After studying some of the one million business owners who use Shopify, we’ve discovered that founder types tend to fall into one of five groups: the growth-minded Mountaineer, the plucky Trailblazer, the always-be-prepared Cartographer, the risk-taking Firestarter, and the steady Outsider. Which one are you? Start with our quiz.
As we approach summer solstice, celebrated by many cultures as a time of self-reflection and new beginnings, make space to look inward, Stargazers. What’s the future you imagine for yourself? What’s your purpose? What are your strengths, and how do they help you reach your goals?
Let’s also take a moment to look outward. The world has been forever changed by recent events. How we move forward now matters. Does your vision for your own future align with this new reality? If your dream is to start a business, let what you have learned guide your decisions to be a force for good.
If business ownership is your intended destination, there are many ways to get there—and the fastest route may not be the best one.
When we asked ourselves, “What exactly is an entrepreneur?” two consistent traits emerged: they have dreams, and they act on them. But what else makes someone a natural at running a business? What are those positive entrepreneurial characteristics that help them be successful?
Well, it depends. While risk tolerance is a trait that many business owners possess—we see you, Firestarter—you can still find success if risk isn’t your forte. Maybe you’re the careful Cartographer, running through every possible scenario and having a plan of attack for each. If business ownership is your intended destination, there are many ways to get there—and the fastest route may not be the best one. Follow the road that’s a fit for your strengths.
In this month’s Founder’s Zodiac, we’re digging into five common traits of successful entrepreneurs and the Founder Sign that embodies each one. We’ll also share how you can lean into that strength rather than focusing on shortcomings. In each case, we’ll recommend an inspiring story of an entrepreneur who possesses this trait.
Jump to your type:
Feature Sign: The Firestarter
Top entrepreneur characteristic: Risk-tolerance
Other strengths: Perseverance, competitiveness, persuasiveness
Skills to develop: Planning
As summer solstice has, in some ancient rituals, been celebrated as a festival of fire, the Firestarter is our sign of honor this month.
As a Firestarter, your willingness to embrace risk sets you apart from many of your competitors and peers. This appetite may make you more nimble—you’re able to jump on an idea quickly without worrying about the outcome.
Risk announces itself at many checkpoints in the entrepreneurial journey.
Risk announces itself at many checkpoints in the entrepreneurial journey: leaving a steady paycheck, investing your own savings, signing a lease, hiring and delegating, or expanding into an unknown market. Your risk-averse counterparts may become stuck at these junctions. But not you, Firestarter. You’ll crash and burn or leave them in your dust. You’d pick either over stagnancy.
Make risk work for you
If you see yourself as daring and bold, it’s likely the world sees that in you too. Your risk tolerance likely comes with a dose of confidence—and that’s an asset when wooing investors, growing audiences, or attracting new hires. Taking small risks and stacking up the resulting wins instills trust in others that you have sharp instincts. Where risk might bite you is if you show a pattern of failure. Even if you can pick yourself up and start over—and we know you can, Firestarter—you may tarnish your reputation over time. Take risks and plunge in but, if you keep sinking, reassess your strategy or partner with a complementary personality.
Firestarter of note
Edwin Broni-Mensah was on track toward a lucrative career in investment banking while finishing his PhD and pursuing aggressive fitness goals. That’s when a problem presented itself: why was it so difficult to keep his water bottle refilled while working out? In true Firestarter fashion, Edwin set out to solve this problem and quit his dream job to do it. He took a risk by diverting from his path to chase an idea.
📚 Recommended read: Edwin’s company, GiveMeTap, produces reusable water bottles—and an app that tells you where to refill them—donating a portion of profits to clean water projects. To date, the company has provided clean water to over 50,000 people in Africa. Read Edwin’s story.
Top entrepreneur characteristic: Passion
Other strengths: Versatility, decisiveness, creativity
Skills to develop: Discipline
Trailblazer, you lead with your heart. Your success in business is often a result of your authenticity. Others rally around your cause or buy your product because they believe in what you’re selling. Your business is truly an extension of you. You pursue ideas that make your heart skip—and that means you stay motivated, even through the bumps.
Make passion work for you
Tell your story! In many cases, when people choose one seemingly identical lipstick, white t-shirt, or candle over another, they aren’t just picking at random. They’re making a deliberate decision to support that brand. It may be because of price or availability, but often it’s the values, mission, and story of a brand that make it stand out.
When people support you, they aren’t buying just your product, they're buying what you do—and why you do it.
When people support you, Trailblazer, they aren’t buying just your product, they're buying what you do—and why you do it. Use storytelling to your advantage: on an About Us page, on product packaging, on social media. Inject your own voice into copy and put your face at the forefront of your brand. You’re a natural influencer when your authentic self shines.
📚 Recommended read: Partners in business and life, Katie Bartlett and Kyle Wilson travelled the world, taking in the tastes and smells of their destinations. They gained an appreciation for the art of chocolate making, and that appreciation grew into a passion—their business, Soul Chocolate. Read their story.
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Top entrepreneur characteristic: Vision
Other strengths: Optimism, motivation, people skills
Skills to develop: Flexibility
Mountaineer, you are a clairvoyant. You see your own future and goals so vividly that you can almost manifest them into being. Vision is an asset to you as a business owner, as you are adept at predicting trends, anticipating outcomes, and acting on this knowledge. Your vision is what keeps you on a straight track toward your big picture goal.
Make vision work for you
When you set your sights at the outset of your entrepreneurial journey, it keeps you focused. Be adaptable in the process, though. You’re bound to see your plan through to the finish line—even if the “how” changes along the way. Vision is your friend as you grow your business, too.
Vision is the glue that keeps your team together and aligned on the priorities, mission, and goals of the company.
It’s the glue that keeps your team together and aligned on the priorities, mission, and goals of the company. But your vision has to exist outside of your head! Be sure that it is polished and communicated clearly to your team so they can execute—and you can delegate—confidently.
📚 Recommended read: Melissa Butler had a vision for her future: Wall Street. But when she achieved that goal and the job of her dreams didn’t live up to the hype, Melisssa found fulfillment in a side project. She began making lipsticks in her kitchen before quitting finance to take her side hustle on full time. Melissa’s goals may have changed, but she applied the same focus to her new goals. And her vision for her business was clear. “It’s not just about having a wider color range,” says Melissa. “It’s a matter of really understanding what it means to be inclusive.” Read Melissa’s story.
Top entrepreneur characteristic: Discipline
Other strengths: Planning, self motivation, critical thinking
Skills to develop: Risk tolerance
As someone who often shies from risk or bold moves, Cartographer, you are likely not one to quit a full-time job on a whim to pursue your dream. Maybe you’re picking away at that dream slowly in the evenings, on the weekends, or during every spare minute. That takes discipline, and you’re full of it. You’re a master of the side hustle because you have the self-motivation and organizational skills to maximize every minute of your day.
Make discipline work for you
If you have the discipline to dedicate time to your business and avoid distraction, apply that same discipline to self care. Your work ethic makes you trustworthy and dependable, making others confident in your ability to succeed at your plans.
You’re doing your dream a disservice if you’re stretched too thin for too long.
But you may build your business more slowly than others, balancing it with a day job or other commitments for much longer. Thus, be disciplined in carving out time for you—you’re doing your dream a disservice if you’re stretched too thin for too long.
🎧 Recommended listen: Sali Christeson didn’t launch her workwear brand ARGENT on a whim. She worked in the corporate world for years before going back to school to get her MBA. It was a decision she credits with giving her the tools to succeed as an entrepreneur. “The way that I thrive...is having a holistic understanding of whatever it is that I’m trying to do or solve,” Sali says, “and then from there I like to have the details.” Listen to her episode on the Shopify Masters podcast.
Top entrepreneur characteristic: Self reliance
Other strengths: Attention to detail, resilience, work ethic
Skills to develop: Collaboration
We know, Outsider—“delegate” is a dirty word. You’d rather put in an 80-hour work week than trust your livelihood to someone else. You’re a solo act, but it works for you. Your strength is self reliance, and you’ve worked hard to understand every aspect of your business so that you don’t need to seek outside help.
Make self reliance work for you
Having mastered your craft, you’re figuring the rest out as you go—maybe handling your own finances, being a one-person customer service team, or stepping behind the wheel to make local deliveries. Financial security is a big driver for you, Outsider, and this self-reliance means you’re saving on overhead. But remember that your time has a dollar value, too. Start small and consider outsourcing less critical tasks that eat up most of your time, while still retaining control over what matters to you most. Time is money, Outsider.
📚 Recommended read: The Polder family built their business on Old World craftsmanship, leaning into the skilled woodworking trade. When they wanted to expand, they taught themselves the skills to bring their business into the 21st century—even though they didn’t have home internet access. Read their story.
If you’ve yet to determine your Founder Sign, take our quiz here, then sign up for our newsletter. The Founder’s Zodiac runs every month and offers up advice and relevant content curated just for your type.
Illustrations by Alice Mollon