Entrepreneurs; Are They Made Or Born?

Two weeks ago, a friend and I were driving along Limuru road. While heading towards City Park, a jam caught with us near Agha Khan. That was not a good thing to us though I am glad it did happen because a short discussion arose between us about if entrepreneurs are born or made.

My friend, having taught at the university for some time now and being a doctoral fellow in entrepreneurship wanted to get my views as an independent scholar. I quickly defended myself that entrepreneurs are made and not born. Before this article ends, you will know what his thoughts were and where my stand lies.

Joseph Schumpeter indicated that entrepreneurs play a crucial role in successful market economies. We can all agree to his statement. A point in question now becomes, “Is entrepreneurship an art learned or is it a practice engraved in the DNA of the entrepreneurs that push them to play their role in our economies?

Janet T. Landa, an economist at York University in Toronto examined several “Ethnically homogeneous middlemen groups” who participated in cross cultural trade. They included Jews, Chinese, Indians and Lebanese. She discovered that such groups had had some common rigorous ethical code effectively enforced and highly developed in them.

In simple terms, she realized that when you are brought up in such environments, the ethical code is enforced in you. You don’t have to choose to be an entrepreneur or not, it is forced on you and you have to live with it. In this case you are made an entrepreneur out of necessity by the environment you are brought up in.

Gillion Godsell, a teacher at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg showed how values and attitudes principally explain why Indian Moslems do better economically than blacks and Afrikaners in South Africa. Professor Godsell noted that, “Religion provides a general approval of business, one that is reinforced by encouragement of enterprise in child rearing.” By contrast, “the most marked similarity between the black and Afrikaner groups lies in the distaste for business as an occupation, and their interpretation of Christianity as regarding money to be tainted.”

Back here at home some weeks ago, Prof. Bitange Ndemo also concluded almost as such. He wrote about the Somali people’s secret in their excellence with business. He noted that their cross border networks and culture is the reason for their success beside religion. The likelihood then, of a child becoming an entrepreneur if born within those confines is very high. So we can say that Entrepreneurs are made.

Now, what do we explain about the case of those people born outside the entrepreneurial culture but who later rise and become successful entrepreneurs? It now calls that we justify it differently. To answer that effectively, I will dissect Dr. Stephen A. Lasers’ publication titled, Are Entrepreneurs Made or Born?

Entrepreneurs stand out, they show others the way.

To begin with, Dr. Laser notes that over the past around three decades, there have been concerted efforts to establish programs in entrepreneurship with an idea of equipping eager ambitious individuals to start their own businesses. I can attest to that since entrepreneurship was a compulsory unit in my college irrespective of the course that one was doing.

He then discovered that even though certain proficiencies such as developing a business plan or basic profile can be taught, the basic profile of the entrepreneur is deeply imbedded in the personality structure of the individual. And no matter how much specialized education and training is offered to a person, they either have the right stuff or they don’t. Personality goes beyond the influences of society and entrepreneurship as you can agree is highly developed independent of behavior but not personality.

I tend to think Dr. Laser’s arguments are very supreme and holds credence. My Friend too noted that most entrepreneurs are born and that just a few are made or encouraged. I switched position too. Not because I respected the opulence of facts but because I questioned myself deeply on who and what makes an entrepreneur. I realized that not everyone can take calculated risks. A few of the people are the ones who fail and fail and still have the guts to dust themselves off and jump right into the fight or mud again.

Such characteristics such as perseverance, goal-oriented, highly optimistic, persistence, risk taking are not merely imposed or learnt rather are deep within the entrepreneurs’ personality and DNA. It thus explains the reason why some people are successful entrepreneurs in families with no entrepreneurial “roots.”

In case we argue that culture is responsible for the entrepreneurial culture among the Somali, Indians, Jews etc. chances are that it is far much less. Maybe around 15% or less than that are forced to become entrepreneurs by culture. And most of those never stand the turbulence of the entrepreneurial journey. For business, maybe it is true but we know quite well the difference between business people and entrepreneurs.

Most entrepreneurs are definitely born and not made. They never allow failure to define them. They are never short of world changing ideas, innovations and exits and entrances. Most important of all, they think of the future and never usually give up on their dreams. Their futuristic visions compel them to question the status quo and carve their own unique paths.


Copyright @ 2017.

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Manufacturing, Technology, Innovation, Governance, Management and International Emerging Issues. For featuring, promotions or support, reach out to us at info@dailyfocus.co.ke
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