Evolving Entrepreneurial Identities: An Exploratory Study
Entrepreneurship is a diverse and complex phenomenon. However, despite substantial developments in the field, dominant approaches to entrepreneurship research are criticised for failing to question taken-for-granted assumptions about both the entrepreneurial actor and the process of entrepreneurship. This has resulted in a narrow view of entrepreneurship which fails to reflect the heterogeneity of the phenomenon and the individuals who undertake it. Through an exploration of the experiences of
... ascent entrepreneurs, the study builds upon the extant entrepreneurship literature by addressing the misalignment between entrepreneurship research and observations of entrepreneurship. The study aims to gain insights into the phenomenon of nascent entrepreneurship from the perspectives of the individuals who enact it. The study uses interpretative phenomenological analysis to gain an understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur. The research draws upon data captured from 21 in-depth interviews with nascent entrepreneurs to develop three key themes which are discussed in relation to the extant entrepreneurship literature: entrepreneurial motivations and identity; entrepreneurial identity formation and perseverance; identity crafting, reconciliation and conflict. The findings contribute to theoretical understandings within the broader entrepreneurship literature by challenging the stereotypical view of the economically motivated lone wolf entrepreneur and presenting a nuanced picture of entrepreneurship as a means of identity fulfilment. The study contributes to the entrepreneurial identity literature by providing an empirical basis for dynamic entrepreneurial identity formation through action (enactment of the entrepreneurial role), interaction (with networks and start-up communities) and reflection. This challenges conceptualisations of both static and discursively imposed entrepreneurial identities. The findings present a nuanced illustration of entrepreneurial identity formation by emphasising the interrelationships between entrepreneurial passion, self-efficacy and identity. The study contributes to the entrepreneurial motivations literature by showing the motivational influence of non-entrepreneurial identities, non-entrepreneurial passions and possible future selves. The findings contribute to the v entrepreneurial identity literature by demonstrating the importance of entrepreneurial identity formation and reconciliation with multiple personal and socially ascribed identities in order to commit to the entrepreneurial role and persevere with entrepreneurial endeavours. The study has practical and policy implications including the facilitation of opportunities for identity evolution and an emphasis on identity fulfilment and authenticity.