In 2022 alone, Shopify entrepreneurs in the United States generated over $490 billion in economic activity. Developing an entrepreneurial mindset can help you participate in a growing market, but there are several types of entrepreneurship to consider when starting your own company.
Learn about the different types of entrepreneurship to hone your strengths and find your brand’s unique place in the entrepreneurial landscape.
What is entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is the process of creating and running a business. Entrepreneurs generate new ideas to fill gaps in the marketplace by solving problems that others have yet to solve. Entrepreneurship involves creating a new product or service—even a new market or way of conducting business. Entrepreneurs take on risk in the hopes of generating profit for themselves, their investors, and their employees.
7 types of entrepreneurship
- Small business entrepreneurship
- Scalable startup entrepreneurship
- Large company entrepreneurship
- Social entrepreneurship
- Innovative entrepreneurship
- Adoptive entrepreneurship
Some types of entrepreneurship involve building a business from scratch, while others include innovating within a larger system. Here are seven types of entrepreneurship to consider:
1. Small business entrepreneurship
Small business entrepreneurship is the process of developing, launching, and running a small business enterprise. Small businesses typically include a lean and agile staff with modest business operations that grow organically. Financing small business entrepreneurship can take time, and common small business funding options include self-funding, crowdsourcing, grants, investors, and small business loans—including those through Shopify Capital.
Small business entrepreneurship can look like running a hometown pizza joint or starting your own graphic design business. Although these are the most recognizable types of small businesses, the US Small Business Administration uses size standards to determine if a business is small enough to be eligible for small business grants—in which case a steel mill with 1,500 employees is technically considered a small business. The SBA’s standards are designed to exclude businesses that could have a major controlling influence on the industry at a national scale.
2. Scalable startup entrepreneurship
The goal of scalable startup entrepreneurship is to develop a business idea with the potential for rapid expansion. Entrepreneurs engaged in this type of entrepreneurship pursue profitable business ventures that fill an immediate need in the marketplace with high potential for growth. A scalable business requires a clear business plan with scalable production and marketing strategies for how to expand the brand quickly.
Some of the largest examples of scalable startup entrepreneurship include tech companies like Meta and Uber that started small and grew into global companies.
3. Large company entrepreneurship
Large company entrepreneurship is the process of established companies innovating new products, services, and ideas based on market considerations. Large company entrepreneurship aims to reinvent an existing brand to make it more valuable and relevant to the current marketplace.
As a large company’s products near the end of their product life cycles, the company can innovate by bringing new products to market that meet changing consumer demand. Companies like Disney and Samsung use large company entrepreneurship to stay competitive, rolling out new product lines to ensure that consumers stay loyal.
4. Social entrepreneurship
Social entrepreneurship involves a business model designed to address a particular social issue. Social entrepreneurs seek innovative solutions to problems in our society, including pollution, poverty, and student debt. By allocating time and money toward socially responsible goals like equitable economic development or wildlife conservation, social entrepreneurs may prioritize a triple bottom line that focuses on profit, people, and the planet.
Social entrepreneurship can exist within a nonprofit organization as well as a for-profit business venture. An example of social entrepreneurship is LSTN Sound Co., an audio company founded in 2012. Since then, LSTN Sound Co. has provided hearing aids to over 50,000 people worldwide by partnering with the nonprofit Starkey Hearing Foundation.
5. Innovative entrepreneurship
Innovative entrepreneurship is the process of generating innovative ideas for a new business, product, or service. Innovative entrepreneurs focus on unique solutions to problems other entrepreneurs have failed to solve or even consider. By developing innovative services, products, and business models, innovative entrepreneurs seek ways to change the status quo in their industry.
An example of innovative entrepreneurship is MakerGear, a company that manufactures 3D printers. Innovative entrepreneur Rick Pollack began experimenting with 3D printing in the early 2000s and launched MakerGear in 2009, becoming one of the first successful businesses built with Shopify. By developing new types of technology before his competitors, Rick grew a successful company founded on innovative entrepreneurship.
Intrapreneurship is the practice of working with an entrepreneurial mindset within an established organization. Intrapreneurship grows within company systems that empower their employees to think of new ways to improve their products, services, or business practices. Similar to other types of entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs are self-motivated, resilient, and innovative.
Intrapreneurship allows established companies to revitalize their products or services and expand their reach into new markets. Intrapreneurs have the ability to pursue passion projects without the risk of other forms of entrepreneurship, as the success or failure of an intrapreneurial project ultimately lands on the company funding it. There are hundreds of examples of intrapreneurship leading to innovative new products or services within an established company, including the Sony PlayStation and the McDonald’s Happy Meal.
7. Adoptive entrepreneurship
Adoptive entrepreneurship is the process of trying to build on and improve an existing business model, product, or service. Adoptive entrepreneurs have a comprehensive understanding of the business landscape in their particular industry, and they use that knowledge to identify how other companies are succeeding. Adoptive entrepreneurs seek to build profitable business ventures inspired by their direct competitors. Rather than mere imitation, adoptive entrepreneurship involves improving on a pre-existing idea in the marketplace.
An example of adoptive entrepreneurship is Grovemade, a desk accessories company that makes office essentials from natural materials. Inspired by popular accessories designed for use with mobile devices, Grovemade adopted a unique take on the tech accessory market by swapping metal and plastic for bamboo and wood.
Adoptive entrepreneurs have their finger on the pulse of current trends, and know how to improve existing products or services to stand out.
Types of entrepreneurship FAQ
What are the four types of entrepreneurship?
Traditionally, the four main types of entrepreneurship are small business entrepreneurship, scalable startup entrepreneurship, large company entrepreneurship, and social entrepreneurship.
Do all types of entrepreneurship involve innovation?
Yes, all types of entrepreneurship involve some level of innovation, including intrapreneurship within a larger organization or adoptive entrepreneurship inspired by existing products or services in the market.
Is franchising considered a form of entrepreneurship?
Yes, franchising is considered a form of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs running a franchise organize and operate their own business within the umbrella of an established name, brand, trademark, or product line.
Can a person be an entrepreneur without starting their own business?
Yes, there are entrepreneurs who work within the existing framework of an established business. For example, intrapreneurship is the process of an employee operating as an entrepreneur within an organization.