Many of us are told “anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it.” Recently, people have applied this same logic to entrepreneurship. To become an entrepreneur you don’t need connections, money, or a million dollar idea—all you need is drive and perseverance. But is this true? Can anyone become an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurs Weigh In

Gary Vaynerchuk

Successful founders aren’t convinced that anyone can be an entrepreneur. Startup Guide founder Sissel Hansen believes there are three types of entrepreneurs: natural born entrepreneurs, people who become entrepreneurs through experience, and those who don’t launch businesses but are often entrepreneurial, such as designers and creators. To Sissel, natural-born entrepreneurs are often the most successful because they are more likely to take risks. She claims that successful founders must be visionary thinkers who maintain realistic goals and value the journey more than the destination.

Other founders believe that entrepreneurship isn’t a developable skill. Gary Vaynerchuk criticizes aspiring entrepreneurs for believing that starting a company is something they can learn on the spot. As Vaynerchuk argues, “entrepreneurs who build successful businesses come from a certain breed. They have an entrepreneurial DNA .” Vaynerchuk says that while everyone has some ability to start a business, 90% of people will fail because they aren’t born to be entrepreneurs.

Although Vaynerchuk’s claims hold some validity, his statements are undeniably elitist. He implies that great entrepreneurs are in a class of their own and anyone who isn’t one of the chosen few is wasting their time. Everyone can’t be an entrepreneur, but this is often because individuals lack the necessary work ethic and dedication. By saying that a small number of individuals are destined to succeed because they are better than everyone else, Vaynerchuk reveals just how entitled he is. Furthermore, he ignores how systemic inequalities prevent brilliant and driven individuals from becoming entrepreneurs.

The Racial Funding Gap

To truly answer the question “Can anyone be an entrepreneur?” we must acknowledge how uneven the playing field is for people looking to start their own businesses. Theoretically, anyone can become an entrepreneur, but certain factors such as race and socioeconomic status often stand in the way. According to a 2019 study, only 17% of businesses with non-Hispanic Black owners reported having their funding needs satisfied. BIPOC entrepreneurs are consistently denied funding at higher rates than their white counterparts. 54.2% of white entrepreneurs receive the funding they request from a bank compared to only 29.4% of BIPOC founders.  Known as the racial funding gap, this phenomenon has blocked many people of color from accessing vital capital.

A chart comparing business equity ownership in the U.S by race

Therefore, the question “Can anyone be an entrepreneur” is very different in theory than in practice. Everyone should be able to be an entrepreneur. However, we live in a world where race and socioeconomic status hinders the success of minority founders. As a result, minority entrepreneurs often have to work ten times harder than their white counterparts to access dominant institutions.

Looking to the Future

According to Sharice Wells, one way BIPOC entrepreneurs can overcome racial bias and access capital is by applying for loans and grants. Although BIPOC entrepreneurs are often denied at higher rates than whites, applying for these opportunities is imperative in order to secure funding. To end the racial funding gap, companies like American Express are working to support BIPOC individuals in their ventures. Through the Accion Opportunity Fund, American Express provides capital to small businesses run by women, people of color, and immigrants. However, relying on the actions of large corporations is not enough. Supporting Black-owned small businesses and donating to mutual aid funds is equally as important to end the racial funding gap. Only then will we live in a world where truly anyone can become an entrepreneur. 

This article was originally published on GREY Journal.