What Is an Entrepreneur?

Not Every Small Business Owner Is an Entrepreneur

Elon Musk
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An entrepreneur is a person who starts and operates a new business venture and absorbs much of the financial risk that comes from doing that, rather than having an outside investor fund the project. Entrepreneurs strike out on their own or with a partner or partners, taking a business idea and turning it into a reality—usually by investing their own money into the venture and sometimes getting loans or seed money from family and friends.

While every entrepreneur is a small business owner, not every small business owner is an entrepreneur.

Traits of an Entrepreneur

Successful entrepreneurs often are known as people who have a talent for seeing opportunities and developing them into profit-making businesses, and they're able to evaluate the risk of doing so. Entrepreneurs also are associated with being visionary, which means 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. You will need this mindset to handle the huge obstacles facing every entrepreneur: A staggering nine out of 10 startups fail.

Entrepreneur vs. Small Business Owner

The difference between a small business owner and an entrepreneur comes down to scope. Most small business owners are mom-and-pop stores where the owners are just trying to run a small business and sell goods or offer services to locals.

Entrepreneurs have big dreams of scaling their operation so they're selling products or services across the country or around the world. Small business owners tend to be focused on the day-to-day, while entrepreneurs are thinking about the big picture at all times, and positioning their company with that in mind.

For example, a small business plumber is just going locally from house to house, fixing the sink or installing a new water heater. An entrepreneur is trying to develop a new system of streamlining plumbing services that can be copied anywhere in the world, allowing them to open locations anywhere and build an empire.

Quotes From Famous Entrepreneurs

To understand what makes someone an entrepreneur, it's helpful to review the following quotes from some famous entrepreneurs about what kind of mindset they have.

"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

Well-known 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, 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 other company, SpaceX, designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

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