Academic journal article Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal

Who It Is and What It Does: Finding the "Heffa-Preneur"

Academic journal article Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal

Who It Is and What It Does: Finding the "Heffa-Preneur"

Article excerpt


The Entrepreneur--fact or fiction? Mover of economic phenomena or incidental character? Certainly the identity of the entrepreneur intrigues us. We know one when we see one. Or, perhaps, the entrepreneur is one because (s)he likes the sound of the word and claims it for personal reasons. For years the debate has continued on what constitutes an entrepreneur.

Since the mid-nineties, (really the mid-eighties), little substantial research has been focused on the entrepreneur (Carland, Carland & Stewart, 2000). While some of the fault of this deficiency can be contributed to entrepreneurial curriculums, or lack thereof (Hebert & Bass, 1995), or the lack of rigor in research (Jackson, Watts & Wright, 1993), much of the fault has to do with our refocus from the entrepreneur to entrepreneurial activity as advocated by Bygrave and Hofer (1991) and Gardner (1991).

The authors advocate that the entrepreneur is still a worthy subject of research, even though we may also follow the trail of entrepreneurial activity. In other words, both research venues may be fruitful for us. The authors offer an historical respective in an effort to stimulate discussion on the value of such an approach.


The search for the source of dynamic entrepreneurial performance has much in common with hunting the Heffalump. The Heffalump is a large and rather important animal. He has been hunted by many individuals using various ingenious trapping devices, but no one so far has succeeded in capturing him. All who claim to have caught sight of him report that he is enormous, but they disagree on his particularities. Not having explored his current habitat with sufficient care, some hunters have used as bait their own favorite dishes and have then tried to persuade people that what they caught was a Heffalump. However, very few are convinced, and the search goes on (Kilby, 1971, 1).

The above statement made by Peter Kilby, borrowing a construct from A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, is one of the most characteristic analogies ever made regarding the study of the entrepreneur. Unfortunately, even after three additional decades since the statement was made, the search continues. As we will see, in further consideration of the search for the Heffalump, a lot has been "observed" but not much is fully known or understood. We do know more about the Heffalump than Milne originally presented.

For example, based on folk lyric, the Heffalump has three ears. He should surely be easy to spot. And, he is enormous, measuring 14 feet from ear to ear. Testimony is that he is deaf even with extra auditory equipment. These characteristics should surely make him easy to find--as should be equally true with the entrepreneur.

And then, there are other characteristics (discovered at different times). For example, independent observers have noted that his eyes are red, his nose is green and his tail is turquoise blue. Surely, if we saw this fellow, we would recognize him. One observer has even reported that the Heffalump has been known to audibly snarf. Surely we can recognize him by the sound.

The hunt has even (allegedly) isolated the location of the Heffalump. He is known to reside in the land of Vildesmeer, which is not too far from Fleeglestown and a bit further from Glarf. With all that help, surely the Heffalump could be found. Alas, he hasn't. Not anymore than the entrepreneur?

One researcher even went so far as to stake a professional career on the sighting of a Heffalump, stating that if the evidence presented was not finally accepted, he would be content to become a bingle.

More seriously (directly) a major dilemma faced by researchers can be drawn from another observation made by G.L.S. Shackle in The Entrepreneur:

   The entrepreneur is a maker of history, but his guide in making it
   is his judgment of possibilities and not a calculation of
   certainties. … 
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.