Black entrepreneurs


Your thoughts, experience, and career trajectory seem to be moving you toward various types of entrepreneurship, yet you wonder if you’re cut out for it. True, the potential rewards are great, personally and financially, but the pitfalls give you pause.

You may already know that more than nine of every ten new businesses fail, and you are appropriately sobered by that daunting statistic.

You’re a risk-taker. Your professional track record indicates a nonstop drive toward success. You don’t like the idea of operating successfully within an insulated bubble. Instead, you’re all about finding ways to contribute to solving real-world problems.

The 4 Primary Types of Entrepreneurs

If that sounds like you, consider the four most common types of entrepreneurs. Ask yourself some basic questions as you do your research, collect assets, and marshall your talents.

Since the overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs will choose to become small business owners, this category will be covered first and in the greatest detail.

1. Small Business Owner/Operator

Far and away, small business owners/operators are the most common type of entrepreneur. Small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) represent more than 99% of all entrepreneurial enterprises.

This type of opportunity is vastly appealing for many reasons, though enhanced freedom consistently ranks near the top. There’s no shortage of hard workers who prefer to be their own boss, and SMBs play a crucial role in keeping the economy healthy.


However, being your own boss is also something of a double-edged sword. Being your own boss means you are typically your sole source of accountability.

This is the primary reason “hard worker” should be considered the No. 1 non-negotiable characteristic before considering this as a career objective. If you’re not a self-starter, think long and hard before you begin investing in opening a new business.

Ask Yourself: Am I truly a self-starter at heart? Do others who know me well agree with that self-assessment?

There are several personality tests you can take, many of which are free and accessible online. Submitting yourself to the process can provide great insight.

You will need capital and a business plan, of course. But always remember that the primary asset you bring to any venture is yourself. Every successful enterprise starts with at least one tireless, indefatigable champion.

Another valuable trait common to the successful SMB entrepreneur is the ability to pivot and adapt to changing conditions.

The past few years have provided a hard lesson regarding what happens when an immediate need for flexibility encounters entrenched resistance. The three-month period of February through April 2020 represented the single most significant loss of business owners ever, with 3.3 million shuttering their operations.[3]

In the 21st century, resisting change with a “We’ve always done it this way!” attitude just won’t cut it.

Ask Yourself: What is my immediate response when confronted with changes I did not anticipate? Do I tend to get more emotional than analytical?

An instinctive emotional response doesn’t preclude you from SMB success. Instead, you are merely trying to become more self-aware and make allowances for any weaknesses you discover.

For example, let’s say you know you tend to react much faster than you respond. Knowing this to be true about yourself, you could institute a self-policing policy to counteract this tendency. Anytime a decision is required in the face of unanticipated circumstances, you simply force yourself to go on a 20-minute walk before responding.

The final must-have personality characteristic for the would-be small business entrepreneur is persistence.

Many are familiar with the famous quote of Thomas Edison, who took a very different approach to his lack of immediate success:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

As a budding entrepreneur, you will undoubtedly encounter obstacles and setbacks. Keep your vision in mind as you move forward, adjusting expectations as needed.

Ask Yourself: How do I respond to frustration and failure?

Pay attention not only to what is being said but also to your emotional response to it. Do you get defensive? Do you immediately begin refuting the assertions?

2. Agent of Social Change

There’s a lot of interest in social advocacy. More and more professionals are not content with only earning a good living.

The sweet spot is finding work that harnesses your skill set and makes a positive contribution. Being driven by a cause more significant than oneself helps keep the fire stoked when facing setbacks.


If you find yourself relentlessly questioning established customs and practices that almost everyone else seems to accept, you just might have what it takes to be a successful agent of change. This is especially true when long-accepted behaviors come with a trade-off that causes serious downstream problems.

Ask Yourself: What am I passionate about? What opportunities might there be to effect positive change and simultaneously make a profit?

Are you aware of any downsides to the industry in which you make your living? What sorts of complaints do others make about your business?

Social entrepreneurs tend to pay close attention whenever they encounter issues that many will brush off as “someone else’s job.”

Entrepreneurs who seek to become agents of positive change anticipate opposition but are not easily dissuaded by naysayers. Instead, they sift through feedback, looking for any random pearls of wisdom they might have overlooked.

In short, this type of entrepreneur finds value where others might come up empty.

3. Innovator Within a Larger Company

For many mid-career professionals, working to effect mutually beneficial change within a larger company is a more viable option. This avenue is especially appealing to those who may not be in a position to take on the risks associated with solo entrepreneurship.

Possible innovations might include working with the C-suite decision-makers to partner with a local nonprofit, starting a foundation closely aligned with company products and services, or suggesting alternative uses for resources that might lie dormant occasionally.


Certainly, spotting areas of waste within any organization is an opportunity either to repurpose unused resources or at least reduce future supply orders. An entrepreneurial spirit keeps one eye on the bottom line while actively considering the welfare of its community.

Above all, a large-company entrepreneur will be equally skilled at cultivating relationships with executives and factory floor employees. The ability to form a coalition of supportive employees across an entire organization is a primary feature of this type of innovator.

Ask Yourself: Is my company making a positive impact on the local community? Which efforts am I personally willing to spearhead?

Beyond providing jobs and an expanded tax base, where can this company reasonably hope to make a dent without jeopardizing revenues? Is my company already participating in local efforts to improve sustainability, affordable housing, or overall quality of life? How can these efforts be augmented or enhanced?

4. Founder of a Scalable Enterprise

This type of entrepreneur starts a new venture with an existing exit strategy. In other words, the success of their startup is only the first step in a chain.

After the new business has launched, the founder works to shore up the stability of the “mother ship.” The initial offering is then available to potential investors looking to replicate its success. Ultimately, the founder may even plan to divest themselves and move on to another challenge.

Benchmarks for moving forward with a scalable enterprise would be a high margin of profit, pent-up demand for the product or service, and enthusiasm on the part of potential investors.

Silicon Valley, for example, serves as the most obvious case in point. Many of today’s technology giants started in someone’s garage or spare bedroom, only to scale up as revenue, interest, and market response grew.


Of all four types of entrepreneurs, seeking to be the founder of a scalable startup is almost certainly the riskiest. While you could easily have a great idea that hasn’t been exploited to its full potential, it’s a safe bet that competition will be intense and unrelenting.

Entrepreneurs who scale successfully tend to be that rare type who is equally adept at both right- and left-brain thinking. If not, they tend to have a partner with whatever skill set they lack.

Ask Yourself: Do I have an idea for a product or service that could significantly improve other people’s lives? Have I come up with something that is both innovative and unique? How might this concept play out in other markets?

Do I have access to the people and resources I need to pull this off? Have I found enthusiastic partners? Who is laying their money on the table? Am I willing to face intense competition and keep plowing forward?

Scalable businesses typically require more investment on the front end. As a business grows, the percentage of profit should go up.

Various Opportunities, Various Types of Entrepreneurs

Of course, these four primary types of entrepreneurs are not fixed and immovable.

For example, an innovator in a large company might one day cross over to founding their own business. Some entrepreneurs will do both at the same time. There are literally as many different paths to entrepreneurial success as there are innovators willing to dive in.

Start with a fearless and rigorous self-assessment. Be realistic about who you are and what drives you.

The challenges associated with entrepreneurship will require intrinsic motivation as you plan, pivot, regroup, and ultimately succeed.

Source: Kimberly Zhang

Funkola is the Co-founder and CEO at DIYlaw – a legal technology company committed to empowering Nigerian entrepreneurs through the provision of accessible and affordable legal services and free legal and business resources, Funkola is also the Corporate-Commercial and Intellectual Property lead at The Longe Practice LP (TLP), an entrepreneur focused law practice. Funkola is able to identify with her clients having been involved in various entrepreneurial pursuits, including founding a grocery e-commerce business.

She has a background in commercial & corporate law firm practice with years of in-house counsel experience in investment banking. Funkola’s legal experience prior to founding TLP and DIYlaw cuts across capital markets, investment advisory, compliance and securities.

Funkola has a Masters in Finance and Financial Law from the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London in addition to her LLB from the Lagos State University and BL from the Nigerian Law School.

In 2018, Funkola represented DIYLaw and Nigeria at Pitch@Palace Commonwealth which took place during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London. She pitched to an audience which included Prince Andrew, The Duke of York and various Heads of Government of Commonwealth countries and emerged one of the winners.

In May 2019, she led the DIYLaw team to the United Nations and presented and exhibited at several different forums during the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum. She is an Obama Leader, having been chosen as a 2019 Obama Africa Leader and also an Innovating Justice Fellow of The Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law (HiiL). In her words “Entrepreneurship is the most sustainable solution to unemployment”

She shares her inspiring story and some legal nuggets with me in this interview

Growing Up

I grew up with my 2 sisters in a family where both our parents are entrepreneurs. Transitioning from secondary school to university and during university holidays, we had to work for my parents. That was the only guarantee to getting a flight ticket for summer holidays.

This taught us discipline and the value of hard work and I will also say that it exposed me to entrepreneurship. I guess it’s not surprising that my sisters and I have various entrepreneurial pursuits.

Inspiration  behind DIY Law

Our vibrant and hardworking youth demography in Nigeria is our biggest inspiration at DIYLaw. Things have really shifted and the youth are breaking away from parent-pleasing that makes them unhappy. We now see a lot of professionals who are in sports, entertainment, hospitality and are generally following their dreams. Even a lot of people with 9 to 5 jobs have “side-hustles”, vlogs, tech companies, you name it.

These are the people who need accessible and affordable legal services; they are constantly on-the-go building the next big thing and can’t be bugged down with complexities.

Why I am focusing on Entrepreneurs

My co-founder (Odun) and I realized in 2014 that the sector was underserved and that was really all we needed to quit our day jobs and start a law firm focused on entrepreneurs. Prior to that, we were both informally advising entrepreneurs in our circles like our family and friends and we had seen all kinds of missteps, bad decisions and lost opportunities because entrepreneurs didn’t have their legal affairs in order.

Knowing the contributions of entrepreneurs to job creation and the economy, it would have been a disservice to do nothing and so I have now made it my life’s mission.

Being an Obama fellow with ties to other notable Organizations

Being recognized by these various organisations validate the work that we do. Beyond money, it’s the fuel that I need to keep moving. Knowing that someone somewhere values the work that we do and believes in the changes that we are trying to spark, helps me keep head above water on the not-so-good days.

Also, some people don’t take you seriously enough until they realize that someone else or a notable organization does. I am grateful for these coattails I have been able to ride; they have opened some doors and given us access to other opportunities.

Women who Inspire me

There are too many women who inspire me. If I had to mention just one, it will be my mother – Oluyemisi Ani; even though she is 65, she still works extra hard. She is never satisfied with yesterday’s achievement; she sets new challenges for herself everytime and she just goes for it.

If I had to mention more though 😊, it will be Serena Williams for her determination and rising above her challenges with going back to work and giving her best after having a baby; Michelle Obama for everything that she stands for and Sara Blakely for being a constant reminder that being dogged, knocking on every door and having fun yields good results.

Nigerians and appreciation of female lawyers

I honestly don’t think we are treated any differently from our male counterparts. Law is such a prestigious profession and I think we are all accorded the level of respect we deserve whether male or female. I haven’t ever walked into a meeting or a courtroom and been silenced because I am female.

I think being female is a gift that all women should try to take advantage of. My co-founders and I never hesitate to tell people that we are “an all-female founded” tech company and we get people ooh-ing and aah-ing and showing more interest when we use that line.

That being said, I won’t deny that generally there is workplace harassment and that there are small-minded people who don’t take women seriously or show them respect.


I can’t think of any. Just like I think that we get our due like our male colleagues, I think we equally face the same challenges but I can only speak from my own experiences and I won’t say that as a matter of fact.

On giving up

Too many times; it is really difficult being an entrepreneur.

The number of “no-s” that I have received, shut doors, emails that begin with “unfortunately…”, “we are sorry to inform you…” make me want to just pull the curtains and say “show is over”. Having a great support system such as co-founders who remind you why you are on the journey, family who let you cry on their shoulders and care about your welfare and employees who step up on your off days, keep me going.

There are too many things that make running a business very challenging in Nigeria, like epileptic internet service and stand-still traffic. Those little things that distract us from our focus also have the tendency to make us want to throw in the towel.

Being a woman of Rubies

I honestly don’t know what makes me one. I just strive daily to be an excellent leader, excellent co-worker, excellent wife, excellent mother, excellent daughter, excellent sister, excellent aunt and excellent friend. If I fail at any of it, it wouldn’t be from not trying.

Advice for Entrepreneurs, from a legal perspective                       

Getting it right from the beginning is very important. Put your books in order, file your tax returns, honor your agreements. Don’t wait until your big break is around the corner before you start scampering to do the right thing. The cost of non-compliance is more expensive than complying.