I originally wrote this article, “Entrepreneur interviews” in April 2004.
I interviewed two entrepreneurs during Spring 2004. They were both
ethnic minorities and owned the same type of business, but one was a
female entrepreneur and the other was a male entrepreneur. The
interviewees were asked questions regarding (a) entrepreneurial growth,
(b) female entrepreneurs, and (c) ethnic entrepreneurs.
The purpose of the interviews was to compare and contrast the two
different people and to see how well their characteristics and
experiences matched those published in entrepreneurial literature.
Entrepreneurial growth plans for both interviewees contrasted each
other. However, both entrepreneurs closely matched the findings of
previous researchers. The female entrepreneur demonstrated caution,
whereas the male entrepreneur displayed enthusiastic plans for growth;
some of which had come to fruition. The male ethnic entrepreneur didn't
conform to the literature view that ethnic entrepreneurs are more
satisfied with lower wages than non-ethnic entrepreneurs.
The female entrepreneur's approach to risk-taking and experience with
support and role conflicts, closely followed the literature view. She
had good support from her spouse, was a conservative risk-taker and the
satisfaction she received from running her business had a positive
impact on her family life. This contrasted with the male entrepreneur
receiving support from friends, taking moderate risks and spending only
half the week nights with his spouse and family.
The interviewee responses to questions associated with ethnic minority
entrepreneurs demonstrated that the passage of time, in a market of
non-ethnic customers, erodes the ethnic minority characteristics, e.g.
low wage acceptability, internal financing. In a period of within (say)
a decade, the ethnic minority entrepreneur may absorb the culture of
the host country, if working outside of the ethnic community.
Both interviewees broadly conformed to the views of the entrepreneurial
literature regarding ethnic minorities. They both started businesses in
the service sector and they both chose a profession that they had prior
experience in. However, whilst the literature supports the view that
ethnic minority finance for start-up is usually internally sourced,
only the female entrepreneur was self-funded.
I interviewed two entrepreneurs during April 2004. The topics of
discussion were limited to entrepreneurial growth, female entrepreneurs
and ethnic entrepreneurs. Both entrepreneurs owned beauty salons and
were ethnic minorities. Amy was female and was a hairdresser in
Singapore. Cedric was in Malaysia.
Amy was originally from Malaysia, but had settled with her husband in
Singapore a few years ago. She had run a small beauty parlour, for
almost 2 years, within a condominium block and had a staff of three.
Cedric emigrated from Syria in 1984 and started his business 20 years
ago. He had 30 employees and leased 2 retail units to provide his
service of hairdressing, massage and spa therapy.
The two entrepreneurs were asked the two questions of how they viewed
the growth of their business and what their thoughts were on retaining
business earnings versus making personal financial withdrawals. Both
entrepreneurs had very different attitudes to growth.
Amy leased a small (200 square feet) unit from a condominium owner. She
had been in business for almost 2 years. Her immediate goal was to
increase the utilization of her current resources of space and labour.
She had no immediate plans to grow the business beyond 3 staff, until
demand fully consumed the existing resources.
Cedric leased two units (2000 square feet total) from a shopping mall
owner. He had been in business for more than 20 years and had 30 staff.
His idea was to open more outlets in different geographic locations and
to diversify with different services in the same market and different
products I services in different markets. For example, he had been
interested in designing, manufacturing and marketing automated beauty
products and he had recently increased the square footage of his
business to expand the services to massage and spa therapy.
Although there were many years difference in the maturity of the two
businesses, it could be argued that Amy's firm be classified as a
lifestyle-business. The characteristic that distinguished
Cedric's business was that he was thinking strategically, as identified
by Burns and Harrison (1996:49), about the direction and scope of the
business over the longer term. Cedric was also following the guidance
of Kuratko and Hodgetts (2004:549), who state that firms who fail to
innovate will die and that Cedric was complementing current offerings
with work on new product and service developments. However, Amy
appeared to demonstrate more understanding of where her business was
Amy withdrew fixed monthly compensation from her business, by way of a
salary. Although not disclosed, the amount was small at this stage of
her business. She expected to withdraw a larger wage when profits
increased and to spend a little more on assets for her salon.
Cedric withdrew monthly compensation from his business and supplemented
these regular withdrawals with occasional bonuses if he thought that
the business was doing particularly well, so that he could reap some of
the rewards that he said that he was entitled to, for his hard work.
Amy was Malay and had settled in Singapore. She displayed a
characteristic described by Light (1984) where immigrants would be more
satisfied than native-born workers with low profits from small
businesses because of wage differences between their origin and
destination countries. The inverse relationship between small business
growth and the entrepreneur's compensation is described by Churchill
and Lewis (1992:273) as occurring during the success stage of an
enterprise. These authors pose the question of whether the owner
"wishes to commit to their time and risk the accumulated equity of the
business in order to grow or instead prefer to savour some of the
benefits of success?" They recognize that all too often the owner wants
both and this appears to be the situation that Cedric found himself in.
Cedric is Syrian and emigrated to Malaysia 25 years ago and his
approach to compensation, in conflict with Light's findings could,
perhaps, be explained by a dilution of his original immigrant values
over 25 years in a host country.
The two salon owners were asked three questions to compare and contrast
between female entrepreneur and male entrepreneur experiences with
regard to (a) support, (b) role-conflicts and (c) risk-taking. The
female entrepreneurial traits published in the literature were
supported by the findings.
Amy had many personal friends who visited her salon, whilst she worked
6 days per week and they gave her support. But her greatest supporter
was her husband, who also had a financial interest in the
business. Cedric had a network of friends in the same type of
business and his greatest support was from his extended family and
friends. His wife was a full-time lawyer and had little spare time for
interest in the business. Additionally, Cedric's son, Cecil, had
been taken on board and was beginning to be a source of support for his
father. Brockhaus and Horwitz (1986:39) report that Hisrich and
O'Brien found that female entrepreneurs had very supportive parents and
husbands, which was Amy's situation. Hisrich and Brush (1986:6),
in a survey of ethnic minority entrepreneurs, found that spouses were
their biggest supporters, followed by business associates, friends and
other relatives. Whilst Amy typifies the findings of Hisrich and Brush,
Cedric does not. This could be due to Cedric being male and, although
still being a minority, having lost much of his ethnicity. However,
Cedric's situation is best described by Hisrich (1986:72), where he
states that, "men usually list outside advisors as most important
supporters with the spouse being second. Women list their spouses
first, close friends second, and business associates third."
Amy had one child and had taken one month maternity leave from the
business during the birth and had a maid to look after the baby girl
till kindergarten. She, without fail, took every Tuesday off work to
spend time with her daughter, Glenda.
Cedric had three children in their twenties, two of whom still lived at
the family home. He spent three nights a week, 120 miles away from
home, competing in hairdressing competitions. It was also a second
source of income to Cedric.
Kuratko and Hodgetts (2004:680) summarize the findings of two surveys
among female entrepreneurs regarding role conflicts. They report that
"female entrepreneurship can be the most successful professional outlet
for reducing [work/home role] conflict if autonomy and satisfaction are
present." Amy's situation was in accordance with their findings and
contrasted with Cedric's circumstances.
Amy described herself as being a low risk taker and this was evidenced
by her frugal salon layout and conservative attitude towards growth.
She was unwilling to invest more funds into the business until she was
100% sure of it's success. Cedric said that he was forced to take
risks to retain his competitive position. For example, he had taken out
a moderate commercial loan to expand his business to include a massage
and spa therapy salon, next door to the location of his original
business. He said that he hadtaken this action because all of his
competition had similar enhanced facilities and that he feared losing
business if he didn't expand into these related markets.
The above comments by Amy and Cedric conform to the observation by
Hisrich (1986:79) who states that, "in general, women entrepreneurs
have a conservative risk taking posture" and that businesses started by
women entrepreneurs will not likely grow to a significant size. But
Hisrich also asks if size is a measure of success and comments that the
realism and caution exhibited by women business owners may actually
ensure the success of their business over time.
The two entrepreneurs were asked three questions regarding the ethnic
minority impact of being a Malay in Singapore and a Syrian in Malaysia.
The three questions asked about (a) how the type of venture was chosen,
(b) what motivated each entrepreneur, and (c) how the start-up finance
was obtained. The literature supports much of the entrepreneurs'
experiences, although Cedric displayed some distinctive characteristics
not generally found in minority entrepreneurs, but found in male
Nature of venture
Amy had chosen to open a hairdressing salon because she had previously
worked as a hairdresser. She had been employed as a stylist by a couple
of employers before she decided to start-up her own business.
Cedric, also, had chosen to open a hairdressing salon because he had
previously worked as a hairdresser for the first five years when he
emigrated to Malaysia from Syria. He furthermore said that the cost of
starting-up a salon was much lower than for other business ideas that
Amy and Cedric's common business choice supported the findings of
Hisrich (1986:72), Brockhaus and Horwitz (1986:39), that women are more
likely to start a business in a service related area, and that of
Aldrich and Waldinger (1990: 112), who state that most ethnic
enterprises are found in the service sector. Additionally, both these
small enterprises served non-ethic populations, where the opportunities
were much greater than if they served an ethnic community's needs. The
fact that Amy and Cedric had previous skill in their line of work
supported the survey results of Hisrich and Brush (1986:4). These
authors found that the majority of the minority entrepreneurs they
surveyed had prior experience in their fields of endeavour. This
supports previous findings that entrepreneurs tend to start businesses
in the fields in which they have worked.
Amy had two motivations for starting her own business. Firstly, she had
wanted to achieve something in her life, and “being her own boss” was
something that she'd always wanted to do. Secondly, she had felt that
she could do just as well on her own as working for someone else.
Cedric had also wanted the achievement of self-employment but, as
husband and father of three children, he also had the need to raise his
income to increase his family's standard of living to that which he and
his family desired. In the interim time since arriving in Malaysia, he
had been working for Syrian and Indian business owners and had thought
that employing people to work for him would be the way to increase his
The experiences of Amy and Cedric support the view of Aldrich and
Waldinger (1990:125) regarding prior work and, particularly for Cedric,
employer type. The authors identify that immigrant workers often begin
as temporary workers in small businesses and that the potential owner
is an employee in a co-ethnic or family member's business.
Amy's start-up capital had been provided by herself and her husband.
They had savings Which they had used to establish her venture.
Cedric did not have a great deal of personal capital at the time when
he decided to open his salon. Instead, he had taken out a commercial
loan from a Malaysian bank, using the family's home as security for the
loan. He has since paid off this loan.
Cedric's situation contrasts with that noted by Aldrich and Waldinger
(1990:125), whereby the author's state that, “immigrant workers ...
seek jobs that provide opportunities to work long hours and accumulate
savings." However, Hisrich (1986:69) accurately describes Amy and
Cedric's start-up financial situation when he identifies that male and
female entrepreneurs differ in the area of start-up financing. He
comments that, “while males often list investors, bank loans, or
personal loans in addition to personal funds as sources of start-up
capital, women in nearly all cases have relied solely on personal
assets or savings.
List of references
Aldrich, H. & Waldinger, R. 1990, 'Ethnicity and entrepreneurship', Annual Review of Sociology, No. 16 pp. 111-135.
Brockhaus, R.H. &Horwitz, P.S. 1986, 'The psychology of the
entrepreneurs' in Sexton, D.L. & Smilor, R.W. (Eds), The Art and
Science of Entrepreneurship, Cambridge, MA: Balinger Publishing pp.
Burns, P. & Harrison, J. 1996, 'Growth' in Burns, P. &
Dewhurst, J. (Eds) Small Business and Entrepreneurship, 2nd edn,
London: Macmillan pp.40-72
Churchill, N.C. & Lewis, V.L. 1992, 'The five s~ages of small
business growth' in Sahlman, W.A. & Stevenson, H.H. (Eds), The
Entrepreneurial Venture: Readings, Boston, MA: Harvard Business School
Publications pp. 263-275.
Hisrich, R. D. 1986, 'The woman entrepreneur: Characteristics, skills,
problems, and prescriptions for success', in Sexton,D. & Smilor,
R., The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship, Massachusetts: Ballinger,
Hisrich, R.D. & Brush, C. 1986, 'Characteristics of the minority
entrepreneur', Journal of Small Business Management, Vol. 24, October,
pp. 1-8. Kuratko, D.F. & Hodgetts, R.M. 2004,
Entrepreneurship: Theory, Process, and Practice, 6th edn. Ohio: South
Light, I. 1984, 'Immigrant and ethnic enterprise in North Ameri~Ethnic Racial Stud. 7:195-216