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9 different types of entrepreneurship for your dream life

From social entrepreneurship to solopreneurs and intrapreneurship and everything in-between


“One day, for apparently no reason, you were suddenly stricken with an Entrepreneurial Seizure.” – Michael Gerber, The E-Myth.

Of the different types of entrepreneur, the 'fed-up worker chucking in their job to become their own boss' is the archetype.

“Inside your mind [you think]: ‘What am I doing this for? Why am I working for this guy?’ Once stricken with an Entrepreneurial Seizure there was no relief. You couldn’t get rid of it. You had to start your own business.”  - Michael Gerber, ‘The E-Myth’

Since COVID-19 and the Great Resignation that came with it, all types of entrepreneurship are on the rise. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) estimated Australia had 1.8 million early-stage entrepreneurs in 2017. (1) Xero and Accenture research predicts that could double in the next decade.(2)

Free Download: 10 Leadership Qualities That Will Help Solve Challenges in 2022

Easy to start, not easy to sustain

Entrepreneurship of all types risk failure. Most entrepreneurs love ideas but don't prioritise leadership development and learning the business fundamentals.

So, while we outline 9 types of entrepreneurship here, we also show how to access leadership development from the comfort of your desk to ensure your entrepreneurial journey is a success.

What is Entrepreneurship?  

Being an entrepreneur means starting or running your own business.

The word ‘entrepreneur’ is from the French verb meaning ‘to do something’ or ‘to undertake.’ As far back as 1947 Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter could see entrepreneurship meant the creation of ‘new combinations’ that disrupted markets, products, processes, and organisations. (3)

Most types of entrepreneurship are about making a profit, but the aim can also be social impact (as in the case of ‘social entrepreneurship’). While each entrepreneur may differ in style or motive, success will depend on the level of their business and leadership skills.

As ‘Beyond Entrepreneurship: BE 2.0’ author Jim Collins says, “The cellular structure of any truly great organisation is the well-led unit, for this is where great things get done.”  

What are the Different Types of Entrepreneurship?  

  • Scalable startup entrepreneurship
  • Small business entrepreneurship
  • Solo entrepreneurship
  • Large company entrepreneurship
  • Innovative entrepreneurship
  • Imitator entrepreneurship
  • Hustler entrepreneurship
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Intrapreneurship

Just like all the different leadership styles, types of entrepreneurship differ in such things as motive, core personality traits, skills, and circumstances.  

Our speaker and author events have offered lessons for each type. For example, ‘Jumping Ship’ author Michael Traill did a mid-life jump from Macquarie Bank to pursue social entrepreneurship as founding CEO of not-for-profit Social Ventures Australia.

“It’s a different way of thinking about capitalism. I’ve come to describe it as capitalism 2.0,” he said in interview with Growth Faculty.

Dell Technologies founder Michael Dell, author of Play Nice But Win’ autobiography spoke about scalable startup entrepreneurship. Dell has said publicly he heads “The world’s biggest start-up.”

For innovative entrepreneurship we’ve learned from Laura Huang, associate professor at Harvard Business School, who teaches students to "go beyond constraints and look for the opportunities".

Researcher Jim Collins, author of ‘Good to Great’ has extensively studied Fortune 500 leaders applying large company entrepreneurship (don’t miss his live virtual event Develop Level 5 Leaders next week).  

"When you reach the top of a mountain peak, begin looking for the next one. Set a new mission. If you just sit there, you'll get cold and die," he writes in 'Beyond Entrepreneurship B.E.2.0'

Read on for these and other different types of entrepreneurship including small business entrepreneurship, solo entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, imitator entrepreneurship, and hustler entrepreneurship. 

Scalable Startup Entrepreneurship  

A burger that ‘bleeds’ but is made of plants is one product example of scalable startup entrepreneurship.

Scalable startups are often tech-based and begin with scale in mind. For Impossible Foods founder and CEO Pat Brown this vision in 2009 was ‘completely replacing animals as food’.

Scalable startup entrepreneurs need a huge potential Total Addressable Market (TAM) so they can grow fast and exponentially, ideally via word-of-mouth. This means crossing the chasm to reach mainstream markets. Startups can’t scale if their products and services never appeal to customers beyond the early adopters.

Advantages of scalable startup entrepreneurship:

·       Adrenalin rush. Can be exciting and all-consuming. Big learning curve.

·       Customer participation. The most successful entrepreneurs break down the brand/customer wall and let customers co-create and form a community.

·       Low cost. Technology has made startups relatively cheap to start.  

·       Scalable business model. A model where unit costs decline and profits rise as the business expands (ie. a platform business model).

·       Financial rewards. May be lucrative.

Disadvantages of scalable startup entrepreneurship:

·       Long working hours. Can be all-consuming.

·       Financial risk. May be difficult to survive while pitching to investors.

·       Rapid growth. Costly, and may lead to shortcuts/mistakes.

Tip from our thought leader speaker/author: 

“The perils of the chasm make this a life-or-death situation for you. You must win entry to the mainstream, despite whatever resistance is posed,” says Geoffrey Moore, author of ‘Crossing the Chasm’. “You must establish long-term relationships with pragmatist buyers, for only through these can you control your own destiny.” 

Small Business Entrepreneurship  

Since the pandemic, small business entrepreneurship has boomed. A Xero report ‘Where Opportunity Lies’ predicts in the next decade, almost 3.5 million small businesses could be registered by aspiring entrepreneurs.

Small business entrepreneurship is starting and growing a business on a smaller scale than a corporation.

“Chaos is an excellent catalyst for starting a new business,” says Ian Whitworth, small business entrepreneur and author of ‘Undisruptable’. “Competitors who would normally crush you are dazed and confused after COVID-19 reshuffled their deck.”

The key thing is to have a compelling reason why you should exist, he says. “Most businesses start as some variation on ‘Yet another provider of things you can already buy’.”

Advantages of Small Business Entrepreneurship:

·       You’re the boss. You are in the driver’s seat. Every decision is yours.

·       Flexibility. You can work where and how you want.

·       Values and culture. You can shape the workplace culture of your dreams.

·       Financial rewards. A well-run small business can make you money.

·       Satisfaction. Building a business can be personally rewarding.

Disadvantages of Small Business Entrepreneurship:

·       Hard work. The amount of work required may come as a shock.

·       Financial risk. You may lose sleep and personal savings to make payroll or pay bills. 

·       Selling is hard. Many aspects of being a small business entrepreneur rely on sales. 

·       Delayed rewards. It may take between 1 to 3 years to make a profit.

·       Anxiety and depression. A 2019 MYOB survey shows 56% of small business owners say running their own business had led to feelings of anxiety or depression. 

Tip from our thought leader speaker/author: 

“What everybody should be thinking about, really from the get-go, from even before they start the business is what would be a great business? What would make a business great?” – Bo Burlingham, author ‘Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big’

Solo entrepreneurship

The Great Resignation is seeing record numbers of workers quit, and many do it to become independent solo entrepreneurs. MBO’s 2021 State of Independence Report found that 56% of independent small business owners said they wanted to remain solo entrepreneurs.

Solo entrepreneurship is running a business alone. Thanks to technology, it is becoming more viable to run a profitable business without employees.

Solo entrepreneurs (also known as solopreneurs) remove the complexity of staff and business at scale.

Advantages of solo entrepreneurship:

·       Total freedom. Solopreneur Journal says this is perhaps the #1 reason many people decide to go it on their own.

·       No employees. Solopreneurs are responsible for themselves only.

·       Your own culture and rules. You create your whole work universe.

·       Resilience. In downturns you can be agile and adaptable.

·       Work while you sleep. While solopreneurs can be freelancers, who make money only while they work, solo entrepreneurship differs in that the aim is to make money even when not working. 

·       Diversity and inclusion. Anyone can choose to be a solopreneur.

Disadvantages of solo entrepreneurship:

·       No employees or colleagues. You’re on your own which can be lonely and hard work.

·       No benefits. If you want paid time off or sick leave, you’ll have to provide it yourself.

·       Hard work. It’s all up to you. You can’t pass the buck.

·       Financial insecurity. What you earn each month may vary enormously.

Tip from our thought leader speaker/author:

“Growth isn’t always the most beneficial or financially viable move.” - solopreneur Paul Jarvis, author of ‘Company of One’

Large Company Entrepreneurship  

Large company entrepreneurship is creating new opportunities within an existing large business. An example is Indra Nooyi’s transformation of PepsiCo during her 12 years as CEO and Chairman.

In our interview on her memoir, ‘My Life in Full’, Indra Nooyi detailed PepsiCo’s moments of entrepreneurship; the transformation of its product portfolio to include healthier products, successes in tackling environmental issues, and a strong emphasis on people and culture.

“You can either future-proof the company or de-risk it,” she told us. “I started with a look at the megatrends that would impact the consumer products industry. I wrote down the 10 megatrends, then went and talked about what we needed to do differently.”

Advantages of large company entrepreneurship:   

·       Strong existing business. Entrepreneurship helps sustain the business success.

·       Relevancy. Entrepreneurship helps develop disruptor products and services in-house.

·       Resources. Entrepreneurship requires people, time, and money. Large companies have all three.

·       Better leadership. An ability to fund leadership development gives large companies key skills that help with strategy and execution.

·       Engagement and retention. Entrepreneurship brings creative and critical thinking to each role.

Disadvantages of large company entrepreneurship:

·       Size of company. Large company entrepreneurs can’t be as autonomous or nimble as smaller scale entrepreneurs.

·       Layers of hierarchy. As above, there may be cumbersome approval processes and more stakeholders to slow decision-making.

·       Fear mindset. A large company may be set in its ways, and fear change.

·       Employee cynicism. Employees may not buy-into large company entrepreneurship.

Tips from our thought leader speaker/authors:

“I worked to redesign our organisational structure and develop new business leaders for a different world ahead.” – Indra Nooyi, former Chair and CEO of PepsiCo.

"It’s a yin yang; preserve the core and stimulate progress." – Jim Collins, 2021 Roadmap to Greatness event for Growth Faculty. 

Innovative Entrepreneurship  

Most businesses were forced to develop innovative entrepreneurship skills during COVID-19. Innovative entrepreneurship is when an entrepreneur innovates to serve the changing needs of customers. 

Almost overnight as pandemic lockdowns shut people out of businesses, restaurants started contactless home delivery, events companies (including us here at Growth Faculty!) pivoted to live virtual events, gin distilleries launched hand sanitisers, and doctors did telehealth appointments.

Innovative entrepreneurship can be the prompt for a start-up, or it can be within an existing business. It’s about having curiosity, creativity, and a hunger to find solutions to problems.

Advantages of innovative entrepreneurship: 

·       Chaos brings opportunity. Change and disruption sparks ideas in these entrepreneurs.

·       You create the market. Known also as ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ you are in unexplored markets.

·       Pipeline of innovations. As you grease the creativity wheel, you’ll get better at it.

·       Engagement and retention. Innovation rewards creativity and ideas and people love that.

·       Financial opportunity. You might have innovated the ‘next big thing’.

Disadvantages of innovative entrepreneurship:

·    Hard to sell. Innovative products can be met with scepticism and may be hard to sell.

·    New customer base. There may be no incumbent, so it’s up to you to build a customer base from scratch.

·    Attract copycats. If successful, expect competition right behind you.

·    Shiny object syndrome. Once the idea is launched, you might lose interest as you seek the rush of ‘newness’.

Tip from our thought leader speaker/author:

“Sometimes less is more. A lack of resources forces you to focus on what really matters.” – Gihan Perera, author of ‘Disruption By Design’


Imitator Entrepreneurship  

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, goes the saying. Well, hot on the heels of the innovative entrepreneur comes the imitator. While innovators may get 'first mover' advantage, imitator entrepreneurship bestows the very real advantage of watching the test market reaction.

Imitator entrepreneurs can then launch a product or service better suited to, or priced for, more customers.

Advantages of imitator entrepreneurship:

·       Market viability. You know how the innovation was received before you decide to launch.

·       Less risk and fewer costs. Imitators only enter the market if it is viable, and don’t have to spend as much on prototypes or explanatory sales and marketing campaigns.

·       Improved product. You can look innovative with improvements while innovator is still pushing with original.

Disadvantages of imitator entrepreneurship:

·       IP considerations. Don’t infringe copyright or intellectual property rights.

·       Market share. In a niche market there may be room for only one of type.

·       ‘Imitator’ stain. Nobody should want to be seen as a copycat.

Tip from our thought leader speaker/author:

“Contrary to popular belief, cofounder Reed Hastings did not start Netflix because of 40 dollars in late fees. He and cofounder Marc Randolph simply wanted to be the ‘ of something.” – Charlene Li, author of ‘The Disruption Mindset’, quoting Michelle Castillo of CNBC.

Hustler Entrepreneurship  

Sarah Blakely, founder of Spanx underwear, is a hustler entrepreneur in the very best sense of the term. With no startup capital or business experience she launched and grew a billion-dollar company through her persistence and determination.

“Failure is not the outcome. Failure is not trying.” – Sara Blakely, Spanx.

Hustler entrepreneurship describes the self-starter fiercely determined to succeed. They leave nothing to chance, working diligently and endlessly to realise their dream of success.

Advantages of hustler entrepreneurship:

·       Work ethic. They work so hard they almost can’t fail.

·       Self-belief. They can see success; they just have to convince others to ‘get it’. 

·       Low fear of failure. They see failure as a stepping stone or an opportunity to adjust.

·       Less need for capital. No money? No problem. They push on regardless.

Disadvantages of hustler entrepreneurship:

·       The term itself. Hustler has a negative connotation.

·       Control. Hustler entrepreneurs may have difficulty delegating or sharing decision-making.

·       Burnout. Hustler entrepreneurship is all-consuming and can lead to burnout.

·       Not self-sustaining. Some businesses may fail as soon as hustler pulls back effort. 

Tip from our thought leader speaker/author:

“Look out for stories of people online, especially when it is in the space that is directly correlated to your business... Make a list of 5 to 10 people you want to meet and try to connect with them.” – Gautam Ganglani, author of ‘Breaking Bread’ 

Social Entrepreneurship  

 At the heart of social entrepreneurship is positive change, not just profit. While many companies incorporate a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program into their business, social entrepreneurs create their business around a cause.

Australian examples of social entrepreneurs include Thank You, Who Gives a Crap, The Big Issue, and Djilpin Arts.

Social entrepreneurs often draw their talent pool from disadvantaged, minority, and diverse groups. In a 2019 report from The Centre for Social Impact Swinburne in collaboration with Westpac Foundation, 7000 of Australia’s estimated 20,000 social enterprises were focused on creating employment.

Advantages of social entrepreneurship:

·       Attracts talent and/or capital. A Gartner survey found 56% of respondents said the pandemic made them want to contribute more to society.

·       Employs diverse talent.

·       Benefits society. Social enterprise helps to make the world a better place.

·       Impact. You can see the impact of the work you do.

·       Authenticity. Your story can inspire others to join your cause.

Disadvantages of social entrepreneurship:

·       Pressure of expectations. If the business fails, disadvantaged communities may be affected.

·       Cost of business. Doing the right thing may be costlier than doing the wrong thing (but may be cheaper too).

·       Held to high standards. This is a good thing, but it puts pressure on the entrepreneur not to stumble.

·       Risks of business. All the usual risks of business are present.

Tip from our thought leader speaker/author:

“You need to unleash the potential of everyone around you and create a leadership mindset. In the words of Leo Tolstoy, ‘Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself’.” – Karen James, author of ‘On Purpose’


The world is in state of non-stop change. The intrapreneur sees opportunities when others see challenges, and will think up ways to create new value for their employer. An intrapreneur has the mindset of an entrepreneur, just not the same desire to leave work. 

Thought leader Liz Wiseman calls valuable and creative employees with such skills “impact players”. In her event Increase Your Leadership, Influence, and Impact at Work she will outline why impact players need a ‘comfortable but intense’ work culture to thrive. 

Advantages of intrapreneurship:

·       Little to no risk. You don’t have to fund a startup.

·       Positive challenge. Intrapreneurs like to do work that stretches them and matters.

·       Leadership potential. Intrapreneurs are more likely to attract leadership development investment from their employer.

·       Financial rewards. Employers may reward successful innovations from intrapreneurs.

Disadvantages of intrapreneurship:  

  • Success is shared. Your innovations belong to the company and the rewards are shared.
  • Highly dependent on leadership. A poor leader may stymie ideas and innovation.
  • Idea pinching. Others may claim credit for your good work.
  • Hierarchy. You may be slowed or stalled by hierarchy as you pitch your ideas.
  • Lack of control. You don’t control the purse strings, company direction, etc.

Tip from our thought leader speaker/author:

“Are you relying on a one-sided view of value, or are you seeing through your stakeholders’ eyes? When we make what is important to others important to us, we get the vector right and increase our impact.” – Liz Wiseman, author of ‘Impact Players’

Learn from the Best, No Matter Your Entrepreneurial Type  

Each type of entrepreneur relies on having or learning leadership and business skills to succeed. Intrapreneurs will stay at a company longer if leadership training is offered.

Large company entrepreneurs will need a deep understanding of how to Develop Level 5 Leaders. Even solo entrepreneurs need leadership skills such as communication, negotiation, execution strategy, marketing, and looking after your own wellbeing. 

With our Leadership Pass, you’ll have exclusive access to 40 live virtual events and masterclasses to help with these leadership and business skills from the world’s brilliant minds. 

 Join a community of knowledge seekers who are inspired by the best. See who's up next.


Growth Faculty events, interviews, authors, speakers

  1. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM)
  2. J.Lyons, 2022, Where Opportunity Lies: Australia’s new small business boom, Xero blog
  3. Hanappi, Hardy and Hanappi-Egger, Edeltraud (2004): New Combinations :Taking Schumpeter's concept serious.

Hero image by Jenny Ueberberg on Unsplash

Second photo by DISRUPTIVO on Unsplash


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