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Entrepreneurs Flourish Most Where There Is a Culture and History of Entrepreneurship

Most of the market activities in which entrepreneurs are engaged are readily seen. People buy and sell things or provide services at locations to paying customers. But if we examine the unseen activities, we will learn how entrepreneurship is a perpetuating market process. More entrepreneurs tend to create more entrepreneurship, both among themselves and by setting the stage for the creation of new entrepreneurs. That is, a population with few entrepreneurs produces few entrepreneurs. A population with more entrepreneurs produces even more entrepreneurs.

Real-world experience matters. Becoming an entrepreneur requires the knowledge and insight that come from being aware of previous market errors—the errors made in the trial and error of entrepreneurs who came before. Errors and missed opportunities generate market knowledge and information for future entrepreneurs. This is good news! If past entrepreneurs had not served their customers, made mistakes, combined inventions, transformed innovations into usable products, and finally become a success, then others would probably not consider pursuing entrepreneurship. There would be no such path to self-ownership.

It takes entrepreneurs to produce entrepreneurs. We cannot imagine a world without them. Therefore, it is not just the immediate consequences of hampering markets which makes self-ownership difficult for entrepreneurs. We must also examine the secondary effects on potential entrepreneurs of eliminating paths to entrepreneurship in the long run. Up-and-coming entrepreneurs must do three things: (a) choose an entrepreneurial path that already exists, (b) be mindful that there are market errors waiting to be made, and (c) find insights made by previous entrepreneurs.

Choose an Entrepreneurial Path That Already Exists

Where there is an economic climate for entrepreneurship, where one can “hit the ground running,” entrepreneurship naturally flourishes and prospers. A rise in propensity for entrepreneurship and self-ownership results in more business model imitation and makes the market ripe for one to follow in others’ footsteps. The saying “the greatest form of flattery is imitation” rings true for aspiring entrepreneurs who may hesitate in pursuing profitable market opportunities due to a lack of insight.

In a recent article, Alexander Hammonds discussed this topic. In many cases entrepreneurship has been suppressed or smothered by interventionist and antimarket policies, which makes it extremely difficult for many would-be entrepreneurs to identify a starting point to enter the market. This creates disincentives for new entrepreneurs to enter the market and pick up where others have left off. Thus, innovation and self-ownership are more likely to prosper in an environment where there is a history of entrepreneurship.

The market economy will always possess one relationship—the one between entrepreneurs and consumers. One will serve the other—the entrepreneur will serve the customer. The consumer will look for the entrepreneur who does it better. Just because it’s been done before does not mean you can’t do it over again or imitate it. Don’t just think outside the box, make the box bigger! The pizza restaurant has been replicated for centuries, but because of previous entrepreneurs’ mistakes, others have started pizza restaurants with their own spin. The restaurants down the street from you saw someone else do it and decided to do it differently.

Be Mindful That There Are Market Errors Waiting to Be Made

Randall Holcombe said, “The connection between entrepreneurship and economic growth is that these previously unnoticed profit opportunities must come from somewhere.”1  There will always be entrepreneurs who make errors in the market that produce insights for others to discover. The beauty of a free market system is that it creates opportunity for others. When a business misses an opportunity, another one can close the gap by making the product or service better. The critical question is: will there ever be a time when the market produces no errors? No.

Find Insights Made By Previous Entrepreneurs

Holcombe explained the critical role of entrepreneurial insights—insights that manifest themselves in the actions and thoughts of future entrepreneurs. F.A. Hayek advised that entrepreneurs must be able to act on these insights to continue in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs pick up market insights and pursue improvement through awareness, discovery, and knowledge. Future entrepreneurs must understand that even though it has been done before, it can be done again. I hear it all the time from people who say, “I had a good business idea. But it’s already been done.” Don’t let this stop you. Market insights provide other entrepreneurs the opportunity to close the market gap by creating a product or performing a service better than the entrepreneur before them. Insights are learned and market gaps are closed because of a favorable economic climate and a long history of entrepreneurial insights scattered like bits of pieces across populations.

If you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, know that your entrepreneurial predecessors have left behind insights that are waiting for you to notice and grasp them. Glean from the errors, mistakes, and missed market opportunities of others to create a better product or service for the consumer.

  • 1R. Holcombe, “Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth,” in Making poor nations rich: Entrepreneurship and the process of economic development, ed. B. Powell (Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press for the Independent Institute, 2008), pp. 54–78.
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