The entrepreneurial spirit, revisited

Investopedia tells us that an entrepreneur (“to undertake” in French) is “an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards. The entrepreneur is commonly seen as an innovator, a source of new ideas, goods, services and business processes. Entrepreneurs play a key role in any economy, using the skills and initiative necessary to anticipate needs and bring good new ideas to market.”
The traditional entrepreneur owns a business, but those of us who work as employees for companies large and small can demonstrate the entrepreneurial spirit as intrapreneurs — self-motivated, proactive, action-oriented people who take the initiative in pursuit of an innovative product or service within an organization ( According to Clarity Recruiting (Serena Rubino) these three traits describe the entrepreneurial spirit.

  • Growth mindset. This is a way of thinking in which you are always seeking opportunities to learn and grow. You don’t see failures as roadblocks but as a vehicle to learn something new and become smarter.
  • Grace under fire. Are you able to remain calm while offering solutions to improve situations? Can you “fail forward” and use your learning to make immediate improvements?
  • Emotional intelligence. An entrepreneurial mindset includes taking ownership of your own behaviors, e.g. self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

All of us — whether we are employed or working as volunteers — can drive results to further the mission of companies, agencies, or organizations. Natasha Pongonis, a partner at Nativa Inc. (, is a social media and communications expert competing in a world in which effective communication is a key strategy in overcoming many challenges. Pongonis acknowledges that the path to entrepreneurship is not easy.
“Early on in my career, I came to understand that you must define success on your own terms, set personal milestones and expectations to achieve your full potential. Entrepreneurs must become the engine of their own growth, have a clear vision of their purpose and maintain an open mind to pivot and evolve to keep up with the constantly changing market and customer dynamics.”
On the intrapreneur side, Toni Cunningham is managing director of Per Scholas Columbus ( Per Scholas provides tuition-free technology training to unemployed or underemployed adults for careers as IT professionals, an undertaking that could not be more timely or necessary.
Cunningham advises that, “Now is the perfect time, as companies are reimagining ‘normal,’ for the innovators inside of organizations to come forward. It’s important for leaders to recognize that many individuals who are working inside of companies — but are rarely asked — have the solutions to some of the organization’s most pressing challenges. (Consider the individuals who have restructured departments to achieve greater outcomes, lead teams that are fully engaged and are inspired to make an impact in their areas of influence.) During these times of extreme challenge and change, leaders would do well to push these intrapreneurs to the forefront to leverage their passion, energy and drive for excellence.”

As we continue to face unprecedented challenges in modern history, now is the time to rise above the temptation to wait it out or retrench. Those who see opportunity ahead and are willing to learn every day are likely to thrive.

Barb Smoot is president and CEO of WELD
Becky S. Cornett is a member of the WELD Impact Committee