Don’t worry about the ‘e’ word

Recently, I found myself at AIESEC’s Attracting Global Talent cocktail event which was held in conjunction with AON and UBS. The room was filled with university graduates and early 20-somethings – all eager to get ‘somewhere’ in life, studying and honing their skills.


In conversation, we soon got onto the topic of entrepreneurship and particularly how it was relevant to the contemporary Gen Ys and Gen Zs of the world.


The 20-somethings in the room wanted to know how entrepreneurship related to them. None at this stage planned to start their own business, but does this rule them out as entrepreneurs?


Blame the French

The word ‘entrepreneur’ is thought to have been coined by the French economist, Jean-Baptiste Say.


Wikipedia defines an entrepreneur as “a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and is accountable for the inherent risks and the outcome.”

Entrepreneurship doesn’t mean owning your own business

This seems kind of obvious – but it is still surprising to see this as the conventional understanding. Owning a business is certainly one form of entrepreneurship – but it isn’t the only way.


I was reminded of a few conversations I have had even recently as a month ago, with people at some of the largest tertiary institutions in the country where entrepreneurship is still seen as a threat, or in opposition to the corporate or organisational mindset.


The point is this – as a graduate, as someone who is not running your own business; or may never plan to – this doesn’t preclude you from being a young entrepreneur.


It is more about the grit, ingenuity, perseverance (and you can insert a myriad other characteristics here) that you bring to the table, and more importantly what you do with it, that defines you as an entrepreneur.


It is important to see entrepreneurship as a value add that Gen Ys and Gen Zs bring to the corporate mix. And it is important that corporations understand and nurture these entrepreneurial inklings the graduates bring onboard.


Attracting young entrepreneurs (and retaining them) could be one of the best tactical moves that companies make.


Companies need to know and accept that some people will go their own way and carve their own path.


Even Google, the poster child for the’ ideal work culture’ with its ’20 percent time’ initiative, still can’t curb the exodus of employees answering the rallying call for independence.


One of the great attractors of entrepreneurship is that no one can really pin it down. As Calvin Klein said, “A little mystery isn’t so bad.”

If I were to define what an entrepreneur is, based on my dealings with young business builders, I’d say:

  1. You get stuff done.
  2. You believe there is more than one way to do stuff.
  3. You are super observant and you see where opportunities exist – and can be leveraged.
  4. Anyone can be an entrepreneur (and this makes it a beautiful thing).

You can be an entrepreneur as a lawyer, just as much as you can be as a doctor, or working in a multinational.


You can be a young entrepreneur and have a degree, and of course you can be an entrepreneur without any formal education whatsoever.


Much respect to the business owner

I will say this though, as a business owner you are tested all the time and all your reserves of personal temperament are continually exercised.


Very rarely is there time to sit back and enjoy things, especially as a young entrepreneur.


But, then again, you didn’t choose to be an entrepreneur because you wanted to sit back and enjoy.


Go fly

So to the grads and soon-to-be grads – forget this term ‘entrepreneur’ and just go and do what matters to you. Do the things which both challenge and fulfil you.


And don’t be surprised if down the line you hear someone, somewhere, call you an ‘entrepreneur.’


Natasha Munasinghe is the GM of The FRANK Team. FRANK’s mission is to enable young entrepreneurs to unleash good stuff in the world. Go to


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