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American Entrepreneur

Read information on the history and future of the American entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs have found a home in the business of free enterprise. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Entrepreneurs have found a home in the business of free enterprise.

The American entrepreneur is a core component of the American ethos. With America's reputation as the land of opportunity, anyone with a business plan has the right to put that plan into action. America was founded by entrepreneurs, and small business continues to fulfill a significant role in the American economy. American entrepreneurs propel capitalism forward by continuing a historical tradition of implementing ideas and taking necessary risks to see their dreams come to fruition.

Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

Involvement in the business world is not enough to make someone an entrepreneur. There are a number of traits associated with having the entrepreneurial spirit or being considered an entrepreneur.

Some of the commonly noted traits of entrepreneurs include:

  • Willing to take risks: Entrepreneurs are able to take chances and think "outside the box."
  • Ambitious: Entrepreneurs have big ideas and work toward making them a reality.
  • Instigative: Entrepreneurs create change willingly and try to incite change in others.
  • Determined: Entrepreneurs are not easily thwarted and choose to be proactive rather than procrastinate.
  • Optimistic: Entrepreneurs believe in their own success and the success of their ideas.
  • Original: Entrepreneurs are able to create unique solutions or products for common problems or needs.
  • Nonconformist: Entrepreneurs stand out from a crowd due to their leadership and innovation.
  • Competitive: Entrepreneurs push themselves to be the best.
  • Hardworking: Entrepreneurs possess a strong work ethic and are highly self-motivated.

The listed personality traits are not restricted to business leaders or innovators, but they are prevalent in the world of small businesses, startup companies, franchises and business expansions. They are also common traits in people who seek to create change.

Historic Entrepreneurs

Throughout the history of America, the entrepreneurial spirit has found a place in the business of free enterprise. Benjamin Franklin coupled the spirit of the Enlightenment period with his competitive ambition as a seasoned businessman in order to succeed as an entrepreneur. As a writer, editor and printer, Franklin practiced self-promotion, building a printing empire that included publishing newspapers, printing and selling books, and the wholesale distribution of paper. Two centuries after his death, Franklin continues to inspire small-business owners to push forward, expand their product lines and corner their particular markets.

Eli Whitney cornered the market on nails after the British embargo that occurred during the Revolutionary War. Through understanding gaps and needs in the consumer market, Whitney expanded his commercial range by manufacturing small items that no one else considered. With the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, Whitney showed innovation, determination and a tangible example of what hard work can accomplish.

Modern Entrepreneurs

Oprah Winfrey has been a talk show host since her early days in journalism. She created Harpo, Inc., produces her own chat show, has her own magazine, cofounded a television channel and is considered one of America's greatest philanthropists. Bill Gates founded the Microsoft Corporation and later partnered with IBM to create a monopoly on PC software. Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, exemplified the entrepreneurial spirit by buying brand names in bulk and offering them at reasonable prices in accessible stores across the country.

Although they are three very different people with diverse backgrounds, Oprah, Gates and Walton reflect the diversity of the American entrepreneur in the modern world.

The Future of Entrepreneurs in America

There is no set age and no set era that points to the peak of the entrepreneurial spirit in America. The next generation of American entrepreneurs can be found in the classrooms of schools and colleges, taking part in business clubs and start-up experiments. Future American Entrepreneurs is a nonprofit organization that offers business education scholarships and lessons in American business basics to students across the country. The National Federation of Independent Business provides students with advice, research tools and mentorship to help instill the concepts of entrepreneurism and business aspirations in younger Americans.

American entrepreneurism has its roots in the freedoms of American society and the nation's numerous opportunities for change. Although the entrepreneurial sprit is not solely an American phenomenon, entrepreneurship is commonly associated with American ideals. Whether the economy crashes or money markets boom, the American spirit of risk-taking and innovation in business will endure, for the nation was founded on entrepreneurial principles.

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