Are entrepreneurs born or made?

By Marc Duke,

CMO in a box

12th December 2016

The nature versus nurture debate is as old as the hills, I am not a sociologist or psychologist but I also know an entrepreneur when I see one, but I have often wondered are you born an entrepreneur or can you be made into one?

Entrepreneurs see things differently to others, are happy to stick to their guns when everyone else tells them they are wrong, are prepared to go it alone, often they can spot a gap in the market when others don’t see it, they are also prepared to put in a lot of very, very hard work and can cope with failure however hard that might be.

Recently I have started working with a brilliant organisation called Founders4School whose mission is to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs in the UK. Its purpose is to send founders or entrepreneurs to visit schools at no charge to talk to the pupils about their experiences so giving pupils an insight into what being an entrepreneur is all about and making it a career option to consider.

Recently I have had the privilege of visiting both of my old secondary schools accompanied by some inspirational entrepreneurs. The format for the event is a brief overview of the entrepreneurs’ experience along with the lessons to be learnt and advice to be shared. After that the floor is open for the pupils to ask questions.


Some anecdotes from entrepreneurs that might help you decide on the nature versus nurture debate:

  • ‘When I was 7 my Dad lost his job and I used to help him with selling door to door and learnt that if you provide people with a quality product they will buy again’
  • ‘I did loads of different jobs but never felt fulfilled, in fact I felt positively unfulfilled so wanted to do something that made a difference’
  • ‘I watched this film and thought, I’d love to set up a business that does this’
  • ‘I had followed a traditional path, uni, grad job and then hit a brick wall and thought I want to do something else’

What was even more insightful were the questions from the pupils aged 11 and 12:

  • ‘How do you get your first customer?’
  • ‘I am thinking about starting a business but have no idea what to do?’
  • ‘My grades were not as great as I thought; I think I’ll become an entrepreneur’
  • ‘When did you know you were going to start your own business?’ 

What I have learnt is that some people are born entrepreneurs-it’s a calling, they can’t see themselves working for someone else, climbing up the corporate ladder. While there are others who get to a point having followed a logical career path and would now like to do something they have always dreamed of doing and are brave enough to take the plunge. How many people chose this path following a redundancy?

The next question is what skills do you need? All the entrepreneurs had a solid education including degrees, and it’s a given that numeracy and literacy are essential, but as for the softer people skills I guess it’s the University of Life that is key. One thing is certain though, entrepreneurship is as valid a career choice as any other and the UK is a great place to build a start-up business and support entrepreneurs.