The Hard Truth About Entrepreneurship

Aug 10 , 2019
By Haben Mehari

Entrepreneurship is all the rage these days, but there is too much focus on the success and glamour of those who make it but very little attention is given to what it takes to succeed argues Haben Mehari, an entrepreneur and a graduate student at Addis Abeba University. He can be reached at

Entrepreneurship is in fashion in our generation. Children, when asked what they want to be, will usually explain the profession - be it a doctor, a pilot or an engineer. When these children become seniors in high school or university, they become exposed to a wider range of choices. Now asked what they want to be, most will tell you their dream is to be an entrepreneur, to start their own business and be successful. This is the trend not just in the developed world but also in the developing world. Previously, university graduates used to dream about joining the largest firms in their industry and becoming successful there. Now things are changing.

Everywhere we go, we are bombarded with this theme: start your business and live your dream. The government and our universities tell us they aim to create job creators. The government has established revolving funds to finance young entrepreneurs' business ideas. Various platforms have popped up recently that showcase successful business people and their journey. We are looking toward these phenomenal people as inspiration. But we fail to recognise that being an entrepreneur is fun only when we look at the sum of the parts.

The idealised version of entrepreneurship is being your own boss, setting your own hours and being fabulously wealthy. This is the dream. This is the side of entrepreneurship we get to see everywhere. Successful entrepreneurs are portrayed in their documentaries and biographies in this way. In the popular imagination, entrepreneurship is just about having an idea. Hidden behind this idea, there has to be proper execution, and the journey of entrepreneurship is the execution of these ideas into a living, thriving business. Being a jack of all trades and having an ability to wear multiple hats, in the beginning, is vital for success. This part gets only a passing mention.

Entrepreneurship means building your business carefully and faithfully day by day over a period of years. It is hard work, very hard work. This might not even be sufficient. The sad truth is up to 90pc of new business startups fail within a few years.

The thought of going on your own is exciting, but it can also be stressful and even lonely. There comes a time of looking outward, seeing what someone else is doing and feeling bad about your own progress. In the long haul, success has a lot more to do with patience and endurance rather than passion and dreams.

In the beginning stages of the entrepreneurial journey, we will spend more than we bring in. It might take years to become profitable, if at all. Dipping into your dwindling savings can be very stressful, especially if you are also supporting a family. For some, they can’t handle this type of stress. A lack of funds is one of the biggest stress factors for entrepreneurs.

Successful entrepreneurs are idolised all around the world. But before they made it big, they struggled through moments of near debilitating anxiety and despair. Admitting such sentiments was considered a taboo until recently.

Identity and self-worth are becoming fused with success and showing off that success. Combine this with all the other pressures, and entrepreneurship is a ride that can be nauseating most of the time.

Improving the business climate is critical in alleviating some of the pressures that are crippling entrepreneurs. Ethiopia, according to the World Bank's Doing Business 2019 report, is ranked 167 out of 190 countries in terms of the ease of starting a business. One of the government’s key focuses has been improving in these metrics.

But apart from the government’s initiatives, the business community needs to be more involved. Mental health challenges among entrepreneurs are common, but discussion of these issues is not. Inspiration might be key for starting the journey, but perseverance and endurance are needed to succeed. The people we look up to should also show us how they coped with the low points. In the long run, this is what will help entrepreneurs move forward.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 10,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1006]

Haben Mehari is an entrepreneur and a postgraduate student at Addis Abeba University. He can be reached at

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Put your comments here

N.B: A submit button will appear once you fill out all the required fields.

Editors' Pick


Fortune news