Entrepreneurs: Born or Made?

Posted on June 20, 2010

If ever there is a lull in the conversation with friends or colleagues ask this question “Do you think entrepreneurs are born or made?” Your intellectual friend will start talking about ‘Nature vs. Nurture’, your film obsessed buddy will start talking about Eddie Murphy in the film ‘Trading Places’ and your posh friend will point to an article in The Times of London where psychologist Adrian Atkinson says “This theory that anyone can become an entrepreneur is absolute nonsense…

Don’t Give Up The Online Business Just Yet

So, should you give up on the idea of starting an online business because you don’t have the necessary ‘entrepreneur characteristics’ or don’t have the qualifications or background to be an entrepreneur? Well before you delete your blog bear with me for just a few minutes.

Having built a hotel in the Caribbean when I was in my twenties and built a commodity trading business to over $300mn in volume in 18 months as well as other enterprises, I know one or two things about being an entrepreneur. A lot of what I have learned has not been from books or theoretical ‘business studies’ but by the people I have met and associated with, here are two;

Karate Entrepreneur

I was at the hotel one afternoon stressing about the latest wall being knocked down and how over-budget we were going, when there was a tug on my shorts.



As seen on Forbes, Mashable,

I looked down to see a little local fellow, no more than 7 or 8 years old. When I looked down he said “Excuse me Chief would you sponsor me”. Turns out that his Karate school needed a punch bag and this little guy had arranged a sponsored swim to raise funds. After convincing me to commit $10 he looked very pleased.

Ten minutes later there was another tug on my shorts, it was my little friend.“Excuse me Chief, I notice you have a punch bag hanging up around the back, can I have it?” One of the staff who had left us had hung this punch bag around the back of the hotel, and I knew nothing about it. I told my beaming new chum that if he could raise the man power he could have it. Twenty minutes later an army of little 8 year olds marched out with the punch bag on their shoulders like a crew of well drilled worker ants.

This kid was neither from a privilege background (quite the opposite in fact) nor did he have any business qualifications (he was 8!). He simply got off his butt, kept his eyes open for opportunity and asked questions.  Born entrepreneur?

Pool Boy Entrepreneur

When we initially got the hotel the building was derelict and a vagrant had made his home there. Turns out his name was Mike, he thought he was ‘about 40’ and he had the mind of a 10 year old. I instantly liked him. We cleaned him up, gave him a proper little room to live in and set him to work doing any and all odd jobs, he was in his element.

Time came to open the hotel and Mike was worried. “There will be no jobs for me, Chief. I am sad” he said. Now if you met Mike you would instantly fall in love with him. He was sweet, caring and would do anything to please. All he needed was people to talk to and enough money to eat and have the odd drink. I spent time over the next few days teaching Mike how to clean the pool, how to address guests, where to get towels from and when he should talk to guests and when he shouldn’t.

Mike cleaned up, he not only did what I had told him to do, he told guests that whatever they needed they just had to ask, day or night. Mike went about every job he was asked with such gusto and pride that his tips amounted to what he saw as a huge fortune. Mike had EVERY disadvantage you could pile on someone to stop them being an entrepreneur but with the right training, and the heart to give it everything, Mike became one of my favorite Entrepreneurs.

Just Do It

There will be many people who say you can’t do it, that you have to be a certain way, that you have to have a certain background, that you have to have certain characteristics or even that you are too young or too old. Psychologists will always be coming up with ridiculous questionnaires to test whether you should even bother to start.

If you get to a stage where you are listening to these people just know this, being an entrepreneur is about a small equation that performed by anyone, can lead to success.

Desire + Repeated Action = Success

If anyone tells you any different, feel free to inform them about my Karate buddy and Mike The Pool Entrepreneur. These guys and others who I have met have taught me that everyone is given the entrepreneurial gift, some people just haven’t opened it yet.

32 Replies to "Entrepreneurs: Born or Made?"

  • Robert Pickstone
    June 20, 2010 (5:21 pm)

    Hi David,

    Thanks for sharing your stories. This debate has raged on, and will continue to rage on, for years.

    I completely agree with you. Entrepreneurs all seem to to be determined and always take those important steps. They are key. No-one ever made it by standing still or by being defeated by the first knock back.

    Stange as it may be, Nike’s “Just Do It” slogo is spot on.

    Enjoyed your post and hopefully read more from you soon.

    .-= Robert Pickstone´s last blog post: Do you want change badly enough? =-.

    • David
      June 20, 2010 (7:22 pm)

      Thanks Robert. It is one of those debates that makes for an interesting evenings chat! I personally believe that everyone has the entrepreneurial capabilities within them.

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    June 20, 2010 (5:55 pm)

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  • Anwar
    June 20, 2010 (7:36 pm)


    I’ve often questioned my self on if I was born to be an entrepreneur or had to work hard at it. Deep inside I’ve always felt compelled to run my own business, but that could be the case for many.
    Is this something we are born with or is it something we must learn? Again a debate that rages on.
    .-= Anwar´s last blog post: Rapid Website Setup in Only a Few Hours =-.

  • David
    June 20, 2010 (9:51 pm)

    Anwar. In my opinion being an entrepreneur is about following a passion and making a business out of it for profit or for the greater good.. like a charity for example.

    Being and entrepreneur and being a ‘manager’ are two different things. Not everyone can be a manager but I believe everyone has a passion that they could profit from.

    It is like Robert said… you just got to do it…. I posted this video to illustrate the point some time ago:


  • Murray Lunn
    June 20, 2010 (10:43 pm)

    Not giving up is the key to it all. Think of how many great ideas you’ve let slip past you, telling yourself “I’ll jump on the next one”.

    But you never know when the next will be.

    You just have to give it your all. Every idea may not be a success but you’ll never know if you don’t try.
    .-= Murray Lunn´s last blog post: Finding Blog Post Ideas In The Most Unlikely Places =-.

  • Aminul Islam Sajib
    June 21, 2010 (1:27 am)

    I believe anyone can become a successful entrepreneur by hardworking and being consistent. Thanks David for your great post.

  • David
    June 21, 2010 (1:31 am)

    I couldn’t agree more, Murray… thanks for your comment.

  • Nabeel | Create Your First Website
    June 21, 2010 (5:00 am)


    I really agree with your point.

    Many of us complain in our lives, ‘I am too old’ ‘I am too young’ ‘I can’t do that’ ‘I can’t do this’ etc.

    Successful people always have one thing in common:

    They took ACTION

    Also, they did have problems and obstacles in their way, but it is how they dealt with these obstacles and problems that differentiates these entrepreneurs/successful people and others.

    • David
      June 21, 2010 (6:19 am)

      Hi Nabeel

      It is true, many people complain and are not aware of how their words can corrupt their thinking. I wrote and eBook that deals with the entrepreneurs thinking process…. just updating it but you can check it out here:


      Hope it’s useful
      .-= David´s last blog post: Ben Lang – Podcast Interview with a Young Entrepreneur =-.

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  • steve
    June 21, 2010 (10:23 am)

    Very Inspirational! Does passion really matters when you are broke and homeless? I think people will come up a lot of different ways to survive when they have no way to retreat. In essence, everyone is an entrepreneur! Thanks!

    • David
      June 21, 2010 (5:37 pm)

      Thanks Steve.

      You make a good point, often people come up with very creative ideas to survive when backed into a corner… I guess it provides focus.
      .-= David´s last blog post: Ben Lang – Podcast Interview with a Young Entrepreneur =-.

  • Tony Ruiz
    June 21, 2010 (1:19 pm)

    You really need to have some entrepreneur blood in you to make big things happen. However I do believe entrepreneurs can be made – say a long time worker of the 9-5 drops out and learns from his experiences he can build the same company he was working for based of his experiences
    and leadership in the industry. I believe entrepreneurs are both born and made.

    • David
      June 21, 2010 (5:39 pm)

      Thanks for the comment Tony. That is true and often times an employee will see how he can do things better… the entrepreneur inside will make him take action.
      .-= David´s last blog post: Ben Lang – Podcast Interview with a Young Entrepreneur =-.

  • Onibalusi Bamidele
    June 21, 2010 (3:19 pm)

    This is a killer post and you nailed it all.

    I quote: “There will be many people who say you can’t do it, that you have to be a certain way, that you have to have a certain background, that you have to have certain characteristics or even that you are too young or too old.”…Yeah! JUST DO IT!

    No matter what you or others think, without giving it a trial, you will be nowhere.

    Thanks so much for the great post, it is really inspiring.


    • David
      June 21, 2010 (5:42 pm)

      Onibalus. Thanks for you your comment. Yep, that is the key, action. There are so many passionate talented people who could be doing whatever they want to do… all they lack is action…
      .-= David´s last blog post: Ben Lang – Podcast Interview with a Young Entrepreneur =-.

  • Joe Boyle
    June 21, 2010 (7:26 pm)

    Everybody and their cousin is an “entrepreneur” these days. By definition, anyone can be. All you have to do is own and manage a business. So, technically, if you are selling pet rocks all day, you are an entrepreneur, therefore proving that entrepreneurs aren’t born, they’re made.

    Being a successful entrepreneur, on the other hand, takes some skill.

    Great post!

  • KS Chen
    June 21, 2010 (10:31 pm)

    In my opinion, the entrepreneur can be borned and made. We just cannot deny that there are people who borned to have an entrepreneur brain. Yet, i still believe that we can learn to become an entrepreneur.
    .-= KS Chen´s last blog post: Monday Blogging Amoeba – 21/06/10 =-.

    • David
      June 22, 2010 (8:16 am)

      Hi KS

      It is true there are some that have a more entrepreneurial attitude, but I firmly believe that everyone has the capabilities. In some it needs drawing out with coaching more than it does others.
      .-= David´s last blog post: Ben Lang – Podcast Interview with a Young Entrepreneur =-.

  • William Palmer
    June 21, 2010 (11:48 pm)

    Yeah I agree with KS Chen….people made them selves as they are..


  • Mitz
    June 22, 2010 (6:37 am)

    I have spent my whole life taking action, taking over, and doing business. Even as a child my parents let me make decisions as they agreed that I was making sense. One day I said to my mother “Hey we should sell this house and buy that lady’s house across the road, we could put three houses there.” My father built houses. I wrote the lady a letter with a silly offer in it not thinking she would accept. We ended up buying that property and moving across the road. LOL.. Now I am not sure if my parents contributed to the way I am now…They believed in me and listened.

    Maybe the pool guy came out because you believed in him…

    I show everyone I know that I have confidence that they “can do anything”. Unfortunately not everyone believes me..

    • David
      June 22, 2010 (8:18 am)

      That is such a cool story Mitz… It is true… belief is a powerful thing… belief in yourself and belief in others can change lives.
      .-= David´s last blog post: Ben Lang – Podcast Interview with a Young Entrepreneur =-.

  • Genna
    June 22, 2010 (8:00 am)

    What a great article David – so many people ask us the same question! (we are The National Enterprise Academy, a charity organisation which provides educational programmes for people interested in becoming an entrepreneur) Just like our founder, Peter Jones, here at the National Enterprise Academy we wholeheartedly believe entrepreneurs can be made as long as they have the passion and commitment… and are given the right training and hands on experience.

    • David
      June 22, 2010 (8:20 am)

      Hi Genna

      Now that is a great charity! The more we encourage entrepreneurship the more we can get society away from relying on government to sort out our problems.
      .-= David´s last blog post: Ben Lang – Podcast Interview with a Young Entrepreneur =-.

  • JR
    June 23, 2010 (12:54 am)

    Just do it is a great motto to follow, you cannot give up online or anywhere if you want success.
    .-= JR ´s last blog post: Google Mayday Update, Caffeine and Tanked SERP Ranks =-.

  • Adam Toren
    June 24, 2010 (4:47 am)


    Great post! This is probably one of the most commonly asked questions and it was great reading the above thoughts. I recently posted some details on this very topic and thought I’d share some of the post below to help keep the thoughts flowing.

    Families full of entrepreneurs are not uncommon to find (think the Waltons and Vanderbilts). Though many deem it difficult to engage in business with one’s family, these entrepreneurs did not think twice. Is this because entrepreneurship is in their genes, or because it was expected of them—or perhaps a little of both?

    The oft-argued question of whether entrepreneurs are born or made is now under scientific scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal recently posted an article about whether or not entrepreneurship lies in DNA. Scott Shane, a professor of entrepreneurship at Case Western Reserve University and author of the new book Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders: How Your Genes Affect Your Work Life, says entrepreneurial prowess may have as much to do with nature as nurture. More of the post is here: http://www.youngentrepreneur.com/news/are-entrepreneurs-born-or-made/

  • Vivek Krishnan
    June 27, 2010 (2:18 pm)

    Hi David,

    Great post. Enjoyed it.

  • Anthony
    June 29, 2010 (3:49 pm)

    I think entrepreneurs are mostly born. However, if you put someone in an environment they do not like (corporate world), they can be made into an entrepreneur. The most important factor is passion. I just wrote a new blog about this exact topic on my blog. Let me know what you think!


    • David
      June 30, 2010 (7:34 pm)

      I wouldn’t agree with you that most are born, but you are bang on about having to be passionate.

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    October 2, 2010 (9:18 pm)

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  • Erick
    October 3, 2010 (5:18 am)

    Great article. I followed a link on twitter to get here.

    I believe you have to be born with it. You have to have a certain “IT”. I spent years and years in the Army. In the Army, everyone who sticks around long enough, eventually makes 6 or 7 ranks which make him a manager of the office or troops around him.

    I had the privilege to lead these men before they made that rank and some of them were not ready and will never be ready, no matter how many examples you give them or extra time and pushes to work, they will always be a “Mike”, that guy who works for an entrepreneur.

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