs

Some of the most famous entrepreneurs have created entirely new methods of production (Henry Ford), commercialized new technologies such as the personal computer (Steve Jobs) or invented life-changing devices that we can't imagine being without (Thomas Edison).

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.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos, e-commerce pioneer, created an online bookstore that has morphed into a behemoth that sells everything.

When Elon Musk co-founded PayPal the idea of paying for things using online money transfers was strange and marvelous. Now it's ingrained in our society.

Since launching PayPal, Mr. Musk has been busy developing even bigger ideas. 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.