Academic journal article International Journal of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial Identity, Intentions and the Effect of the Push-Factor

Academic journal article International Journal of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial Identity, Intentions and the Effect of the Push-Factor

Article excerpt


The research on entrepreneurship has for long been trying to find personality characteristics which could serve to explain business start-up. Often these studies have, however, been looking for only one stereotypical character, the classical entrepreneur, and contrasted this character with the non-entrepreneurial counterpart.

This study focuses on the process of business start-up, and more precisely on the pre-startup phase, where people's self-conceptions, intentions and eventual need to find alternative career-options have the most central effect on the start-up decision. Our study aims to show that there actually exist more than these two extreme types of identities in the entrepreneurial-non-entrepreneurial continuum. We also look for the relationships between entrepreneurial identities, the start-up intention and the environmental push into entrepreneurship.

The findings suggest that there indeed exist more than one or two entrepreneurial identities. Beside the classical entrepreneur identity, we found also farmer, intrapreneur and custopreneurial identities. Furthermore, the results suggest that these identities function as important intermediaries in the pre-start-up phase of the entrepreneurial process. For example, the effect of push-factors seems more compelling people having farmer identities, whilst people with classical entrepreneur identities do not seem to react in any significant way.

The main interest of this study is in finding that the entrepreneurial identity has such a strong effect on the entrepreneurial process. The environmental pressure or subjective compulsion to choose an entrepreneurial career option does not relate to classical entrepreneurship nor to totally non-entrepreneurial people, but to those in between who have doubts about their usefulness, needs, attitudes and competencies for entrepreneurship. However, the positive value base for entrepreneurship is essential for the development of an entrepreneurial identity. The development of one's identity is formed during the early years as a human being, and, therefore, the study points to the importance of supporting the development of a positive value base.


Since Kilby's hunting of the Heffalump, determinants of entrepreneurial behaviour (1) have been searched for in various directions. It is somewhat surprising that even today there prevails an (at least implicit) understanding and belief in homogeneous Heffalumps. That is to say, we do not take into account seriously enough the great variation in entrepreneurial roles and types when trying to understand and find linkages between personal characteristics and entrepreneurial behaviour. Thus, instead of searching for one Heffalump, we should rather search for the species or tribe of those important actors. While searching for these characters, it is important to note that the mode of appearance of entrepreneurial actors varies to a great degree. That is a fact that is very explicit in entrepreneurship literature. However, in research focusing on the determinants of entrepreneurial behaviour the distinction between different forms of 'entrepreneurial behaviour' is neglected.

It is a common view amongst the researchers in entrepreneurship that the moment of emerging entrepreneurial identity and intentionality is an important research object. Especially studies on varying backgrounds of would-be entrepreneurs and research on 'who, when, and which factors have influence on their decision to start up' are seen as important (see e.g., Dyer, 1994; Schein, 1994; Koskinen, 1996). In this paper we regard entrepreneurial identity as a latent occupational concept of oneself, and use our data of a 'normal' population to study how common entrepreneurial identities are (the proportion of people identifying themselves as possible entrepreneurs) and what kinds of different identities exist in a population. From there we continue by studying, the entrepreneurial intentions (of starting up a business) within the population. …

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