entrepreneurial role models

This article was first published in 2019 in the Entrepreneurial Mindset Network eZINE Volume 2 no 2

You cannot have failed to notice that the world of work is undergoing substantial transformation.  New enterprises are emerging but well-known businesses, that were once considered ubiquitous, have closed their doors.  Companies continue to reorganise and it is wise to ask yourself whether your job will still exist this time next year.  Indeed, will your employer stay in business?  At the same time, you could take encouragement from the emergence of new business sectors, start-ups and corporations, which are creating new opportunities for employment and entirely novel careers. 

We all need the ability to navigate these changes in the world of work. The right mindset will help you to stay one step ahead of the game.  You need to be innovative, daring, able to make smart use of resources and highly self-motivated; all qualities associated with entrepreneurs.  In recent years, the corporate world has become very interested in how executives and employees could adopt such an entrepreneurial mindset. This mindset, when aligned with organisational goals, is seen as empowering people to become more creative, productive and impactful. 

Do you have an entrepreneurial role model? Who inspires you to want to think and act like an entrepreneur? These are interesting questions.  Who do people identify as entrepreneurs? Which entrepreneurs do they find inspiring and see as potential role models? 

What is clear is that entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, and that although we might often first think of people that we see in the media, entrepreneurial role models can also be found much closer to home and in our everyday lives.

Image credit: combination of individual images from Wikipedia

From left to right: Jack Ma, Indra Nooyi, David Karp, Kiran Mazumbar-Shaw and Richard Branson

A good role model can inspire us to want to adopt more entrepreneurial behaviours.  By reflecting on the actions and successes of a role model we can begin to mimic how they think and act.  Who is your role model? Why do they inspire you? How can you learn from them?

Dan Ashton, Innocent Nwachukwu, Jackie Whitehouse and Jacob Thomsen share their thoughts…

Role Model Gary Vaynerchuk 

Nominated by Dan Ashton, Aspiring Strategist,  Lancaster 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

Gary “Vee” was brought up in Russia and failed school. So at an early age he was selling lemonade, the purest type of entrepreneurship! After this he started trading baseball cards and made good money at it. If you follow any of his content he still goes out to garage sales and picks stuff to sell. His company Vayner X did $45 million in revenue last year so he has purely ‘grinded’ to get where he is, relying on his entrepreneurial mindset to get him there.  

Role Models T. Bager and I. Tyrsted 

Nominated by Jacob Thomsen Assistant Professor, Programme Coordinator and Project Manager, University College Denmark 🇩🇰

Torben Bager and Ivan Tyrsted were the two directors of Southern University of Denmark’s Entrepreneurship Centre when I was student back in 2005-2010. Torben is a Professor within Entrepreneurship and Ivan is the serial entrepreneur. They both inspired me: to be an academic (Torben) and to be entrepreneurial (Ivan). 

Role Model Aliko Dangote

Nominated by By Innocent Nwachukwu, Entrepreneur and Business Developer 🇳🇬 

Aliko Dangote is an iconic African Industrialist who is committed to the growth and development of Africa. He is BOLD! He’s currently challenging the status quo in Africa by building a 15 billion dollar oil refinery, situated on 2,500 hectares of land in Lagos, which is expected to be largest single refinery in the world. A project of this size has never been undertaken in Africa by an African. When completed it is expected to create 9,500 direct jobs & 25,000 indirect jobs. 

Dangote isn’t only concerned about amassing wealth for himself, he’s also a philanthropist. Aliko Dangote foundation (ADF) is the largest private foundation in sub Saharan Africa; in 2014 Dangote made an endowment of $1.25 billion to his foundation with the aim of enhancing opportunities for social change through investments that improve health and wellbeing, promote quality education and broaden economic empowerment opportunities. More than 250,000 women and children are said to have benefited from his philanthropic actions. 

Despite his massive wealth, Dangote still leads a relatively simple life. He doesn’t own luxury homes outside of Nigeria and he doesn’t flaunt his wealth. When seen at occasions he’s usually warm and easy going. 

Dangote works very hard and he has clear vision. He once said he used to go to bed at 2am and wake at 5am, working over 12 hours daily. He’s also committed to his company’s vision of being a world class enterprise that is passionate about enhancing the standard of living of the general populace and giving high return to stake holders. He has stayed true to this vision by building billon dollar industries that produce essential commodities in about ten African countries, and he’s still expanding. 

Aliko Dangote is a man that really inspires me; I’m working hard to someday be like him. I’m highly impressed by his professional achievements; we share a similar passion for the development & growth of Africa. 

Role Model Winifred Hancox

Nominated by By Jackie Whitehouse, Head of Academic Studies, CU Coventry 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 

Winifred Hancox was the dear individual that gave me my confidence. She taught me, from a tiny dot, to respect who I am as a person. How much I should appreciate the simple things that others take for granted; the sun in the sky and the feeling of the breeze across grass! She owned a farm; so she taught me the value of the earth and nature in aiding her livelihood. She worked relentlessly from early morning; to dusk, but she always had time to ensure I completed my spellings! It was that consistent testing that introduced me to words and my respect of writing. It was that which lead me into journalism and publishing. She was in service as a young woman; proud of her role in London, for a Duke. She knew food and how to make the very best from home produced vegetables. She kept me grounded, and ensured I was achieving my potential. She died a week before my wedding, but was involved in all the planning, so that she didn’t miss any detail. Even after her death, she continues to influence my thinking. ◼️