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unconventional entrepreneur

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Guercini, & Cova, B. (2018). Unconventional entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Research, 92, 385–391.



About the Recipe



Title: The Rise of the Unconventional Entrepreneur: Passion, Tribes, and the Pursuit of Meaning in a Liquid World

In an era marked by economic uncertainty, societal upheaval, and the relentless pursuit of self-actualization, a new breed of entrepreneur is emerging: the unconventional entrepreneur. Driven less by the traditional motives of profit and market dominance, and more by a deep-seated passion for their craft and a desire for community and meaning, these entrepreneurs are redefining what it means to start and run a business in the 21st century.

At the heart of this shift lies a fundamental change in the nature of work and identity in modern society. As the stability and security of traditional employment have given way to the precariousness and fluidity of the gig economy, individuals are increasingly turning to entrepreneurship not just as a means of making a living, but as a way of crafting a sense of self and purpose in an increasingly uncertain world.

The concept of "liquid modernity," as articulated by sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, provides a useful lens through which to understand this phenomenon. In a liquid society, Bauman argues, social structures and institutions are in a constant state of flux, morphing and shifting at an accelerating pace. In such a context, individuals can no longer rely on the anchors of lifelong employment, stable communities, or fixed identities to provide a sense of meaning and continuity.

Instead, unconventional entrepreneurs are finding new sources of stability and fulfillment in the pursuit of their passions, often rooted in leisure activities, hobbies, and personal interests. Whether it's a love of surfing that spawns a revolutionary camera company, or a passion for retro gaming that inspires a niche software startup, these entrepreneurs are blurring the lines between work and play, production and consumption, in a way that challenges traditional notions of what it means to be a business owner.

Crucially, unconventional entrepreneurs do not operate in isolation, but rather as part of tight-knit communities or "tribes" that share their passions and values. These tribes serve as a source of inspiration, support, and validation, both before and after the launch of a new venture. They provide a sense of belonging and purpose that transcends the purely transactional relationships of the marketplace, and infuse the entrepreneurial journey with a deeper sense of meaning and connection.

In many ways, unconventional entrepreneurs can be seen as the embodiment of the "prosumer" ethos, combining the roles of producer and consumer in a fluid and dynamic way. They are not merely creating products or services to sell to a faceless market, but rather engaging in a co-creative process with their tribe, blending personal passion with professional ambition in a way that dissolves the boundaries between self and other, private and public life.

Yet, for all its promise of liberation and self-actualization, the rise of unconventional entrepreneurship also raises troubling questions about the nature of work, identity, and fulfillment in a liquid world. Some critics argue that the celebration of the entrepreneurial self is merely a new form of neoliberal governmentality, in which individuals are compelled to constantly reinvent and optimize themselves in the service of market demands.

From this perspective, the unconventional entrepreneur is not truly free, but rather a prisoner of a new kind of alienation - one that is self-imposed and internalized, driven by the relentless pursuit of popularity, recognition, and self-branding. The pressure to constantly perform and adapt, to be an "autopreneur" curating one's image and emotions for public consumption, can take a heavy toll on mental health and well-being.

Moreover, the valorization of entrepreneurship as the ultimate form of self-expression and personal fulfillment risks obscuring the structural inequalities and barriers that make such a path inaccessible or unsustainable for many. Not everyone has the resources, networks, or cultural capital to turn their passions into profitable ventures, and the celebration of the unconventional entrepreneur can serve to legitimize and reproduce existing power imbalances.

As we navigate the uncharted waters of a liquid world, it is clear that the rise of the unconventional entrepreneur represents both an opportunity and a challenge. On one hand, it offers the tantalizing possibility of a more authentic, fulfilling, and socially connected way of working and living. On the other, it risks perpetuating a cruel optimism that promises much but delivers little, while masking the deeper structural issues that shape our economic and social realities.

Ultimately, the key to realizing the transformative potential of unconventional entrepreneurship may lie in a more nuanced and critical understanding of its nature and its limitations. By recognizing both the emancipatory possibilities and the alienating pitfalls of this new paradigm, we can work towards creating a more just, sustainable, and fulfilling economic landscape for all. The unconventional entrepreneur may be the avatar of our liquid times, but it is up to us to ensure that their passion and creativity are channeled towards the greater good, rather than merely the pursuit of individual gain.

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