Self-Made Entrepreneurs Have These 7 Things In Common

Small business owners can come from a myriad of backgrounds and financial and personal support structures, but I most admire entrepreneurs who are self-made

Entrepreneurs are a rare breed. It takes confidence, risk tolerance, self-discipline, determination and competitiveness to start a business and see it through to success.

Generally, small business owners can come from a myriad of backgrounds and financial and personal support structures, but I most admire entrepreneurs who are self-made. They weren’t handed a business or a trust fund; they took an idea — or their talent — and built something. When you don’t come from money, and don’t have a fallback plan, the risk, work ethos and single-mindedness needed to be a successful entrepreneur create a business-builder without equal.

That said, here’s a look at seven common themes that are true for every self-made entrepreneur.


  1. There are only three things you need to start a business

    To start a business, you need a small amount of capital, a strong work ethic and persistence. In a perfect world, it would be free to start a business. But it does cost money to file for an EIN (unless you file for free) and be recognized as a business entity on the state and federal level. You will also likely need capital for upfront infrastructure costs like web development and accounting software. But aside from this, which should be fairly easily self-financed or put on a zero-interest 12 month credit card, all you really need is a serious dose of self-confidence and a never-say-die attitude. You will want to quit and you will feel like a failure. But success lies beyond these feelings of fear and anxiety. Always remember, failure only exists when you stop trying.

  2. Rise from the ground floor.

    Even the most successful self-made entrepreneurs once walked in your shoes. Every successful entrepreneur who ever lived started with nothing more than an idea. Remember this and use it as motivation to explore new ways of doing things, forge new partnerships or do something crazy. Self-made entrepreneurs are built to tolerate and withstand great risk.

  3. It’s rare to be first-to-market at anything.

    We will all have competitors and few ideas are truly original. “There are no original ideas. There are only original people.” (Barbara Grizutti Harrison) Everyone wants to be innovative — to come up with an idea that will change the world, disrupt an industry or set you apart as an entrepreneurial genius. But the truth is that few ideas a unique or new. Some of the most successful businesses are iterative improvements on successful ventures that have come before. Don’t get caught up market saturation or competition. No matter what you do in life, you will face stiff competition.

  4. Doubt will haunt you until you’ve reached “success.”

    Get used to it. Whether they let on or not, all entrepreneurs have high levels of anxiety about their business — even if they’re on the pathway to success. Building a business of any size, in any industry, requires a huge amount of responsibility and attention to detail. And things will go wrong. Frequently. You’ll second guess yourself. The sooner you accept this reality, the sooner you’ll learn to cope and move past it.

  5. The first big milestones were equally challenging for all of us.

    Getting your first sale will be a big day. If you launch your business with a slow start, worry not. Very few businesses charge out of the gate at full speed. Growing a business can be a slow and painful process. You will need patience and persistence to weather early setbacks. Remember, every great entrepreneur had to start somewhere. And for most, that somewhere was the same place you’re starting from now.

  6. Emotional and financial pressures are par for the course.

    Just as you will have to get used to living with doubt and fear of failure, you will also need to adapt to the financial pressures of being your own boss. As an entrepreneur, you have chosen to break away from the security of a paycheck for the chance at something more. Fortunately, you can find solace in the fact that every self-made man or woman who came before you had the same emotional and financial pressures bearing down on them. If they could do it, so can you.

  7. Learn to rely on no one but yourself for 90 percent of the work.

    If you’re an independent-minded person, there is a good chance you’re used to doing most of the work yourself. As an entrepreneur, being a master-of-all-trades is in the first line of the job description. Working as part of a team is a valuable skill and one you’ll surely need as your business grows and you begin to scale, but in the early stages of every business you’ll need to rely on yourself for 90-100 percent of the work. While you’ll be burning the midnight oil most days of the week (and weekend), the satisfaction you will feel after finding success will be without equal.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Brendan Mangus is Principal Consultant at Colorwheel Media Consulting, a new breed of tech consultants specializing in helping early and mid-stage startups refine their product, define and grow their market and community and execute their outreach and go-to-market strategy. Prior to starting his consulting practice, he spent more than a decade providing marketing, branding and public relations counsel for a variety of clients. This article originally appeared on the author’s LinkedIn column here. Connect with @bpmangus on Twitter.


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