If you’ve ever wondered what motivated people to start their own businesses, there are a variety of reasons that may come to your mind. Some people want to be their own boss while others want the opportunity to control their own destiny. Others, of course, just have a product or service that they feel passionately about and want to share it with the world. These are all very valid reasons for becoming an entrepreneur, but inspiration can take many forms and is often hard to quantify.

What Inspires You to Become an Entrepreneur?

What Inspires You to Become an Entrepreneur?

Although this is a difficult question to answer, anyone who has ever dared to venture out on their own can surely relate to the concept of being inspired. There are countless factors that can motivate someone to become an entrepreneur. To get a better idea of what inspires people to start their own business, we asked the following question in our 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report: “What do you think inspires most people who start new businesses?”

Respondents were presented with a list of 15 options, which included feeling passionate about something you’re doing, wanting control over your life and your future, and needing more freedom.

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However, the GEM Report represents a snapshot of opinions within the entrepreneurship research community. The survey was conducted in July 2012, and respondents represent a cross-section of 6,664 entrepreneurs from across the globe. The findings are based on self-reported responses from 594 respondents who have started a new business or have an existing business with employees in the three years prior to being asked this question (i.e., representing a 0.79% sample). Results are statistically adjusted where appropriate to account for sampling variability. SOURCE: GEM-2012 Survey

The questions asked were both directly related to a product or service, as well as more broad in scope. Whereas questions related to a specific product or service would be more easily quantifiable, however, the broader questions would provide a better overall perspective on entrepreneurship. When comparing both types of questions, it is clear that the majority of respondents say that inspiration comes from a passionate drive to build a company based on an innovative product or service.

As you can see in the table below, 53% of those surveyed said that they felt most inspired when they had a compelling vision for their product or service. Only 27% reported as being most inspired when working with others to create something new. The remaining responses were equally divided between the other 12 options listed.

This is an important finding because it shows that today’s entrepreneurs are driven by passion and innovation more so than they are by necessity and competition. It shows that they start out with a vision and therefore, they are motivated to work hard to achieve it.

This is true across all demographics of entrepreneurs:

It’s true for female entrepreneurs (as illustrated in the following graph), who have been an increasing focus in entrepreneurship research over the past few years.

This is also true of male entrepreneurs, as demonstrated in the following table. In fact, new businesses started by men are nearly three times as likely as those started by women to be based on innovation instead of necessity or competition.

So, who is more likely to start his or her own business? That depends a lot on education. Entrepreneurs with at least a bachelor’s degree are roughly twice as likely to be driven by passion and innovation than those with no more than a high school diploma. But that trend isn’t quite as pronounced outside of higher education.

This image clearly shows the distribution of entrepreneurs by type of business started:

As you can see, entrepreneurship is not just for those with an advanced degree (which is why there are many successful self-employed people with less formal education). The classic image of an entrepreneur who drops out of college to start a business is increasingly less common as the world continues to become more and more connected. However, it does still happen.

This also means that there are very few “accidental entrepreneurs” who stumble into being their own boss after some kind of unfortunate event. Instead, it appears that the most inspired people are those who want to build businesses based on what they’re passionate about.

Interestingly, there is no clear difference between men and women when it comes to the type of business started or the inspiration behind it. After all is said and done, it seems that both genders are driven by the same inspirations and pursue the same types of businesses.

What Inspires You to Become an Entrepreneur?

Final Verdict

After overcoming a few obstacles, most entrepreneurial journeys—irrespective of where you live—start to take shape from there. According to the GEM Report, there are five key steps that entrepreneurs typically go through:

Despite the different stages of growth for entrepreneurs, it’s still important to remember that some early-stage businesses will succeed while others will fail. But these differing rates of success can be attributed to many factors outside of motivation.