Winning traits of the 21st-century entrepreneur

Winning traits of the 21st-century entrepreneur

Posted: Fri 17th Nov 2023

What better way to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week than to ask the experts and success stories about the winning traits they've witnessed in this generation of hustlers?

The 21st-century traits of an entrepreneur are ever-evolving due to the strained financial climate we find ourselves in, especially since the pandemic.

However, with the unpredictable global crisis in which folks found themselves suddenly working from home, mixed with the loss of so many jobs, everyday people began to turn their passions into small businesses. This led to a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Unlike with their predecessors – who typically had access to funds and networks that facilitated risky career choices – the government began to recognise that these hard-working, talented individuals could bring significant financial growth alongside a wave of innovation that would have previously been an unachievable path for so many dreamers.

This has led to an influx in small business support through grants, loans and learning programmes, such as incubators and start-up support services within local boroughs or previously established platforms like Enterprise Nation.

Despite the rapid development of support for people wanting to pursue entrepreneurship, a founder would need to have the attributes to withstand such a challenging environment long hours, little or no pay, navigating ever-changing social media platforms and finding new ways to reach customers.

Characteristics of the 21st-century entrepreneur

1. Resourcefulness

Zoë Chapman knows what she's talking about, given her own journey starting Kiddiwhizz during the pandemic. She launched the Whizzer with no funding support, which exemplifies her resourcefulness and innovative mindset. 

She explains:

"Funding isn't something we're all blessed with. Yet depending on the business you've embarked on, you'll no doubt need financial support. So, being resourceful will be critical.

"An example would be skill-swapping. Do you know someone with whom you could trade skills in order to support one another? In doing so, you could avoid a cost that you weren't able to outsource to another paid professional. Do you have contacts from previous careers that you could contact for free advice or support?”


In this webinar, Kiddiwhizz founder Zoe explains how she secured a deal from two of the investors on BBC's Dragons' Den:


2. Adaptability

Hand in hand with being resourceful is having the ability to look at a situation and see an opportunity rather than a hindrance. Roger Willison-Gray, a veteran technology management and operations expert, points to adaptability as a key trait, especially given the constantly evolving business landscape.

He says:

"An adaptable business owner can navigate technological advancements, changes in consumer behaviour, global events, and economic shifts, pivot when necessary, and embrace innovation to stay competitive.

"While other traits like leadership, vision and strategic thinking are also crucial, adaptability acts as a foundational trait that enables a business owner to navigate the complexities of today's business world.

"It's the ability to respond to change with a positive and proactive mindset that can make the crucial difference between success and stagnation in an ever-evolving marketplace."

3. Resilience with a dash of persistence

Hatty Fawcett, founder of Focused For Business, has always admired the resilience that successful business owners demonstrate.

She admits:

"It's hard work running your own business. There are so many things to think about, and it can be a challenge to keep all the plates spinning. Not everyone has the resilience required to handle whatever happens.

"Successful business owners have always needed to demonstrate resilience and the ability to keep going. But right now, in challenging economic times, they need to combine that resilience with a good dose of persistence, especially when it comes to raising investment to succeed."

Watch this webinar to understand when is the right time to raise equity investment and what different types of investors look for in a start-up:

Zoë Chapman knows this feeling all too well:

"I've wanted to quit countless times and so have all other founders I know. Yet it's the resilience in us that takes the challenges and turns them into fuel to continue.

"You'll inevitably have the vast majority of those around you doubting your ability to turn your idea or passion into a profitable business. But if you've defined your 'why', you'll always have an element in your resilience toolbox to remind you why you're doing this."

4. Tell a compelling story

People might forget a list of facts and figures. But give them a story, especially one with a relatable protagonist (you, the entrepreneur), and it'll stick in their minds. This can be a game-changer when you're competing for attention in a crowded market.

Your brand story defines:

  • who you are

  • what you stand for

  • why you matter

In the 15 years he's been starting and building businesses and helping other founders, Danny Matthews, founder of Short Story Ventures, sees the ability to tell a compelling story around their business or idea as a common trait in entrepreneurs.

He explains:

"Entrepreneurship is about identifying problems and providing solutions. Entrepreneurs who are skilled storytellers often excel at illustrating the problems their audience faces. By painting a vivid picture of the pain points, they can better demonstrate how their product or service is the solution.

"Entrepreneurs who can tell a captivating story about their journey, their product, or their mission are far more likely to engage their audience emotionally."


In this webinar, Danny explains how brands can use stories to create meaning and attract more customers:


5. Show compassion

Gracie McLaven, a highly qualified doctor in clinical psychology and the brains behind Brain Body Wealth, finds compassion to be the most crucial characteristic in successful business owners.

She explains:

"Hear me out. I realise that compassion is not the first quality people associate with successful business owners. And as a psychologist, I'm likely to be somewhat biased.

"However, compassion forms the foundation of healthy relationships, drives employee engagement and motivation, aligns with socially responsible practices, and equips business leaders to handle adversity.

"In a world that demands more from businesses than just profitability, compassion is the driving force behind the positive impact that companies can have on their communities."


Watch this webinar to learn the 10 traits of successful compassionate entrepreneurs and understand how compassion and entrepreneurship go hand in hand:


6. Love your numbers

Your numbers are the story of your business. They will tell you if it's a horror, a comedy, or a solid PG rating that's suitable for all viewers.

You might not always like what they tell you. But by having your accounts in order, and taking responsibility for them, you'll be able to make more accurate decisions and react quickly when you need to.

Kim Masters, founder of MATS Consulting and the Make Peace with Money programme, says falling in love with your numbers gives your business a good chance of being successful.

She says:

"I look at finance in a rather unique way because I split it into two parts: the practical side (cash flow, budgeting and cost management) and the mental and emotional side (how you think, feel, talk, and act around money).

"It's the relationship with money that can have the biggest influence on you and your business. A lot of owners I've worked with have limiting money beliefs, money blocks and poor money habits, and these can really hold you back. By working on your relationship with money, you'll start to learn to work smarter, not harder."


Watch this webinar to learn how cultivating a healthy relationship with money can give you a competitive edge and foster your business's growth:


Final thoughts

Being an entrepreneur in the 21st century isn't the once-glamourised lifestyle some may assume. Still, it does come with many perks, so making sure those outweigh the challenges is going to ensure you make a successful future for yourself.

Relevant resources

Hi, I am Amanda, Enterprise Nation's content manager.

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