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1.2 Entrepreneurial Dreams and Their Outcomes

Even Sigmund Freud would admit that both dreams and words can have various meanings. As with all words and dreams, they come with both good and bad connotations. The word “dream” is most likely related to the Germanic draugmus, (meaning deception, illusion, or phantom) or the Norse draugr (ghost, apparition), or even the Sanskrit druh (seek to harm or injure). Have you ever wondered whether your entrepreneurial dream could become one of these stories? Elias Howe (1819–1867) was reported to have said that the inspiration for his invention of the sewing machine came from a dream about being attacked by cannibals bearing spears that looked like the needle he then designed for his machine. Similarly Nikola Tesla is said to have been able to imagine a device in his mind’s eye and then build it without ever having to write anything down, certainly an interesting form of “day dreaming.”

Biographies of entrepreneurs who became self-made billionaires are frequently best sellers much for the same reason. They tell stories of dreams coming true. One only needs to think of the recent biography on Steve Jobs and the dramatic events at Apple or the movie about Mark Zuckerberg and the drama behind the founding of Facebook. We also see many of these stories focused on men, but one cannot ignore the stories of famous women entrepreneurs like Coco Chanel (fashion), or Madame C. J. Walker, Elizabeth Arden, Dame Anita Roddick, and Estée Lauder (cosmetics), or Olive Ann Beech (aircraft), Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart (media), or Ruth Handler (who gave us “Barbie” and co-founded Mattel Toys).

How many of you are familiar with famous entrepreneurs from around the world who you most likely don’t know that you know? Consider Sweden’s Ingvar Kamprad (retail), or the Netherlands’ Gerard Adriaan Heineken (brewing), or Chile’s Don Melchor de Santiago Concha y Toro and his wife Emiliana Subercaseaux (wineries), or Japan’s Takeshi Mitarai (electronics). In all these men and women one sees a picture of the entrepreneur as a person who is visionary, hardworking, risk taking, ambitious, having exceptional leadership skill, one who never gives up, and a great source of inspiration. We like to describe them as having an entrepreneurial mindset (Brännback and Carsrud 2009). What all these men and women have done is to show that these qualities, in combination with a brilliant idea and the ability to market, results in a great company that ultimately made the entrepreneur very wealthy. However, is wealth the only definition of success? For many of these people, success was changing an industry or creating something that was sustainable and enduring as a business over generations.

To most of us, many of the companies cited are examples of successful entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. They are enduring brands created centuries ago that we still use. Successful entrepreneurship is not only about what is created here and now. It is not only about computers and Internet business (Apple, Dell, Amazon, or eBay). It is also about sustainability over time. For a thorough discussion on lasting brands and their entrepreneurs, one needs to read Koehn (2001).

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