While watching Platform 9.0 this afternoon (or rather, following it on Twitter via the tweets of those watching), a lecture programme organized by the Covenant Christian Centre and broadcasted live on Channels Television, a statement that one of the speakers, Mrs Ibukun Awosika made stuck with viewers: we cannot all be entrepreneurs. Immediately, this particular statement went almost viral on Twitter, in general admission that what she said was right. I, however, choose to disagree somewhat on that statement.
My major point of deviation from this generally accepted statement starts from the definition of entrepreneurship. The dictionary as well as popular definition of an entrepreneur is “someone who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of a profit”. However, I have come to view being an entrepreneur differently. In my own opinion, an entrepreneur is “someone who conceptualizes or creates an idea and implements it”. It is restrictive to describe an entrepreneur in strictly business or financial terms.
The world has evolved to the point that there are now people who take on social causes in the face of risks to bring about a desired result, which in this case is not in monetary terms, but social change. Also, a lot of companies encourage employees to create ideas and implement them with the company’s resources, without them starting an entirely new venture. Two excellent examples are 3M and Google, which allow employees up to 10% and 30% of company time to work on ideas of their own choice. This has brought great results for both companies(Post-It notes for 3M, Google Earth, Google Maps and Gmail for Google), without any of the workers leaving the companies in order to start their own ventures in order to actualize those ideas. I believe that these workers also deserve to be called entrepreneurs.
I strongly believe every person can be an entrepreneur, since to me, entrepreneurship is the application of skills to implement ideas, to make them add value, to bring them to life. This means that a business creator as well as an artiste or a social change worker or employee can be rightly described as entrepreneurs, because they all bring ideas to execution. As a matter of fact, every organisation should desire to have employees who can act as entrepreneurs within the organisation, otherwise called intrapreneurs.
I know for a fact that the popular usage of the term entrepreneur is very unlikely to change, but to use it strictly in that sense is highly restrictive. This is why many foreign schools have started expanding their entrepreneurship programs from creating business ventures to turning ideas into results, which they incorporate with every major or course. Some other schools specify either business entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurship. It is also the reason why Behance, a design company runs a blog, 99percent.com focusing on the skills needed to execute ideas (from the popular saying, “Creativity is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”). Funny enough, most of the contributors to the blog are not even business owners, but graphic artists. Yet, their work has been of great benefit to traditionally-defined entrepreneurs such as me.
The conclusion of this post is this: truly, we cannot all be business entrepreneurs. However, it is about time we broaden the concept of entrepreneurship to mean more than just starting business ventures. After all, many new businesses are not built on new ideas, but on pure, wholesale copying. On the other hand, everyone can develop the capacity to implement ideas by learning the skills necessary. This is what entrepreneurship today means. We can all be entrepreneurs.