n Management Dynamics : Journal of the Southern African Institute for Management Scientists - An entrepreneur : perceptions of students versus small business owners

Volume 24, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1019-567X



The perception that an individual has of a phenomenon, including the phenomenon of being an entrepreneur, influences his or her feelings, decisions and actions concerning that phenomenon. If entrepreneurs are positively perceived by individuals, the likelihood of their becoming entrepreneurs themselves increases. The purpose of this study was to investigate how potential entrepreneurs (students) and current entrepreneurs (small business owners) perceive a typical entrepreneur. Purposive sampling was used to identify participants, and continuous word association tests were administered to assess perceptions. These tests required participants to write down as many words or phrases that came to mind as possible when presented with the word 'entrepreneur'.

As words/phrases reveal information about perceptions, the nature of the words/phrases generated, the first words/phrases recalled, and the frequencies of recurring words/phrases were considered when analysing the data. Chi-square tests were undertaken to ascertain whether there are differences between the perceptions of students and of small business owners. The results showed that the nature of the words recalled and the frequency of associations on the part of students after completing an entrepreneurship module, and on the part of small business owners, were similar, while both differed from those recalled by students before completing an entrepreneurship module. Exposure to an entrepreneurship module appears to influence perceptions of what an entrepreneur is.

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