Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

3 Signs You’re a Wannabe Entrepreneur (and Not the Real Thing)

I don’t want to step on any toes here, but self-proclaimed entrepreneurs practically grow on trees these days. I can’t read a Twitter bio, a LinkedIn profile, or a blog post without seeing someone refer to themselves as an “[insert industry here] entrepreneur”! It drives me crazy. In my opinion, you don’t earn the right to use that title until you’ve actually accomplished your initial business goal. You shouldn’t toss it around just because you like the way it sounds.

Simply referring to yourself as an entrepreneur or an innovator isn’t going to cut it…and it doesn’t automatically make you one. Without evidence and/or a proven track record, you don’t have the option of calling yourself as such.

You’re probably not a genuine entrepreneur if you embody these three attributes:

1. You don’t have a business model or a single customer. If you’re armed with nothing more than a brilliant business idea, then you’re not an entrepreneur…you’re a person with an idea. Don’t get down on yourself, though; that’s not bad at all. Every industry pioneer started with an idea of some sort, so you’ll be on track if you work hard enough and develop that into a concrete business.

2. You refuse to take risks. By definition, an entrepreneur is a risk-taker. Do you know what happens when you shy away from every challenge? You get backed into a corner. It’s not smart to tackle every impossible feat, but you have to find that delicate balance between risks and constants if you want to survive. (It stinks, I know, but that’s just the way it is).

3. Your ideas aren’t even the slightest bit innovative. I don’t claim to have omnipresent knowledge of all industries, but I know a thinly-veiled ripoff when I see one. Whatever you do, don’t steal from established businesses. You can use their efforts as a jumping off point, of course, but the whole point of entrepreneurship is to build upon those existing efforts and make yours bigger, faster, and stronger!

Don’t get me wrong, being a wannabe entrepreneur isn’t terrible or shameful. If you aspire to be an innovative businessperson, then that probably means you’re thinking about the startup process and determining your future path. That’s one step closer to the real thing and one step further than most people get! Just don’t start scribbling “I’m an entrepreneur” all over your notebooks until you’ve earned it.

How badly do you want to branch out and make your business a reality? The world is brimming with wide-eyed hopefuls who want to make a difference, but will you be one of the successful ones? The choice is yours. Don’t be offended by this post or hang your head in shame: get out there and do something about your dreams!

What’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?


Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on


  1. Scooby DOO!

    Or you walk, talk OR look like IAN. jk!

  2. JPorretto

    I knew this one guy who liked to call himself a “Serial Entrepreneur.” One time, he wrote it as “CEREAL Entrepreneur,” now we’ll never let him forget it. Frosted Flakes 2!! They’re GrrrrreatER!!

  3. KB

    As far as the definition of entrepeneur goes I’ve found two schools of thought…

    ? ?[ahn-truh-pruh-nur, -noor; Fr. ahn-truh-pruh-nœr] Show IPA noun, plural -neurs ?[-nurz, -noorz; Fr. -nœr] Show IPA, verb

    1. a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

    2. an employer of productive labor; contractor.

    Wikipedia Definition:
    An entrepreneur is a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and is accountable for the inherent risks and the outcome

    One considers an idea all you need to be an entrepenuer and the other (which our author and I would agree with) believes to be an entrepenuer you have to actually DO something and take a risk!

    To say you are an entrepenuer gives a sense of being a pioneer in what you are doing and paving a new road in an industry. Something that stems from your creativity and hard work and not following in the footsteps of someone before you. Hopefully all successful business people are trying to do something “fresh” these days. Seems like having a new perspective on things is the only way to make it in this economy. I’m a graphic designer and am always striving to do just that. It’s not always easy, but a lot more fun and rewarding than replicating something that’s already been done.

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks for including those definitions…I read and re-read them a hundred times before writing this post, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Even though one of the definitions considers an entrepreneur “a person who has possession of a new idea,” I personally don’t agree with that. I’m sure EVERYONE in the world has come up with a business idea (whether they’re serious about it or whether they simply say “I should invent/start that!”), so by that guideline everyone in the world would be an entrepreneur! I just don’t see how that’s possible. An entrepreneur has to be someone who has taken that idea and made it reality!

      And from what I’ve seen of your designs, you certainly don’t have to worry about a lack of freshness in your business! You are a REAL entrepreneur…there are no mistakes about that. 🙂

      • Alwyn

        Well said Jill Tooley,

        I agree with your definition…. Entrepreneur is the one who do the existing things in a new way… i can say he “invent” new ways to do the existing things…

  4. Kyle

    Darn, I guess this means I should probably reconsider calling myself a “Data Entry Entrepreneur”… Just kidding!

    Great post, Jill. It does seem a bit odd to call yourself an entrepreneur without having solid credentials that back up such a prestigious job title. To some degree it’s kind of like calling yourself a doctor even though you might not actually have a degree. Kinda sketchy if you ask me. A job title should reflect your actual experience in a particular field, not just what you believe sounds the most professional or the “coolest”.

    • Jill Tooley

      Haha! You’d better cancel those business cards, Kyle! 😉

      Thanks for your feedback. That’s exactly what I meant when I wrote this…how is it okay to give yourself any title you want? Seeing false entrepreneurs ticks me off. Maybe even more so than when I see people refer to themselves as a “[use your imagination] guru.” That word has been overused to the point where it hardly means anything anymore. Between “social media gurus” and “marketing gurus” (not to mention all of the “entrepreneurs”) Twitter bios are almost unbearable to read now.

      For the record, I don’t claim to be an entrepreneur by any stretch of the imagination…but I AM an aspiring entrepreneur with a handful of ideas. The only difference is that I’m not going to attach that to my title until I actually have an achievement to note!

    • Amanda Sneed

      I think that even if a person has no background or experience running a business, if they take the risk, and get it up and running, they then are an entrepreneur.

  5. Amanda Sneed

    I agree with Jill, I think that an entrepreneur is someone who has already started the business….not someone that only has the idea of one. And after reading one of the definitions, I disagree with one part–I don’t think that a person who manages or organizes an enterprise should be considered an entrepreneur unless they also started the business. To me, being an entrepreneur means that you started your own business, or company, etc. To me it doesn’t matter whether it’s an original idea or not; I think that anyone who starts their own business, no matter how common a business, including owning a franchise type of business, is an entrepreneur.

  6. Bret Bonnet

    Calling yourself an entrepreneur just because you sell Beanie Babies on EBay or because you pawn your mom’s world famous pesto sauce at a garage sale (ala. “The Office”) is worse than crying wolf.

    You’re adding NO value to the channel or the world around you.

    Great post Jill. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious nor having a great idea, but until you actually ACT upon these thoughts/ideas and have experienced some success (moving out of your mom’s basement would be a GREAT start!); don’t go calling yourself an entrepreneur.

    Crap… I had to spend 4 long years at college and get an overpriced piece of paper before I could call myself an entrepreneur… and to this day I still don’t call myself such.

    I prefer to call myself… LUCKY (and VERY blessed)! 🙂

    SIDE NOTE: Had it not been for spell check I would have spelled the word “entrepreneur” wrong every time in this comment. We need to come up with an easier to spell/pronounce word for this!

  7. Joseph Giorgi

    I love your tone in this post. Way to tell those quote-unquote entrepreneurs what’s what! 😉 Now that I think about it, it definitely seems like the term is being thrown around far more often than it should be.

  8. Wasim Azhar

    Quoting – “seeing someone refer to themselves as an “[insert industry here] entrepreneur”! It drives me crazy. In my opinion, you don’t earn the right to use that title until you’ve actually accomplished your initial business goal. You shouldn’t toss it around just because you like the way it sounds.”

    I really agree with you on that, it’s become a sort of trend people calling themselves entrepreneurs. I’ve done it in the past so I can’t really talk.

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Wasim! Real entrepreneurs contribute somehow, but the fake ones only seem to toss around the term. It’s a shame, because I don’t want to see the word turn into a watered-down version of what it actually stands for.

      Thank you for stopping by to comment! Hope your weekend is fantastic 🙂

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