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Who am I?

Embracing your entrepreneur identity without losing yourself

When you take a minute to think about the word “entrepreneur” what visual comes to mind of what the person looks like? Do you see yourself?

By: Heather Wentler – StartingBlock Madison Entrepreneur in Residence Read Time: 5 minutes

One thing that isn’t talked about a lot while you’re starting as an entrepreneur or emphasized enough as you’re on your journey is embracing the identity of being an entrepreneur. And that you still have other identities you shouldn’t forget or lose along the journey.

Studies have been done on who feels more comfortable taking on the identity of “entrepreneur”. The results have not changed a whole lot over the years as well. Men, primarily white, cis-gender men, feel much more comfortable embracing the identity of entrepreneur and top leadership titles. Women, BIPOC men, and non-binary individuals tend to continue to prefer the titles “business owner”, “founder”, “small business owner”, and “owner”. A couple of reasons why this occurs

  1. Role Models – If you can’t see yourself in space or holding a particular title/position then it becomes less likely that you’ll want to break into that space and be one of a few and stand out

  2. Societal Norms – associated with titles and fear from individuals that they’ll be perceived as having certain personality traits or expectations associated with societal perception

When you take a minute to think about the word “entrepreneur” what visual comes to mind of what the person looks like? Are they a certain age? Are they a certain race and/or ethnicity? Do they wear certain clothing? Have a certain vocabulary? Live a certain lifestyle?

Now, can you see yourself as that person?

It took me a long time to feel comfortable introducing myself as an entrepreneur. Even now, part of the reason that I make myself do it is that I want others to feel empowered to feel comfortable saying so, and know they’re not alone. I transitioned into entrepreneurship from a solid teaching profession. I had been teaching for 5 years when I launched my first business, and for a total of 8 by the time I left the classroom and went 100% into Doyenne. Even when I was running my first business I felt comfortable saying that I was still a teacher instead of an entrepreneur because the main focus of the business was teaching youth STEAM concepts outside of the traditional classroom.

The other thing is, I’m so much more than just an entrepreneur. I have multiple identities

  1. Wife/Partner

  2. Daughter

  3. Sister

  4. Friend

  5. Mentor

  6. Educator

  7. Investor

  8. Woman

  9. Ecosystem Builder

  10. Community Partner

The list could go on. I don’t want to lose any of these other titles while also wearing the entrepreneur title. And I also don’t want to silo those identities because all of them are what make me the person I am.

Sometimes we don’t feel comfortable saying entrepreneur because it’s harder for someone to understand what that is or it feels to abstract. No matter how you introduce yourself, it’s important to recognize that you’re multiple identities and those professional identities will shift and change over the course of your work life. Don’t lose sight of who you are in addition to being an entrepreneur.

Want to talk more about professional identities as you grow your ventures? Or to talk about anything else related to running and working for a startup venture? Schedule an Office Hour with me.

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