About EcoDevo 101: The practice of economic development is vital to the advancement of any thriving community. It is also often misunderstood. In this series, we’ll dig deeper into the topics that underpin the profession, from public policy and mobility to technology and community planning, among many others.

When you hear the word entrepreneur or entrepreneurship, who or what comes to mind? 

Steve Jobs or Elon Musk or Bill Gates may be some of the more glorified and top of mind entrepreneurs of today. You may envision a hoodie-wearing young person hunched over a MacBook surrounded by empty Red Bull cans and half-eaten bowls of cheap ramen. Busy towns filled with bustling coffee shops and hip restaurants like Boulder, San Francisco, & Seattle often come to mind when entrepreneurship is discussed. The reality is that entrepreneurship is hard to put a single or neat box around. The reality of an entrepreneur is dynamic, and entrepreneurs come in many shapes and sizes. Ask 10 entrepreneurs what it means to be an entrepreneur and you’ll likely get 10 distinctly different answers.

From an economic development standpoint, entrepreneurship is core to our economic vitality and health. New technologies, new businesses, and new concepts take the old and make it new, make it better, make it exciting and fun. These are the concepts and approaches that drive our economies forward, keep our local industries relevant, attract a diverse workforce, and make our communities the places we’re proud to call home. 

With this in mind, let’s define entrepreneurship through our economic development lens. 

The word entrepreneur was born from the French word entreprendre, which means to undertake, and we can think of entrepreneurship in two ways; creating something new or improving upon what already exists. When Henry Ford created the Model T, he created something that had never existed, and by doing so launched the Ford Motor Company and an entirely new industry. When Netflix began shipping DVDs to viewer’s doorsteps – and later digitizing video content all together – they upended the movie rental market, challenging market behemoths like Blockbuster to either pivot or die. In both cases, the entrepreneurs behind both Ford and Netflix undertook the challenge of creating something new in the world, or dramatically changing a system that already was. 

Entrepreneurship is not just about billion-dollar companies or world-changing new endeavors, however. The undertaking of creating a new business does not hinge on a novel new technology or wholesale changes to an already existing system. We see new businesses opened in saturated markets; competing brands of products or services that have minor differentiating factors from their competitors. These competing efforts are the fuel to the fire of entrepreneurship and at the heart of each new company is an entrepreneur who has taken up the challenge of creating something new. The entrepreneur pursuing the new endeavor has evaluated the risks and rewards tied to this endeavor and accepted all the challenges, pitfalls, successes, sleepless nights, and upsides that come with the title of entrepreneur. 

So how do we boil this down into a simple approach? For our purposes, an entrepreneur is a person who has the courage, risk tolerance and capacity to undertake the journey of starting a company that either creates something new or seeks to improve the status quo. The value these endeavors bring to our community is derived from the new jobs they create, the investment they attract, the talent they attract and retain to our region, and the diversity they bring to our local economy. 

Our work in supporting these entrepreneurial endeavors is as dynamic as the world of entrepreneurship. It is ever changing and always evolving. Supporting the continued growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Denver South is a primary strategic focus of our economic development efforts. 

To learn more about Denver South’s work in supporting the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem visit Project Nexus.