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We regularly hear the word ‘entrepreneur’ in the media. The UK government regularly talks about providing help to encourage entrepreneurship as a strategy to combat unemployment. It is certainly true that the most dynamic societies in the world are the ones that have the most entrepreneurs. So what is an entrepreneur, and why are they such an important part of a country’s economic development?

An entrepreneur is an individual who sets up and operates a business. In doing so, the entrepreneur usually takes some financial risk by investing their own time and money in the venture. Most people do not like taking risks, but an entrepreneur believes that failing to attempt something is a greater failure than trying and not succeeding. It is this quality that really sets entrepreneurs apart from other people.

Why is entrepreneurship central to the economic activity of any country? Because it is the entrepreneurial drive and creativity that are at the centre of the production and sale of new products and services in that country. Entrepreneurs are the risk-takers, the driving force behind new initiatives and opportunities. They believe that success is not only possible but necessary and they are willing to risk their own time and resources to drive their enterprise forward.

All enterprises — from small one-man bands to huge multinationals — start out as an idea in someone’s mind. As this idea intensifies, it develops into the entrepreneurial spirit which helps drive a nation’s wealth, employment, and business opportunities. Initially these enterprises are known as SMEs — Small and Medium Enterprises. But of course, they often grow into large corporations employing thousands of people. According to the European Commission: “SMEs provide a vital contribution to the European economy, being responsible for more than two thirds of the total employment in the private sectors and 85% of the net job growth.”

As well as the burning drive to succeed, most successful entrepreneurial enterprises are those where the business owner is passionate about their product or service. So what exactly does it take to be a successful business owner? Just becoming an entrepreneur does not mean you will be a success, so what are the common characteristics of successful entrepreneurs? We will look at these areas in our next article.