I think we should start by answering this age long question about entrepreneurial education. Can entrepreneurship be taught? (Or is it “wired into our DNA”?)
Well if asked? My reaction would be to say ‘no’. It cannot be taught in the sense that everyone is a potential entrepreneur. However, I do believe that certain skills can be taught that develop that potential into a more effective entrepreneur. I also believe that individuals can be taught how to support an entrepreneur or a start-up business. In that way, even people who do not have the inclination to take major career risks can learn how to help those who do. Just as not everyone can learn to be a great artist, musician/dancer, or industrialist, there are many supporting careers that are connected with those professions – and those activities can be taught and learnt. While I might not have enough talent to make great music, I should be able to learn the necessary skills to help market and ‘sell’ a great musician. Thus, there are many reasons to support and develop effective entrepreneurship education.
While courses in entrepreneurship continue to be popular, I must admit that the lesson and theory behind entrepreneurship education lacks enthusiasm. For example, most entrepreneurship courses rely on the teaching and development of a business plan. However, the goals of business planning education remain poorly understood.
We can teach all the great curriculum of Entrepreneurship Education, but it is up to the individuals involved to stir their entrepreneurial mindset or what some call “entrepreneurial Spirit”.
Entrepreneurial Spirit conveys so many different thoughts and images but while there are many interpretations, I perceive entrepreneurial spirit as “The resolve and precision devoted to the work (products or services) that an individual endeavours to provide through their special abilities”.
More plainly, it seems that successful entrepreneurs always possess 2 attributes:
1. They possess the creative ability, mindset and desire to work through obstacles with a beneficial result; and
2. They find opportunities where others see problems.
So who really are Entrepreneurs?
It is hard to “box” an entrepreneur:
- A psychologist sees entrepreneurs as innovative creators occasioned by need,
- An economist sees an entrepreneur as someone who coordinates resources in a new way towards a profitable end, and
- A businessman sees entrepreneurs as aggressive competitors, persons who maximize profit.
I have seen a lot of definitions of what makes an entrepreneur, but here is a broad perspective of who I think an entrepreneur is.
An entrepreneur is someone who sees an opportunity which others do not fully recognize to meet an unsatisfied demand or radically improve the performance of an existing business. They have unquenchable self-believe that these opportunities can be made real through hard work, commitment and the adaptability to learn the lessons of the market along the way. They are not discouraged by skepticism from ‘experts’ or those from whom they seek backing and support, but are willing to weigh all advices and select that which will be helpful.
They are prepared not just to work seriously hard but to back their judgment with personal investment at a level which will cause problem if they are wrong about the opportunity. They understand that achievements are results of team work and they know how to choose the necessary blend of talent, and inspire them with their vision.
Entrepreneurs and Opportunities
Entrepreneurs are Lucky! When you search the lives of entrepreneurs, you’ll come to this same conclusion.
For example, Bill Gates of the Microsoft fame was so lucky as a kid. In 1968, Gates’ middle school invested $3,000 in a state of the art computer. At that time, most universities didn’t even have a computer available to students. The chance of getting to learn how to program as a 13-year-old in 1968 was about one-in-a-million. But was he the only student in that school at the time? No.
Dangote was loaned ₦500,000 at 21 years by his uncle Sanusi Abdulkadir Dantata in the mid 70’s. That was equivalent of some federal government agencies’ budgetary allocation at that time. He could as well have squandered, and his uncle wouldn’t raise a brow about it.
However, some people make their own luck. By consistently putting themselves in the right situations, successful entrepreneurs make themselves luckier than the average person. Oprah Winfrey said “I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” The truth is that everyone has been opportune at some time. The question is what do you do with the opportunity?
What is an Opportunity? An opportunity is a favorable set of circumstances that creates a need for a new product, service or business. Opportunities are either identified or created.
Opportunities have four essential qualities
- Attractiveness: True but the weakest in the criteria of identifying opportunities, not all opportunities are attractive, if all opportunities are attractive then every Tom, Dick, and Harry will possibly identify it, but true entrepreneurs do.
- Anchored in a product or service that creates or add value to its customers.
How Entrepreneurs Identify Opportunities
Observing Trends – Trends create opportunities for entrepreneurs to pursue. The most important trends are:
- Economic forces.
- Social forces.
- Technological advances.
- Political action and regulatory change.
Solving Problems – Sometimes identifying opportunities simply involves noticing a problem and finding a way to solve it.
- These problems can be pinpointed through observing trends and through more simple means, such as intuition, coincidence, or change.
Finding Gaps in the Marketplace – A gap in the marketplace is often created when a product or service is needed by a specific group of people but doesn’t represent a large enough market to be of interest to mainstream retailers or manufacturers.