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Chicago, IL 60607

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© 2016 Opportunity Internationala 501(c)3 nonprofit.

What We’re Reading: Forbes, “Qualities of Successful Entrepreneurs”

By Emily Riemer

What do Richard Branson and Steve Jobs have in common with Opportunity International’s clients? Turns out, a whole lot.

In a recent “Forbes” article by Patrick Hull, successful entrepreneurs are those willing to take risks and push boundaries. The article quotes Harvard Business School professor Howard Stevenson, who says, “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” Perhaps this exemplifies the adventurous spirit that defines some wealthier or more advantageous entrepreneurs. But for Opportunity’s loan clients, their pursuit of entrepreneurship often is not so much an adventure as a necessity.

Opportunity client Ruth Nassimbwa is a true entrepreneur. With a loan from Opportunity Uganda, Ruth expanded from selling groceries in Kampala’s Kalerwe market to operating her own restaurant. Now, she has doubled her income, sends her four children to school and employs four of her neighbors in her business.Hull says that entrepreneurs are “confident in themselves and in their abilities.” For our clients, their confidence is not the primary reason for growing a business. Without strong local industries or formal economic infrastructure, which could offer employment opportunities, clients run small businesses so that they have a chance to earn an income, their children can eat, and they can build a more secure and stable financial future.

He goes on to say, “The ability to understand and see opportunity is critical for success. [...] I’ve taken many risks as an entrepreneur but only when I saw an opportunity and thought I had a good chance for success. I’ve aimed high, but have been smart about where I’m aiming.” In this regard, Hull’s archetypal profile of an entrepreneur does align with many of Opportunity’s clients. When Opportunity clients access a loan, they most often use it to expand a business they’ve already begun or, if they’ve gained some success, they may open a secondary business in another field they already know well.

Opportunity’s clients take calculated risks but they cannot afford to take foolish swings at the fences. Hull says, “[Richard Branson] is willing to take calculated risks with a clear plan in mind.” For Opportunity clients, wild choices can mean disaster for them or their families — coming from very little, it does not require much of a setback to return them to poverty unless they have been able to accrue a safety net of savings and income to protect them from this backslide. The access to small loans and financial services is the edge they need to take the steps necessary to make their business succeed. They “understand and see opportunity” when it arrives in their communities.

While most of Opportunity clients are risk takers by necessity rather than choice, they pave their own ways with their own businesses. They have the wherewithal to notice and take advantage of opportunities in the forms of Opportunity International microloans and financial tools when they are available. We’re proud of our brave clients who partner with us every day to achieve entrepreneurial success.

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