Broadening the Concept of Entrepreneurship: Comparing Business and Consumer Entrepreneurs

Article excerpt

The premise of this paper is that what is recognized as entrepreneurial behavior in business settings also occurs in nonbusiness domains. As we study entrepreneurship in nonbusiness settings we will more fully recognize which aspects of business entrepreneurship are due primarily to the business domain and which are due primarily to the core concept of entrepreneurship. As the core concept of entrepreneurship emerges, better prediction and explanation in entrepreneurship research should result.


The concepts of "business" and "entrepreneurship" present major definitional hurdles. While most entrepreneurship researchers "know" what these concepts mean, unfortunately there is no consensus in their "knowing." Definitions less than a perfect match with the researcher's idiosyncratic definition tend to be rejected. Fortunately, the basic premise of this paper is robust enough that even moderate definitional disagreements will not undermine it. The intent of the definitions used in this paper is not to persuade the reader to accept the specifics of the definition, but only to state the general definition from which we are working. Because only the most general consensus is needed to discuss this topic, it is important that the reader not focus excessively on definitional details.

Just as with Freud all things are sexual, so with some business scholars all things are business. This paper uses a narrower definition, defining business as commerce and industry aimed at producing profit and continued operations. This paper defines entrepreneurship as recognizing an opportunity and marshalling the resources to take advantage of or act on that opportunity. Combining "business" and "entrepreneurship" we define business entrepreneurship as recognizing an opportunity and marshalling the resources to take advantage of or act on that opportunity in commerce and industry to produce a profit and continue operations. In light of these definitions consider the following examples.

Examples of Nonbusiness Entrepreneurs

By the time Peter Ueberroth was asked to be the president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LAOOC), he had started and had grown his own travel business into a very successful venture. He became president of the LAOOC in 1980 and sold his business one year later, serving the remaining three years of his term as a volunteer (Kao, 1991). The LAOOC was not a business venture for Ueberroth, yet in both his travel business and in the LAOOC his activities and impact were substantially the same. In each venture Ueberroth was highly entrepreneurial and has been recognized as such. What Ueberroth did for the LAOOC, while clearly entrepreneurial, stands outside the definition of business given above and provides a clear example of how some individuals approach life in an entrepreneurial way.

Similar examples of public entrepreneurship are Robert Moses' organization of the New York World's Fair and Admiral Hyman Rickover's development of the atomic submarine (Lewis, 1980). The Ueberroth, Moses, and Rickover examples challenge the notion that entrepreneurship occurs only in business.

Even more removed from business, those who crusade to change the values and rules of society have been termed "moral entrepreneurs" (Becker, 1963; Denzin, 1989). Becker used the individuals in the American Temperance movement as examples. More recently, Peggy Charren's orchestrated efforts to improve children's television, Robert Choate's crusade to improve the nutritional value of breakfast cereal, and Ralph Nader's multidimensional efforts to improve the treatment and well-being of consumers made them well-known moral entrepreneurs.

Miller (1990) used the term "policy entrepreneur" to refer to those who organized caucuses in order to maximize policy influence. Chong (1991) and Hampton (1987) used the term "political entrepreneur" to describe someone who solicits and coordinates contributions in exchange for power, prestige, and collective profits. …