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3 Steps to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

Fashion entrepreneur working

Becoming an entrepreneur is an attractive option for many people, but it isn't for the faint of heart. Being your own boss and creating something from the ground up comes with many potential rewards, but it also carries some risks. If you're a business-savvy person with an innovative idea and entrepreneurship is a dream of yours, we say go for it.

But before you dive headfirst into your entrepreneurial pursuits, you should take a few steps to prepare. This will help ensure your business venture is a success from the beginning. 

Here are three steps to becoming a successful entrepreneur:

  1. Find something you're passionate about.
  2. Set yourself up for success with the right education.
  3. Be willing to take risks.

Why Become an Entrepreneur?

As of 2016, there were 25 million American entrepreneurs who were either starting or had already established their own businesses. It's no surprise that there are so many business owners out there; there is a wide range of benefits that come from owning your own business. In fact, 55% of entrepreneurs say their biggest motivation for starting their own business was to be their own boss.

Other benefits of becoming an entrepreneur include:

  • the ability to do work you're passionate about
  • creating a career that aligns with your values
  • the opportunity to provide innovative solutions to real-world problems
  • pride and satisfaction of building something from the ground up
  • unlimited income potential
  • the ability to choose when and where you work

Female entrepreneur in office

Key Traits of a Successful Entrepreneur

While being your own boss, working whatever hours you choose, and having unlimited income all sound great, not everyone will succeed as an entrepreneur. About 20% of small businesses fail within the first year, and only about half make it past the first five years. So what makes some small businesses successful and others not so much? There are a few key traits that people with an entrepreneurial spirit tend to share and that make someone more likely to be successful in business.

  • Successful entrepreneurs are persistent. They aren't afraid to fail, and they keep going until they get things right. Especially for those who go into business in order to address pressing challenges or social issues, they're willing to keep trying until they find a business model that works. According to Legal Zoom, 26% of Americans have owned more than one business in their lifetime.
  • Successful entrepreneurs aren't afraid to take risks. Entrepreneurship is all about taking risks, so if you're a risk-averse person, owning a business probably isn't the right path for you. Most small business owners take on a majority of the financial risk of starting their business, either by providing capital upfront or taking out a loan for startup funds. Besides the financial risk, there's the risk of failure that many entrepreneurs struggle with. Nobody wants to see their business idea fail, but if you aren't willing to take that risk, you'll also never have the opportunity to succeed.
  • Successful entrepreneurs look at the big picture. A common trait among successful business owners is the ability to "see the forest through the trees." This means looking forward to the future and setting long-term goals for the success of the business and then creating smaller goals and milestones along the way. They focus on sustainable solutions that will set their business up for long-term success. 
  • Successful entrepreneurs are innovative. They are critical thinkers who think outside the box and come up with creative approaches to solve problems. A successful entrepreneur won't just replicate something that's already being done; they'll find a way to do it better, quicker, or cheaper than the next person. They use their strategic thinking to create a business plan that hasn't already been tested. 
  • Successful entrepreneurs are flexible. They don't get tied down to one way of doing things, and they know how to pivot and make changes when something isn't working. They understand that there must be a Plan A, B, and C, and are willing to deviate from the plan when needed.
  • Successful entrepreneurs are leaders. Successful business leaders know that they can't do all the work on their own. They how to inspire a team to take action. They're self-aware enough to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, and then surround themselves with others who have the business skills to complement their own.

Male entrepreneur proudly standing in his warehouse

How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

If you want to be one of the 50% of entrepreneurs who DO succeed beyond the 5-year mark, there are a few things you can do ahead of time to increase your likelihood of success.

1. Find something you're passionate about.

The term "social entrepreneurship" refers to entrepreneurs whose businesses are focused on social innovation to solve real-world problems and global social challenges. Social entrepreneurs combine their business skill sets and passion for social impact in order to solve 21st Century problems in the areas of global poverty, access to education and healthcare for all, human rights, climate change, and environmental issues. 

Why are business owners more successful in the social innovation sector? Research shows that there is a direct correlation between how passionate a business owner is about their work and how successful the business will be. People who feel very strongly about making a positive impact around a particular social issue are more likely to work harder to find a solution, making their business more likely to succeed. 

So how do you know which social venture is right for you? Think about areas you feel strongly about or where you've dedicated volunteer time or charity dollars in the past. Are you particularly interested in ending global poverty? Minority rights? Climate change? Choose something that you feel strongly about, and then build your social enterprise around providing innovative solutions to that problem.

2. Set yourself up for success with the right education.

There is no requirement that you have a specific business education or that you complete a specific degree program in order to start a business. In fact, a 2017 survey indicated that over half of business owners don't have a college degree. But remember, half also don't make it past the 5-year mark, and getting a solid foundation in business development certainly won't hurt your chances of success. If your bachelor's degree is in something other than business, consider a graduate degree in social entrepreneurship to help strengthen your business formation knowledge and increase your chances of success.

In a social entrepreneurship program, you'll take business courses that will give you direct experience in leadership and service and will help you gain important skills that business owners need to lead impactful organizations. You'll gain hands-on experience working alongside other industry professionals who are passionate about social change. At Pepperdine University, the MA in Social Entrepreneurship program also includes travel to a developing country where you'll earn credit hours while gaining a hands-on global perspective of social and community issues through a two-week immersion experience.

3. Be willing to take risks.

Finally, you must be willing to take risks. Business ownership is full of risks, and you can't become a successful entrepreneur if you aren't willing to put yourself out there by starting a business doing something you feel strongly about. As you gain practical experience over time, you'll learn how to take calculated risks, and you'll learn when the risk is worth the potential reward. 

Whether you work in the public sector or you decide to start a nonprofit organization, here are a few risks you'll likely take as you move along your journey:

  • Switching career paths by establishing your social enterprise startup
  • Investing money into your social enterprise
  • Hiring your first employee

Graduate proudly holding diploma

Start Your Entrepreneurship Journey at Pepperdine University With a MA in Social Entrepreneurship and Change

Pepperdine University's Master of Arts in Social Entrepreneurship and Change will set you up to lead the way within the social innovation sector. As a social entrepreneurship major, you'll gain the real-world experience needed to start and grow a successful social enterprise while strengthening your ability to make a difference in the world.

Pepperdine University is the very first institution to offer a Master's in Social Entrepreneurship. Here are a few things that make our program unique:

  • The program can be completed in just 20 months, and there are over $10,000 in scholarships available to graduate students.
  • There are no GRE, GMAT, or other standardized tests required for admission. We offer an equitable admissions process that considers your experience and commitment to success.
  • A Global Change Experience allows you to travel to a developing country and gain a hands-on global perspective of social and community issues through a two-week immersion program.
  • The comprehensive curriculum includes courses in leadership, management, marketing, finance, global change, and more.
  • The cohort-based model provides opportunities to engage in meaningful community-building with peers and program leaders.

If working at the intersection of business and global change seems appealing to you, start this exciting journey by strengthening your entrepreneurial skills and completing a Master’s in Social Entrepreneurship from Pepperdine University. For more information on the application process, take the next step by attending an upcoming information session.

Ready to get started on your path towards becoming a social entrepreneur? Click here to apply.