10/28/2014 12:53 EDT | Updated 12/28/2014 05:59 EST

'Entrepreneur' Is Not a Dirty Word

Increasingly, entrepreneurship is taking a prominent role in today's culture and business. Due to high demand, universities and colleges are turning a focus to innovation and entrepreneurship course offerings. Governments have created dedicated programs and funding structures to help entrepreneurs thrive. Even the private sector is acknowledging that entrepreneurial experience is an asset to seek in new hires.

Add the booming culture of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and business incubators fostering innovation in cities around the world, it is clear that entrepreneurship is not just a trend but a viable career path and in many ways a critical industry for future business.

Despite this progress and the wide embrace of the entrepreneurship culture, there is a disconnect with acknowledging entrepreneurship as a career path. How many parents will tell you their small children aspire when they grow up to be an entrepreneur as their end goal?

As a young, serial entrepreneur myself, I have to admit I didn't consciously choose to pursue entrepreneurship. It was a passion I discovered in my teens but since having been swept up in its culture, it is a title and career I proudly embrace.

Beyond the amazing local cultures and entrepreneurship networks I have experienced I am still astounded by that lack of understanding there is of entrepreneurship as a career. In any event setting one of the first questions on anyone's lips is "what do you do?". When I answer I am an entrepreneur, the reactions still astound me. You are often answered with a blank stare as if they are waiting you to finish: You are an entrepreneur AND...? Okay time to finish off the question with your real job. Or sometimes you are welcomed with the answer of "Oh, that's nice", complemented with a look of pity or disappointment.

Classically, I feel entrepreneurship is seen as an in-between phase when you are "still trying to figure out what you want to do with your life", rather than a career destination. Alternatively it can sometimes be viewed instead as a fancy title for when you are in-between jobs and don't want to say you are unemployed. I like to think of it as a corporate "struggling artist" stigma. It's similar to when someone tells you that they are pursing acting or music and you get heavy sighs paired with telling looks of "that won't last...wonder how long it will take them to give up and take on a real job?" (Note: nothing against aspiring artists, I do not endorse this stigma and believe a career is not worth pursing without passion!).

Parents are proud to have their children to be doctors and lawyers, but entrepreneurs not quite yet. Consider though why a banker working as a teller for a 9-5 job garners more respect than an entrepreneur who may be pulling in upwards to a 6 figure salary or has developed a patent-pending innovation? Or consider social entrepreneurs who are building schools, enabling the poor and touching the lives of thousands!

The reality is, society needs to reconsider their definition of an entrepreneur. Yes an entrepreneur is their own boss, they may not have a traditional office space or a 9am-5pm schedule. However, they build businesses, create innovations and are working to solve many of our world's current problems. Entrepreneurs are some of the most hard-working and creative individuals I know. It is a viable career and very much a destination not a pit-stop.

If you are an entrepreneur, be proud to hold this title and live up to its name. Also understand that you are leading a long overdue generational shift across sectors and it will take some time before your path may be embraced by all. Don't let the resistance discourage you from your ambitions.

If you are one of the many supporting entrepreneurial innovations, investing in talent, creating resources, and mentoring and guiding innovators who dare to create our own career paths in pursuit of new solutions, please continue to bring light to entrepreneurship. Your efforts and time are much appreciated by all.

For everyone else, next time someone tells you they are an entrepreneur, take some time to learn of their passions and their venture. You at the very least may catch a taste of the innovative and creative spirit radiating from these leaders. However I caution you to be careful as their spirit can be quite contagious!


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