I’d like to see a more stringent definition of entrepreneur. Most of the people we call entrepreneurs have ideas and proto-businesses. They haven’t yet built actual businesses. They are brave souls, no doubt, and they deserve our encouragement. But out of respect for the people who have done more than make the effort and commitment to build a business, I propose that we distinguish between aspiring entrepreneurs and actual entrepreneurs.
At what point does someone cross the line and earn the title? Is it the moment they quit their full time job? Is it when they’ve secured investment or a small business loan? When they hire employees? When they get featured on TechCrunch? When they’ve exhausted every last dime of their savings chasing windmills? No. I think we should use a more straightforward measure.
Starting a business shouldn’t qualify you as an entrepreneur. I propose that — no matter how much money you’ve spent (or raised), no matter how many employees you’ve hired, no matter how much traffic you have, no matter how much press you’ve received — until a customer takes his or her money and pays for your idea, you are still an aspiring entrepreneur.
You become an actual entrepreneur the moment a customer purchases the thing you’ve built. And at that same moment, your thing becomes an actual product. You have conceived of an idea, brought it to market, and the market has accepted it. Congratulations! You’ve earned the right to be called Entrepreneur.
And once you reach that goal, you can set your sights on becoming a successful entrepreneur.