In a recent post Richard Branson posed the question that I have been asked by people and that many of us may wonder about very often.
“What is your definition of entrepreneur?”
Only yesterday I had a university lecture on entrepreneurship and when the lecturer asked for our definition of entrepreneurship or “the entrepreneur”. The answers were very diverse ranging from “the entrepreneur is a person that acts” over “the entrepreneur is a person that exploits opportunities in the face of uncertainty” to “the entrepreneur exploits opportunities in order to add value”. These are probably all true to some extent and touch upon the most fundamental aspects of entrepreneurship as we characterize it.
Richard Branson, for many a role model and arguably one of the most admired entrepreneurs defined the entrepreneur as somebody “who wants to make a difference to other people’s lives”.
Then I came to think of an example of a person that acted maybe more entrepreneurially than anyone else I could think of. This was a person that had probably never heard of any of these concepts mentioned before.
When I lived in a small village in the south of Mexico doing a voluntary service as a teacher some years ago, I shared a house with a single mother, a fabulous chef, and her 4 children. She was neither extremely poor but also far from being rich. We lived in a regular 2 level house and one morning I wake up and see that there are tables set in the patio, everything is cleaned up and the garden looked unrecognizable, more like a restaurant than a garden. At the breakfast table I asked her, curious at the transformation, what had happened. She told me the following: I have family at the coast that brought me a lot of seafood, more than I, you or my children can eat. There is a lot of space in the garden that has been unused and there is, as far as I know, not one person selling seafood in this village.” Back then I was pretty amazed at this, but looking at it with the array of definitions about entrepreneurs in mind, this example appears even more powerful. She used the product she had at hand, used the cooking skills, the unused space and a niche for seafood in the market to set up a restaurant, and she did this over night. Tables were full – always. This is an entrepreneur to me. Richard Branson would probably agree.