It’s a polarised argument. Can you actually train someone to be an entrepreneur? Those who endorse mentoring initiatives resoundly say ‘yes’, while there are others who believe that entrepreneurial spirit is something you’re born with; that you will instinctively overcome any odds to make your business succeed.
We hear of people such as Sir Richard Branson, who started his business selling records from a bedroom, or Sir Alan Sugar, who started humbly, grew a fortune, lost it, and then grew it again to become one of the most lauded entrepreneurs of our time. And yet there are others who throw capital at their businesses but rarely make it out of the minor leagues. What is the secret of the successful entrepreneurs’ successes?
Teresa Le - Director, Ladudu Ltd
“You can learn to be an accountant, an engineer, a doctor or a lawyer; however to be great at anything, you need passion, and this isn't something that you can just learn. A good doctor will tell you that they like their job because they like to save lives, an engineer will tell you they like to build things and an entrepreneur will tell you they like to follow their instincts, be able to transform those instincts into an idea and turn that idea into to business opportunity.
“I believe that being an entrepreneur is born as well as learnt. You can go to business school to learn the theories and processes about how to run a business, however not everyone who graduates from a business school can call themselves an entrepreneur. ‘Entrepreneur’
‘Entrepreneur’ is not a job title one usually puts on a business card, it is a title usually given to an individual who is successful at what they do in business by others.
is not a job title one usually puts on a business card, it is a title usually given to an individual who is successful at what they do in business by others. An entrepreneur might not know everything about running a business, however most of the time they know how to work with people who do. I've always known from a young age that I wanted to create something and be a pat of the business world.
“ I went to university, completed a business degree and worked for some top companies for almost 10 years before deciding to pursue my idea. I created ladudu private cooking school with just a few hundred pounds in June 2009 after I was made redundant. In April 2011 ladudu limited grew into a restaurant with an estimate annual turnover of half a million in the first year of trading and currently employs over 20 employees. I therefore believe that to become an entrepreneur, one must have some natural business instincts as well as good common sense, which can be learnt from the surrounding environment."
Jane Hopkins - Founder, Mumsclub
“I believe entrepreneurship is nature rather than nurtured. The reason for this is that to become a successful entrepreneur takes dedication, passion and the drive to never give up. To see the end goal so clearly that you keep going finding new ways to get there should your first, second, third and so on attempt doesn’t work.
“This takes a certain type of personality that you are born with. Whereas some people are happy to live a stress free lifestyle where you know exactly how much you have coming in now, and will have for years to come; an entrepreneur will always strive for more, no matter how gruelling the journey to success may be. For this reason, to me there will always be a clear distinction between an entrepreneur and a business owner.”
Emma-Jayne Parkes & Viviane Jaeger - Co-Founders, Squid London
“We both grew up in very entrepreneurial families. It could be said that as a result, we were bought up having the mindset of an entrepreneur before we even realised that this would be the path for us. Personality definitely plays a huge part in determining whether being an entrepreneur is for you, and not everyone will naturally possess the traits needed to enter into entrepreneurship. However, this isn’t to say that these can’t be picked up.
“Circumstance is another factor that will play a key part in whether entrepreneurship is for you. For us and the industry that we work in, becoming entrepreneurs was almost a necessity. If we didn’t take the plunge and route we did, our ideas and designs may never have made their way to market. Regardless of whether you grow up with an entrepreneurial mind or not, learning is essential.
“Without having made the mistakes we have and learning from them, we would never have got to where we are now. We are strong believers in the phrase ‘learn by doing’, and this is key to anyone regardless of whether entrepreneurship comes naturally or not. If you have the right skill set, are determined and passionate about your ideas, you can become an entrepreneur. “
Jessica Ratcliffe - Founder, GaBoom
“I think the answer to the question lies within each individual and their environment. I personally knew from a very young age that starting my own business was something that I was determined to do. I think it’s all about what inspires you. I looked up to Sir Richard Branson and his success hugely inspired me. I looked at what he had achieved and told myself that this was something I could achieve too.
“I was determined and saw setting up on my own as an exciting prospect, not a daunting one. Someone might look at the Bransons of the world and never think they could achieve such success. An entrepreneur however will look at what Sir Richard Branson has done and set themselves a challenge to follow in his footsteps. Entrepreneurship also comes down to characteristics. You will inevitably have hurdles to overcome and there will be low points during your journey.
“If you have the tenacity and confidence to get back on your feet, learn from mistakes, and see challenges as opportunities rather than threats, being an entrepreneur might just be the thing for you. So looking at whether entrepreneurship is inborn or learnt, I think it’s a mixture of both. You have to have the passion for it, but you won’t ever get to the top without learning.”
“I think that becoming an entrepreneur comes down to a blend of factors. There are the Alan Sugars of this world to whom entrepreneurship came naturally - his flair for business started off in the school playground and in the area he lived. He used his initiative, and turned his money making ideas into business ventures.
“Likewise a client of mine has a son who is a natural entrepreneur in the making; buying sweets for his friends and putting a small mark-up on the price. Flip the coin the other way, however, and you get entrepreneurs finding their feet through necessity. With the economic climate meaning that thousands of jobs have been lost, becoming an entrepreneur has, for some, come as a way of adapting to a forced-into situation. However, there is a common ground for everyone, whether they have fallen into becoming an entrepreneur naturally, or because they simply had to, entrepreneurship is something that develops over time.
“Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs will have learnt the hard way throughout their journey. Without learning from failure, progression and further success can never be achieved. This is inevitable whether your path to become an entrepreneur was known from the word go, or whether it had to be worked at and developed. Ultimately a great entrepreneur is an athlete - be it natural talent or a talent that has developed over time it requires the skill of honing, learning and finetuning that leads to excellence.”
“I think that stating whether entrepreneurship is simply inborn or learnt is a difficult thing to do. It’s too general to put all entrepreneurs in one basket, labelling them as either one or the other. There’s definitely a bit of grey matter, and I personally believe that there a number of different ‘sets’ when it comes to being an entrepreneur.
“There are those who know from the word go that entrepreneurship is the path for them, and there are also the ‘accidental’ entrepreneurs. These are the ones, like me, who never set out to run their own ventures, but were pushed into it due to certain circumstances. Becoming a father meant that I was on feeding duty around the clock, and this was when I realised the need for a self warming baby feeding bottle. Had I not become a parent, this idea may never have crossed my mind. The question of entrepreneurship being inborn or learnt is a good one, however, I do think that a key factor to becoming a successful entrepreneur is the way in which you are able to deal with and manage risk.
“The risk factor is a huge issue when it comes to being an entrepreneur, and I believe that your attitude to managing it is a key indicator as to whether entrepreneurship is the right path for you.”
Rupert Lee-Browne - CEO, Caxton FX
“However you look at it entrepreneurs are a special breed and that’s what makes us stand out from the rest of the crowd. There can be no argument that we are different to others, primarily because we will not accept being told ‘No’. I happened to be speaking to an academic in ‘entrepreneurship’ just the other day and we concluded that the question was essentially the same as the nature versus nurture discussion.
“I would say that being an entrepreneur is a mixture of the two: on the one hand it’s the experiences of life that help form the character of an entrepreneur, (nurture), but at the same time, you’ve got to have the right instincts and inherent qualities, (nature).
“The circumstances that allowed me to start my first company was that I never felt truly comfortable in
The majority of business pioneers share the same traits of being risk-takers combined with wanting to prove someone wrong.
the corporate environment and at the same time found myself unemployed. Both factors awakened my inherent desire to be the master of my own destiny.
“The majority of business pioneers share the same traits of being risk-takers combined with wanting to prove someone wrong. You also have to have desire, drive and determination to succeed, as well as being highly influential and charming to boot.
“Personally, one of my successful initiatives has been to launch a corporate bond as a way of raising money for the company despite being told we could not do it. This proved highly successful largely down to the fact that I had the overarching desire to see this through right to the end, as well as wanting to prove to the naysayers that there was another way of raising finances without their help.
“The entrepreneur will have drive and determination and a desire to prove people wrong. But he needs the environment to turn that into a success. “
Danny Jatania - Chairman & CEO, Pockit
“It is a myth to think that Entrepreneurs are born, the reality is that entrepreneurs are made by being committed to calculated risk taking and perseverance against all odds. As an entrepreneur it’s likely you’ll make mistakes along the way – success comes from learning from your own mistakes. My first few ventures were a great learning experience and taught me valuable skills that I still use to this day.
“Entrepreneurs can develop themselves further by also learning from the successes and failures of fellow entrepreneurs. The right attitude is very important and this is not a trait you’re born with but a quality you develop when you meet obstacles and overcome them. Entrepreneurial spirit, I believe, comes from dreaming big and then setting out to accomplish your dream. I think that’s something we all have within us.”
"Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, but some people do just have ‘it’. It is possible for anyone to come up with an idea and set up a business, but in order to succeed, there are certain characteristics needed and these are natural strengths that make entrepreneurs. But the question is whether those that are naturally talented are better than those that may have trained and put in the hours?
"With commitment and hard work, I believe that anyone can be an entrepreneur. Belief, drive, ambition and will - everyone has these traits in them if they think about it in the right way. It is up to individuals to take opportunities and make it happen. If you can learn skills, are committed to a goal and are not afraid to make mistakes, then you can succeed.
"I always knew I didn’t want to follow the crowd - from a young age I always got involved in different things. At university whilst friends were partying and sleeping, I worked as a brand manager for Yellow Pages
, did work placements in The Philippines and Colombia and organised events on campus. All these opportunities lay the foundations for my next steps, I knew I wanted to run my own business and do something that really makes a difference. I believe that I have certain characteristics that developed through my experiences and led me to be an entrepreneur."