What Does the Word ‘Entrepreneur’ Mean to You?

Entrepreneur: “A person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money.”

This is the Merriam-Webster definition of the word “entrepreneur.” But it’s so much more than that, isn’t it? It’s about passion. It’s about recognizing opportunities and generating innovative, creative ideas. It’s about laser focus. It’s about letting go of fear—especially when it comes to failure.

But don’t take our word for it. We reached out to entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds and industries—from our very own Whitman School faculty to a kid prodigy who has appeared on Shark Tank—and asked them to define what it means. Here are their answers:

Alex McKelvie

Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises, Whitman School

“Someone can be an entrepreneur regardless of the type of business (startup, family business, corporate, government) or motive (for profit, not for profit, lifestyle, small business, growth-oriented business). Entrepreneurship focuses on action (entrepreneurs are doers as they pursue opportunities) and a willingness to venture into the unknown (one never knows if an opportunity is going to be lucrative or not).”

Scott Kleckner, MBA@Syracuse Inaugural Cohort

Dinosaur Bar-B-Q Restaurants

“Being in the hospitality field, I have always viewed myself as both a restaurateur and an entrepreneur. Although I’ve worked for large corporations for much of my career (aka corporate entrepreneurship), I’ve always viewed the food service industry as being composed of corporate entrepreneurs and independent entrepreneurs. I’m excited to join the inaugural cohort of MBA@Syracuse and will be including the Entrepreneurship specialization as a part of my studies.

Although I haven’t given much thought to my definition of being an entrepreneur, I realized that there is something that I say often that may fit the bill … I grew up in a family business; my mom owned a small deli that I worked in throughout my youth. We regularly celebrated days in which our sales exceeded $350. Years later, I was overseeing businesses that exceeded $1,000,000 in daily sales. When working for others, I have always spent money like it was my own. As an entrepreneur, all of the money you spend truly is your own. I’ve always treated any business that I’ve managed as if it were my own venture, as if driving sales and reducing costs were going to make or break me. As an entrepreneur, I’ve realized my successes and failures on a more personal level than when working for others, as the sales you drive and money you spend are truly your own.”

Carly Heitlinger

The College Prepster

“Being an entrepreneur is about turning a passion into a business.”

Moziah Bridges

Mo’s Bows

“To be an entrepreneur, you must be passionate about your business and be a people person with a selling spirit.”

Seun Olubodun

Duke & Winston

“To me, entrepreneurship means being prepared to give up a regular life—relationships, downtime, fun, weekends—and throwing yourself fully into your venture. Entrepreneurship, especially for a beginner, requires a laser focus and the ability to let go of all the distractions—some of which I listed above, which will come at you from every angle.”

Tim Nicholson


“I do not believe there is one absolute answer, however, I would say being an entrepreneur is not being afraid to do or create things you would like to see. We all have talents and ideas that we use, so we have to figure out how to utilize those talents and ideas within a given amount of time. Also, learning from your mistakes—not giving up—and leveling up from that is key.”

Olivia White

41 Winks

“Being an entrepreneur means being fearless. As an entrepreneur, I can’t be discouraged by the task at hand or worry how unqualified I am for the job. I need to, instead, surround myself with people who inspire, help, and challenge me to conquer what needs to get done. I somewhat stumbled into this entrepreneur lifestyle, but I wasn’t afraid to take the challenge, and through this experience I have discovered many other strengths, such as being creative, courageous, and personable. I originally thought being an entrepreneur meant faking it until I made it, but I realize it’s rather doing, doing, doing until something gets made. I have to keep working hard, believe in what I’m doing, and not be afraid to ask for help. It’s an exhausting journey, but all the while incredibly exciting and life changing.”

Lauren Berger

Intern Queen

“Being an entrepreneur means you are the boss—in good times and in bad times. The decisions start and end with you. The best part is that I make the rules, and every morning I get to wake up and do what I want to do.”

Jason Feirman

Spice to Meet YouNYC Pizza Run

“When discussing entrepreneurship, I think it’s important to differentiate between entrepreneurial skills and actually being an entrepreneur. There are many people out there who are able to address the problems and challenges they face with original and innovative solutions. These people tend to thrive in dynamic, fast-paced work environments and are coveted by top companies.

But an entrepreneur is someone who, while possessing those skills, also has the willingness to assume a certain amount of risk that is involved with a particular venture or goal. The extent of this risk-taking certainly varies, but I don’t think you’ll ever meet an entrepreneur who tells you that he or she never took a risk. There is a popular book about building a business titled Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck. In addition to taking a risk (the guts!), I believe that every entrepreneur exhibits some combination of heart and smarts. A little bit of luck never hurts either.”

Heidi Ganahl

Camp Bow Wow

“Being an entrepreneur means finding something you are passionate about to start a business around. Firmly believing in your idea and pouring your heart and soul into it. Embracing failure instead of fearing it—failure is just a step toward greatness. Not being afraid to give up on what you think is holding you back and seeing that you have all the tools and all the passion you need to be successful. As an entrepreneur, you have to think big and dream big—don’t limit yourself.”