Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

An Autoethnographic Account of Prosaic Entrepreneurship

Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

An Autoethnographic Account of Prosaic Entrepreneurship

Article excerpt


Prosaic entrepreneurship



Introspective analysis



In recent years, entrepreneurship scholars have begun studying entrepreneurship from social, prosaic, narrative, and discursive dimensions. These "new movement" approaches privilege both business and non-business perspectives. Research in this domain of inquiry seeks to account for the everyday and mundane practices of social actors that can be characterized as entrepreneurial; therefore, prosaic approaches can de-center the narrative of entrepreneurship as comprised solely of a group of elite entrepreneurs. While researchers are encouraged to describe entrepreneurship from a life-story perspective, few scholars have used a self-narrative approach to writing about entrepreneurship. In this article, I use autoethnography to provide a personal account of entrepreneurship. I reflexively interrogate the ways in which I have reproduced, disrupted, benefited from, and been hindered by the dominant enterprise discourses in the United States. A prosaic approach using self-narrative, as demonstrated, is already engaged in a process of re-storying entrepreneurship scholarship because it takes into account, among other things, the details of everyday entrepreneurial activity and is receptive to heterodox accounts (even stories that end in entrepreneurial failure).

My Story Part One: A Synoptic Autoethnographic Narrative

When I was six-years-old, I peddled candy at school. When I was 15 -years-old, I started my first legal business entity. It was a sole-proprietorship. I received a $6,000 bank loan. I paid the loan back early. The name of the company was Alternative Frequencies. I provided music (disc jockeying) and club-style lighting at various events (e.g., high school and college dances, business holiday parties, and weddings) throughout Wyoming and Colorado. I usually only worked weekends. I grossed, on average, $2,000 a month. After three years, the business no longer existed (a euphemistic way of saying it failed). I have since started another company, but I have no strategy, no business plan, and have been stuck in the start-up process for five years.

Admittedly, I present this brief overview with the hope that it will entice readers to continue on. The main purpose, however, is to provide a disclaimer of two kinds. First, it forefronts that the plot of my essay is not the typical heroic tale of entrepreneurship that is common in academic and popular culture stories of enterprise (see Katz, 2004; Nicholson & Anderson, 2005). It is not a story that fits with the more dominant, uplifting narratives of entrepreneurial success. It is a prosaic story of entrepreneurship that ends in failure. It is the kind of story that is often overlooked in prose, but statistically well documented (only 30% of new businesses survive 10 years and one out of every five entrepreneurs are stuck in a perpetual start-up phase; see Shane, 2008).

Second, as a culturally-situated writer, my story inevitably cannot resist incorporating some of the more common elements of the dominant narratives of enterprise. So while I attempt to re-story entrepreneurship though an autoethnographic account that resists the mythological impulse to describe entrepreneurs as "crafty magicians" or "Godlike" (see Nicholson & Anderson, 2005), I inevitably, at times, re-story entrepreneurship in the "same old way." Furthermore, readers' "prejudices" ' will likely uncover tropes that I did not foresee. In this sense, the narrative of "my story" is not mine at all but simply a product and propellant of an expressive discourse that challenges and supports common plotlines.

Through introspective analysis, I seek to challenge popular narrative themes. It is for this reason, that I hope readers - now knowing a part of the climax of the autoethnographic essay - will bracket their presuppositions as they read the story that comes before the analysis. …

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