Q: Are entrepreneurs born or made?
Baum: The studies point to both. Some people have natural characteristics that inspire and support entrepreneurship, and others have experiences in life that can foster those characteristics and tendencies.
Epstein: Both. Entrepreneurs are people who understand opportunity. You can be taught how to recognize opportunity and how to systematically pursue opportunity. Some of those skills you are born with, but I believe that you can make an entrepreneur.
Q: What are the key characteristics common among entrepreneurs?
Baum: Entrepreneurs are risk takers and experimenters. They are willing to take chances that others might not be willing to take and if things don't work out they won't quit, they'll try something else in the same area. Entrepreneurs are energetic, full of self-confidence, and have a need for achievement. Often times, they have an interest in control and a need to set goals for themselves.
Epstein: Entrepreneurs are comfortable with uncertainty. The world is full of uncertainty, businesses are full of uncertainty. You have to be comfortable with an uncertain outlook for your business. Entrepreneurs have internal discipline. They are not coming to work because someone is telling them to; they are coming to work because they know they have to. Entrepreneurs have integrity. They have to convince investors, advisers, customers, employers, partners, etc., to work with them because they have a compelling vision that is going to work.
Q: How can you spot those entrepreneurial characteristics in young children?
Epstein: I have young children and I look for a solution-oriented approach to problem solving. The world is full of problems and full of obstacles. The entrepreneurs are going to figure out how to get around them and how to get through them. If your child is creative, likes solving problems, and if he or she is focused and determined to get things done, they are showing the early signs of an entrepreneur.
Q: How can you foster entrepreneurial tendencies in children?
Epstein: If they show interest, get your kids out there selling stuff and solving problems. Running lemonade stands, dog-walking services, things like that. Entrepreneurship is a full-contact sport. You've got to be out there in the lab experimenting every day, not just in a classroom talking about it.