What is an Entrepreneur?

Review this section to learn about entrepreneurs.



  1. Define entrepreneur.
  2. Describe the three characteristics of entrepreneurial activity.
  3. Identify five potential advantages to starting your own business.
  4. Explain the differences among three types of start-up firms.

In developing BTIO and Realityworks Inc., the Jurmains were doing what entrepreneurs do (and doing it very well). In fact, Mary was nominated three times for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and named 2001 Wisconsin Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners. So what, exactly, is an entrepreneur? What does an entrepreneur do? According to one definition, an entrepreneur is an "individual who starts a new business," and that's true as far as it goes. Another definition identifies an entrepreneur as someone who uses "resources to implement innovative ideas for new, thoughtfully planned ventures," which is also true as far as it goes. But an important component of a satisfactory definition is still missing. To appreciate fully what it is, let's go back to the story of the Jurmains, for whom entrepreneurship seems to have worked out quite well. We hasten to point out that, in 1993, the Jurmains were both unemployed - Rick had been laid off by General Dynamics Corp., and Mary by the San Diego Gas and Electric Company. While they were watching the show about teenagers and flour sacks, they were living off a loan from her father and the returns from a timely investment in coffee futures. Rick recalls that the idea for a method of creating BTIO came to him while "I was awake in bed, worrying about being unemployed". He was struggling to find a way to feed his family. He had to make the first forty simulators himself, and at the end of the first summer, BTIO had received about four hundred orders - a promising start, perhaps, but, at $250 per baby (less expenses), not exactly a windfall. "We were always about one month away from bankruptcy," recalls Mary.

At the same time, it's not as if the Jurmains started up BTIO simply because they had no "conventional" options for improving their financial prospects. Rick, as we've seen, was an aerospace engineer, and his résumé includes work on space-shuttle missions at NASA. Mary, who has not only a head for business but also a degree in industrial engineering, has worked at the Johnson Space Center. Therefore, the idea of replacing a sack of flour with a computer-controlled simulator wasn't necessarily rocket science for the couple. But taking advantage of that idea - choosing to start a new business and to commit themselves to running it - was a risk. Risk taking is the missing component that we're looking for in a definition of entrepreneurship, and so we'll define an entrepreneur as someone who identifies a business opportunity and assumes the risk of creating and running a business to take advantage of it.

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