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The Making of a Great Entrepreneur! What Makes a “Great” Entrepreneur? The Talent and The Community.

September 24, 2011

(By Marsha Madle, CBSP. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.)
There is no formula for a “great” entrepreneur. This is a diverse population. They are men and women, young people and seniors, urban and rural dwellers. They represent a range of ethnicities and hold various levels of education. They are self-employed as well as employees of corporations. They are innovators, inventors, and calculated risk-takers. They are driven and passionate visionaries.
They are change agents as employees in their companies initiating new ways of solving old problems. They are change agents in their communities tackling social needs with fresh approaches. They are change agents in their business always looking for ways to address the changing needs of their clientele. But the one thing they all have in common to successfully foster their entrepreneurial spirit and grow a successful enterprise is the need for a supportive community culture that provides social networks, access to resources, and business friendly policies.
How can the community make the difference?
Social Networks – Communities can support entrepreneurs by providing opportunities for meet-ups and e-clubs where they can network, share ideas and ask for help. Peer learning is an important ingredient for making great entrepreneurs. They often feel isolated and the opportunity to engage with other like-minded individuals helps them feel more connected. Public places like coffee shops, restaurants and libraries are very popular for entrepreneurs who use them to meet clients and work remotely.
Resources – Access to a variety of resources is critical. Entrepreneurs need information, capital, education, a workforce, and professional services to name a few. Mentors are also important assets in a community for nurturing rookie entrepreneurs for greater success. The local library, chamber of commerce, local university or community college as well as marketing professionals, accountants and attorneys play important roles in helping entrepreneurs build a solid foundation for their enterprise. Whether a community has all these assets is not as important as their capacity to connect their local entrepreneurs to the resources they need in their community, region and state.
Policy – Communities can play a vital role in building a supportive infrastructure for entrepreneurs through adopting business friendly policy. Local governments can review their ordinances and regulations, with an eye on updating them to meet the needs of contemporary business concerns while maintaining the integrity of the community’s culture and identity. But “business friendly” goes beyond the policies themselves. It also encompasses how those policies are communicated. Entrepreneurs and business owners want policy that is clear, concise and consistent so they know the rules of engagement. Providing opportunities for open dialogue between the public and private sectors is more important now than ever when collaboration and public – private partnerships are crucial for our economic prosperity.
Culture – It is a thriving entrepreneurial community culture that will continue to fill the entrepreneurial pipeline. Communities can create this through various means. One important way is youth engagement – sending the message early to their children that they can start a business as an alternative for working for someone else. Youth entrepreneurship programs in K-12 such as 4-H, Junior Achievement and Generation E are available to introduce and foster young people’s entrepreneurial spirit. Telling positive stories is always a boost to a community’s morale. Recognizing and celebrating the achievements of local businesses and entrepreneurs is a great way for the community to show them support. As mentioned earlier, entrepreneurs are a diverse group and they are willing to take calculated risks to see their dreams come to fruition. A community that fosters entrepreneurs is one that also has a risk-tolerant and inclusive attitude.
It is during the “perfect storm” that the “great entrepreneur” emerges. It is the entrepreneur’s abilities and drive converging with the desirable ecosystem of the community that sets the stage for success for both parties.
Marsha Madle is the CEC Project Coordinator/Community Coach for the MSU Land Policy Institute –Entrepreneurial Communities Program in East Lansing.
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