The truth behind entrepreneurial stigmas

Eve Mahlab and the impact of entrepreneurship
What is scaling - and how do I do it?
Silicon Valley is often the first thing that comes to mind when we hear 'entrepreneur'
Silicon Valley is often the first thing that comes to mind when we hear ‘entrepreneur’


Entrepreneurs are more than just a label, in fact very much more than just a word. There are plenty of stereotypes surrounding entrepreneurs, the majority of which fall into 2 distinct and contradictory camps. On the one hand, you have the personable “silver entrepreneurs”, the natural salespeople who saw opportunities everywhere and established their fortunes a few decades ago. On the other hand, you have the socially awkward Generation-Y tech enthusiast in Silicon Valley who explicitly believe the rules don’t apply to them. Both stereotypes had an instantaneous million-dollar idea, have problems with authority, are risk-takers and are overachieving, workaholic Type A personalities who struggle to switch off.

Common sense on stereotypes

Your own common sense can tell you pretty quickly that entrepreneurs exist outside of those stereotypes, and that the mental picture created of both of the above images is quite literally just that – an unrealistic stereotype. A little internet research can unearth academic papers and no-nonsense bullet-pointed articles to affirm your dismissal of these stereotypes. Nonetheless, the stigmas that pervade the generic media image of the entrepreneurial figure needs to be deconstructed, because despite their fictitious nature they can still be wildly discouraging to anyone who comes up with a business idea but gazes up at a Steve Jobs-esque figure and reacts with, “I couldn’t do that.”

Personality traits

The common stigmas attached to entrepreneurship are personality traits such as being unable to ever work for someone else, which lends itself to the assumption that entrepreneurs are born rather than made. In reality, that assumption contradicts an integral part of entrepreneurship’s definition: entrepreneurs are self-made, with results yielding from hard work and determination in the face of adversity. Such resilience and resolution tends to be part of a very successful formula for anyone wanting to leave the workforce and start their own company as well as in the opposite position of re-entering the workforce after running a startup. Yet, that’s not to be said that just anyone can become a successful entrepreneur. As serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk observes, “We’re living through a very attractive time to be an ‘entrepreneur’. I meet a lot of Ivy League-schooled kids who think that because they’re smart students that they’re entrepreneurs. Then I watch, and the first taste of adversity they get, they crumble. People think it’s a lot easier than it is.”

Aggressive disruptors

While entrepreneurs often disrupt markets, another unhelpful stereotype might be that entrepreneurs are purely aggressive or disruptive. Certainly, entrepreneurs may have business ideas which change the way in which a marketplace works, and they may have to behave a little differently in order to catch the attention of potential investors. But at the heart of this is a person who thought outside the box and came up with not just a new idea, but a unique way to sell their idea as well.

There is no box

At Rare Birds we have a value that runs through everything we execute. It goes like this, “We don’t think outside the box, there is no box”. This too can apply to stereotypes and stigmas. It is crucial to debunk the myths surrounding entrepreneurship for one resounding reason: there is no such thing as the stereotypical entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs make up the most diverse workforce on the planet, with as many different reasons and backgrounds for beginning their companies as differing personalities. Each are unique, their intricate human fabric cannot be rewoven. The only thing that entrepreneurs have in common is that they have an idea which has a purpose and which they have found a market for (or indeed created that market), and they have the passion to see that idea through from inception to commercial success.

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Eve Mahlab and the impact of entrepreneurship
What is scaling - and how do I do it?

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