Are entrepreneurs artists?

That’s the opinion of Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur and Stanford consulting associate professor. In this short video he explains why:

Do you have that calling? Are you passionate about your idea? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and make notes? Is it the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning? Are you convincing your family that this is what you need to dedicate your life to? If not, Steve Blank’s advice to you is, “don’t even think about doing it because chances of succeeding with a start up are extremely low if you are not driven by passion”.

Entrepreneurship is not a career or salary driven

Entrepreneurial activity is not a job. Entrepreneurs should actually be compared to artists. According to Steve Blank it is a mistake to teach entrepreneurship in ways similar to a business school or engineering curriculum. The curriculum that best fit entrepreneurship is what you find at art school.

Artists are experimental and passion driven

As an entrepreneur you  are looking at a blank canvas. And it’s not a question of just painting a coat or two, you have to succeed with producing a masterpiece.

The first person who told me that entrepreneurs are artists was my father. Like Steve Blank, he was a serial entrepreneur and said it to a group of artistic friends of mine when we were having a discussion.  Didn’t pay much attention to what he said back then, but actually thought about what he said later in life and realised it was spot on. How can you succeed with any business venture if you are not artistic and creative? And now I’m pleased to note that ,decades later the same opinion is voiced by Steve Blank of Stanford University.

Do you agree that entrepreneurs are artists? Is entrepreneurship like having a white canvas in front of you and producing a masterpiece? Do you have to be completely passionate about what you are doing in order to succeed as an entrepreneur? Do you believe a start-up is a calling? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and have ideas for your company? Is it the first thing you think about in the morning? Do you forget everything else when you work on your start-up? Or do you believe someone who handles entrepreneurial activity like a 9-4 job can succeed?

Video: Stanfordbusiness  -Picture:  Mirjana Veljovic

87 thoughts on “Are entrepreneurs artists?

  1. I think yes, Both have some common characteristic. Entrepreneurs also wants to enhance their business with some innovative ideas. Entrepreneurs are similar to artists because they both possess a vision for something new.

  2. I think entreprenuers and artists have a lot in common, so the comparison makes sense to me. Both are trying to bring their visions to fruition. And when it happens its a great feeling, whether its a business or artistic endeavor.

  3. I agree with this post, but with a different reason.
    Although, I do think artists and entrepreneurs had a driven passion, there is something more they share.
    Imagination, and looking at things differently is shared by both. Creativity arising from their imagination is what makes both of them strive, and this is what give them the passion to be driven..

  4. I totally agree with Blank. You have to be consumed with passion for your business for it to succeed. My grandson has known since he was 5 that he would be a film maker. He graduated college with a film degree in May. He eats, drinks and sleeps film. He is totally driven. Film makers are essentially entrepreneurs and I have no doubt that my grandson will have very successful career.
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  5. Catarina, I surely consider us entrepreneurs as artists. Where we paint the canvas of our lives ourselves and the way we want it!
    It’s a challenge when there are your loved ones suggesting you to not go behind crazy dreams when you have a calculated risk-free work to go ahead with, but even the smallest support and the fire within which helps you go ahead and chase your dreams is what we want.

    Like always loved your post not every time for the same but in some way or the other you touch my heart 🙂

    Thank you for sharing!

  6. Entrepreneurs definitely need passion – it would be near enough impossible to run with a major project without it. Passion will keep you there when others do not believe in your cause, when financially it does not look viable, when you would rather switch off and sit and watch TV. Entrepreneurs cannot be lazy, their time will be greatly impacted on whilst they are pursuing their dreams.

  7. I totally agree that entrepreneurs are like artists. I am an entrepreneur and have several clients over the year that are ones too. And from my experience we all have the creative drive to succeed at what we love. That being said, we don’t always love every aspect of our businesses. That’s where other experts come get involved and help us out.

  8. I absolutely agree that entrepreneurs are artists – and I happen to be both. Yes, I wake up in the middle of the night and scribble notes, or jump on my computer and write on my latest book, or work on my blog. It truly is a calling I believe because once the bug bites you, there is no way you could ever contemplate going back to a 'real' job.

  9. I’m always 100% passionate of my work, if I’m not writing about it or organizing something then I feel I not only am I letting myself down but others around me. I believe you have to eat, sleep ad breathe it

  10. I see a wrote a comment a year ago. Now that I listen again, I have more to say about art school than about entrepreneurs …. but maybe it’s related. Art school is too stiff (I went to one of the top art schools in the world for a short time), so maybe just like entrepreneur school needs to be changed, so does art school. It’s like you need BOTH the creativity and the good structure. If you have only creativity, you will just end up with bits and pieces. But combine that with a good plan and focus (and probably more), you may get somewhere. I always think of a friend who worked for a startup like crazy – first they achieved the cover of some important magazine, but then the startup crashed. He never wanted to work for a startup again. Too risky.

  11. Catarina, I couldn’t agree more with this concept! In fact I would answer yes to all the questions you ask at the end, except for the last one! I’m sharing this post with my mom, who is a coach to entrepreneurs. I think this will really help her and her clients.

  12. I think being an entrepreneur, you need different skills. One of those skills is thinking outside the box compared to others. To do this, I think you need creativity, which is where the artist connection comes in. Great article, thanks for sharing.

    1. Needless to say, you need different skills to be a successful entrepreneur, William. But if you are not, like a passionate artist, passionately painting a master piece you will not be more than mediocre.

  13. Hello Catarina
    Your father was a visionary person. You must be proud of him.
    I believe that entrepreneurs are like artists as they have to be visionary and create something new. Passion is only thing that can hold your hands and take you to your destination. If one is not passionate about what someone is doing. I feel they must not do that at all and try something else that appeals them and where they can progress.
    I wake up many times in middle of night as many of my ideas do not let me sleep.
    It was very nice to read this post.

    Thank you for a great share.

    1. Glad you agree with me, Andleeb. My father was fantastic. He died 34 years ago but I still meet people all over the world who ask if I'm related to him. That's unusual, to put it mildly.

  14. Interesting post Catarina. I have to agree with you…some of my entrepreneurial friends are the most creative people I know and are the ones least driven by salary.

  15. No doubt entrepreneursip is a calling. I have mixed feeling about the comparison with artists. Entrepreneurs are much more commercially focused than artists. Often their ultimate goal is the exit strategy, sell your startup and walk away. Most artists are in it for life.

  16. Absolutely entrepreneurs are artists – certainly in the sense they are creative people. But some entrepreneurs do function more closely with the left side if the brain depending on their industry. Personally I feel everyone is creative in some way anyway. It's just often repressed in the minor artistic mentality that many of us grew up with. Good post as always Catarina & happy Holudats to you:-)

  17. This comparison really makes a lot of sense to me. Artistry is all about passion and vision. Entrepreneurs are artists of the business world – striving to create something tangible from their visions. It is a wonderful feeling when you have that great business idea and can bring it to life.

  18. this was a great video and the interesting thing about it was that Steve Blanks came across as very passionate about what he was saying. He’s right though, to build a successful business you need to be completely passionate about the idea and go after it with a single focus. Tough decision to make for a family-focused person.

  19. I have to say that I am 100 per cent in agreement with this! I also agree that we are making a mistake in schools by not even mentioning the passion it takes to be an entrepreneur! I also love the analogy! To take and idea an bring it to fruition is exactly like putting paint on a canvas or fashioning words into a novel…it's art!

  20. Being an entrepreneur is definitely not a 9 to 5 job. In a start up – the promoter is the chief bottle washer and cook, right from being the innovator or inventor of the product or service, to being the salesperson, telephone receptionist and what have you. What drives this? Passion to be one's own boss and to succeed.

  21. This is an interesting post. There is certainly a connection between entrepreneurship and being creative. Good entrepreneurs do tend to be creative and think creatively. And there is certainly a link between creativity and innovation. However, being creative and being an artist are two different things, albeit a person can be both. Being creative does not necessarly make you a good artist and vice versa. And being an entrepreneur does not necessarily make you creative. That said, I believe that very few people are truly right and left brain people. They tend to be one or the other. I know because I am both. I have an MBA and have worked in Global Business Development around the world for many years and have started a few companies as an entrepreneur and I am also an artist (oil and pastel).

    Do I think that this duality gives me an advantage in the business world? I would like to think so but sometimes not. Most definitely it is not perceived well in the corporate world. While I have always tried to convince Management that it is an asset, they do not see it as such. I think because they simply do not understand or can relate. So, unfortunately, it has been a detriment to me, even in such creative fields as advertising. You can not be both the Art Director and the Account Executive. That said, I do believe it is an asset when you start your own business because it gives you an additional perspective and ability to succeed as well as sheer, unbridled passion.

    This passion, which many times is not logical, is what pushes people to succeed. I remember one time I was working in my studio working on a piece that intrigued and challenged me. I was so obsessed to find a solution to my creative challenge that I stayed up for 48 hours without sleeping or eating and I did not even realize it. This is the same energy, dedication and passion that an entrepreneur needs. I recommend a related book on this subject titled "Every Leader Is An Artist" by Michael O'Malley, PhD and William F. Baker, PhD.

    Lastly, I would like to mention my thoughts about the overused word on innovation which does have a direct correlation with creativity. Corporate America continues to chant about innovation and how important it is to their bottom line. But innovation implies several things: additional investment, risk, and time…things that Management does not like to hear and certainly Wall Street nor shareholders do not like for public companies. They do not like or understand vagueness, uncertainty, emotions, anxiety and all of the other "feelings" that come with the creative process, which ultimately lead to innovation and breakthroughs. Oddly, through my experience, foreign companies (European, Asian and even Latin) understand this process better and look at it long term, not as a quarterly number goal to be achieved.

    If financing were more readily available in the U.S., there would be more innovative and creative startups. This is where entrepreneurship and creativity work best…small business.

  22. I can relate to what Steve says in the video. I'm not sure about using the word "artistic" for entrepreneurs. It seems more like the creative drive that motivates an artist is similar to the creative drive that an entrepreneur needs to succeed. But if the terminology fit for your father and now for you, there must be a good reason.
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    1. Leora, ever thought of the difference between having an entrepreneurial mind and carrying out entrepreneurial activity? The latter anyone can do and we should only call people with an entrepreneurial mind entrepreneurs, really. And it's people with entrepreneurial minds Steve is talking about. You start with a white canvas and develop it….

  23. Thought provoking for sure. I've often thought about being entrepreneurial as being creative although not in the artist sense. I'm not a 3am wake up person but I do have ideas come to me all the time. And knowing I'm more introverted and that is where they just might STAY is why coaches and masterminds are important for me to either have or belong to.

    I'm on a similar track that Jeannette expressed: second best as an entrepreneur will work beautifully for me because I am not interested in being a Steve Jobs. Just a Patricia Weber. The best me I can be with sharing my passion through my message and work.

    Thanks Catarina!
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    1. Pat there are super talented artists that are introvert. What this is about is that you are completely consumed by the passion you have for your company. Maybe I got it wrong, but I had the impression you were.

  24. Radu that's because there is a huge difference between having an entrepreneurial mind and carrying out entrepreneurial activity. You need an entrepreneurial mind to succeed.

  25. I love the comparison. It makes so much sense to me. Being an artist really is all about vision and passion. Entrepreneurs are just artist in business. Once you have a vision you're driven to create something from it that represents what you see. Nothing can compare to the feeling of working on that vision. You are truly in a zone. :-)))
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  26. Like the video Catarina and one thing about artists is at some stage to produce their masterpiece they have to let go of fear of failure. Entrepreneurs have to do the same if they want to succeed and like artists rarely does success come with a one off piece.

  27. I agree that in some ways entrepreneurs need to think creatively like artists, but they also need to be business savvy and know the inter workings of the business industry if they wish to be successful. I think entrepreneurship majors at universities need to be in the business school so that they are able to understand how business works and are aware of the risks they will be taking by owning a business of their own.
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    1. Kelly, have you ever thought about the fact that there is a huge difference between having an entrepreneurial mind and carrying out entrepreneurial activity? The latter anyone can do.

      Steve Blank is talking about people with entrepreneurial minds. People with entrepreneurial minds, such as Richard Branson, are the success stories you read about. It's much easier to hire accountants and other types of staff to take care of the business aspect than to develop an entrepreneurial mind. Most people considering themselves to be entrepreneurs are merely carrying out entrepreneurial activity. And they are the ones that are most likely to fail:-)

  28. That is an interesting analogy, Catarina and it's a great way to help put entrepreneurship in perspective. I believe that to be successful, an entrepreneur must quickly realize that they will never work as hard for someone else as they will for themselves. It's that unbridled passion that Steve Blank talks about that's the driving factor behind it.
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    1. Love what you wrote Sherryl,I quote you "an entrepreneur must quickly realize that they will never work as hard for someone else as they will for themselves". If they don't they will be struggling artists….

  29. Interesting analogy, Catarina. I've not thought of entrepreneurs as artists before, but it does make sense in many ways – creativity, a new way of looking at things, great communication skills and, above all, passion are key factors if one is to be successful…

  30. Excellent video. From an emotional intelligence perspective, Blank is spot on that we cannot just think about entrepreneurship logically, we must also "feel" it intensely. And… from a brain perspective, artists are known to be very right brained which is the creative side. The left brain is the logical side. So again, we see the need for balance. It's true that business leaders must be both.

    I think it is very touching that you remember your father so fondly, so respectfully.
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  31. I totally agree. If you are not eating, sleeping, breathing it, it's not going to get you anywhere. Most of all you have to love it, and despite the aspect of angst that plagues every artist, the love of the work is always there. At least the love of the process. The drive to improve, create and develop is essential. Great correlation Catarina. Thanks for the post.
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  32. Entrepreneurs are indeed artists, but perhaps not in the conventional sense society would use to define that category. On the flip side, I would say more artists need to learn how to deal with the business side of matters. There's no reason why such a dichotomy needs to exist between the two, and yet it does.
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  33. I have done many "jobs" in the past where I have been mediocre or failed. It is not because I didn't have the intellect more so that there was no passion there and I just didn't care!
    I agree that you need to have that calling and drive to make something work. I see it all around me with my friends. To be an entrepreneur passion is a must and I do believe an artistic endeavour 🙂

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  34. Catarina — totally agree with Steve Blank. To succeed as an entrepreneur you have to be driven. Everything else is secondary — family, friends, making money. Successful entrepreneurs do make money but it's not the end goal. The end goal is fulfilling your passion. It consumes you. Many years ago my college English professor said something I never forgot. He said writers essentially lead a single life, even if they're married. He meant the same thing as Steve Blank. You live for your work to the exclusion of everything else. Like many others, I'm an accidental entrepreneur. It's not something I craved from an early age. I'm content with my progress but I will never be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.
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  35. I very much agree that being an entrepreneur requires an incredible amount of vision and creativity, and that is akin to artistic vision. Being an entrepreneur in the artistic world (as a writer and author) makes it even more so for me.

    I can really relate to what Steve says in the video. I have been researching and writing a series of books about chocolate for more than 3 years. The world of chocolate has completely overtaken my very being. Granted … it's a very tasting and enticing world to be in, but it requires a lot of insight and dedication, focus, perseverance … and some good weight management skills as well!

    Happy New Year!
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  36. I love this! It is so true. Where does your passion lie? If you are doing something you are passionate about, it is not a 'job'. I also think he is absolutely spot on with the analogy. You are taking something you love and making something with it. It doesn't matter if it's a painting or a novel. You have to have the passion or it won't last. I actually do have ideas that come to me at inopportune times so I write them down for later. LOL

    1. Glad you agree Cheryl.

      If it's not a calling and you wake up in the middle of the night and have ideas you will fail. And isn't handling problems a matter of being artistic:-)

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