Is It Teaching Entrepreneurs or Teaching Entrepreneurship?

Small Busiess Owner

small business owner (CC) by Independent We Stand via Flickr

I work for Extension. My job, for over 20 years, is helping people try and reach their dream of owning their own business. My tag line for what I do goes something like this, “Supporting entrepreneurs and their communities through education.”

Yet people ask and others might challenge the idea that we (I am including many other support services for businesses) can’t teach someone to be an entrepreneur. Just today I read an article that espoused that view. And I agree.

That might startle you somewhat. Did I just contradict myself in two short paragraphs? I don’t think so. Entrepreneurs do better and are more effective if they have certain skills. And those skills are something we can help them learn and/or improve. These skills include marketing and today’s online marketing efforts or financial recordkeeping or where to get funding or what is the first step to take. I can even help the nascent business owner look for ideas and evaluate which idea is indeed an opportunity. As my tag line suggests, I also believe that communities can have a strong influence on the success or failure of a business. They do this by welcoming businesses into their community, ensuring they have the support systems they need, and being advocates for the business and the community.

I even argue that I can gather the kindling by helping people consider owning a business, exposing them to other successful entrepreneurs, and discussing the realities and the myths of business ownership. But the question is can I be the spark to light the passion to go into business for yourself? A tough question and I probably would agree that it is not something I can do.

Some call it a drive. Others refer to it as a motivation. Writers talk about persistence and perseverance. I simply call it passion or “you gotta wanta” feeling. I am not sure this is something I or anyone else can teach.

Yet as an educator I do believe I can help them see the possibilities and, when and if the time is right, can help them take a path offering the greatest chance of business success. We, myself, other Extension educators, and support agencies such as the local chamber, the SBA and its related organizations, SBDCs and SCORE, a department of commerce, etc., are there for as support and mentors.

So my answer. I teach entrepreneurs entrepreneurship. What are your thoughts?

This entry was posted in ETC by gmuske. Bookmark the permalink.

About gmuske

Glenn Muske believes in rural, small businesses as the cornerstone of a strong economy. His current efforts, as his own boss, focuses on helping those business owner achieving success. Previously, he did this for North Dakota State University Extension Service and Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

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