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Whether anyone can become an entrepreneur has been a subject of debate for decades, but what we can all agree on is that entrepreneurs are not all the same. Different people have different takes on and approaches to how business should be done. What we can also agree on is that as a developing society, South Africa needs them all. The diversity of entrepreneurial paths offers a range of inspiring models for aspiring business owners to follow.

Understanding these types can help individuals identify their strengths and pursue the entrepreneurial journey that best aligns with their goals and passions. These are five of the main types of entrepreneurs – which one are you?

The hustler

Hustlers are the kind of entrepreneurs who have the grit and determination to get a business off the starting block – often despite the odds. They’re the kind of people who are willing to do whatever it takes to bring their business vision to life. For some, that means working 12 to 18-hour days, and for others, it means putting in the legwork to get valuable facetime with clients even if that means putting in some serious miles on the road.

Hustlers are hard-workers and often, that’s a product of how they were raised, how ambitious they are and their drive to succeed even in the toughest of times. Hustlers are the kind of entrepreneurs who are more likely to bootstrap their business and use their own savings to build a business from the ground up. While doing business this way may take more time and resilience than other entrepreneurial styles, the lessons they learn along the way build character and prepare them for the journey ahead. DJ Sbu Leope with his MoFaya energy drink brand is a good example.

The serial entrepreneur

If serial entrepreneurs were to be compared to different types of people in romantic relationships, they would be the kind of people who are ‘in love with being in love.’ They love the thrill of the chase, the adrenaline of the ‘honeymoon period’ and the excitement of something new and fresh.

For this reason, serial entrepreneurs are better suited to getting businesses off the ground than they are at growing a business slowly and consistently. They are more likely to kickstart a brilliant start-up, put it through its paces during the intense, formative years and then sell it to someone who’s interested in taking it to the next level or in a new direction or hire skilled people to run it. When it comes to thinking about what the ‘next big thing’ could be, the serial entrepreneur never stops. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, with ventures in diverse industries, epitomises the serial entrepreneur.

The legacy builder

Some entrepreneurs are more interested in what their business could become in the long-term than what they can build in the short term. Legacy builders want to do exactly what their name suggests – turn their business idea into an empire that can be passed down the generations.

For legacy builders, there’s nothing more thrilling than imagining their small business becoming an industry leader. Legacy builders are growth-orientated, so they’re always looking for opportunities to scale their products and services. These are the types of entrepreneurs who are after nothing short of taking over the world, and they’re willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary to create something that that they can be truly proud of. South Africa’s winemaker and past Small business entrepreneur of the year® winner, Carmen Stevens and Portia Mngomezulu of the growing cosmetics brand, Portia M would definitely make the cut as legacy builders.

The innovator

Innovators are the kind of entrepreneurs who want to change the status quo and challenge the norms. They are the kind of visionaries who believe that their business idea could shift the needle and disrupt an industry or create an entirely new one. Very often, that’s exactly what they do, using technological innovation and a mindset that is geared towards transformation.

Unlike other kinds of entrepreneurs who may be risk averse, innovators aren’t afraid to put their necks on the line to create something that requires a few big risks along the way. Often, they’re the kind of businesspeople who are looked upon as being crazy or ‘too ambitious,’ but what other people think doesn’t hold them back. Innovators build businesses that thrive on cutting-edge ideas and revolutionary products. Think Elon Musk with Tesla and SpaceX and Steve Jobs with Apple.

The social entrepreneur

At its core, entrepreneurship is about solving problems, and for social entrepreneurs, doing business is about solving problems in a way that can make a distinct and meaningful impact on society. They are the kind of entrepreneurs who believe that people are equally as important as profit, and they would never forgo the wellbeing of the communities they serve for commercial gain.

Many of these entrepreneurs build businesses that can solve key societal issues such as unemployment, poverty, the lack of water and other basic resources, the need for environmental sustainability and inequality. Their ventures often operate as non-profits or social enterprises, balancing profit-making with their mission to bring about positive change. Sbu Myeni, the driving force behind community-driven NGO, Imbeleko Foundation is a prime example.

About the Author: Ben Bierman

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Ben Bierman has been our Managing Director since 2015. He joined our company in 1990 and has risen through the ranks occupying various positions ranging from being a management accountant, Head of Information Technology and Chief Financial Officer. Ben is an avid reader, enjoys classical music and being in the outdoors including for hunting trips. He is our go-to-spokesperson for our SME Confidence Index, SME sector policy and trend matters, and business leadership articles.