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Entrepreneurs Share Courage, Other Common Traits


Studies show that entrepreneurs share common traits that motivate them to start new businesses. As VOA's Barry Wood reports, successful entrepreneurs are often motivated by more than financial gain, and many have overcome considerable adversity. (Part 2 of 5)

For 35 years, British entrepreneur Richard Branson has been building his Virgin brand into a global power house. It has made him one of the world's richest men. Yet, as a child, Branson had dyslexia, a learning disability. He never attended university, but he was motivated to succeed.

"In school, I would look at some of these exams and completely blank out on them. And I actually left school at 15 to go out into the world and try to make an honest living," he said.

As a teenager, Branson had two failed business ventures. But he has since started dozens of successful businesses.

In India, Sunil Mittal overcame adversity of a different sort. "I grew up in a very socialistic-rooted India," he said. "We saw the evolution of the Soviet [economic] model coming into India in a very dramatic manner."

Mittal says the end of central planning after 1992 allowed his Bharti Group to evolve into India's second largest corporation. "With $35 million that I could access, we went on to build India's largest telecom company," he said. Today, Bharti Airtel has 30,000 employees.

Brent Goldfarb, a business professor at the University of Maryland, says all kinds of people strive to be entrepreneurs with different motivations, some to be on their own, others to be rich.

"The fact of the matter is that most entrepreneurs do not get rich. In fact, most entrepreneurs earn less than if they were working for someone else," said Goldfarb.

That was true for Pakistani entrepreneur Ashar Hafeez. He opened his first Tandoori restaurant in Islamabad in 1993. He had a passion for business and hard work. "In every aspect of work you have to work very hard," said Hafeez. "And it is hard. It's team work. You can't do it alone. You have to have a very good team with you."

In Iraqi Kurdistan, Suhela Kakil Raza is a mother of four. She began making women's clothing a year ago, but there were hurdles to jump. In her town, Irbil, she had to find a store location that was not frequented by men so her Sunni Muslim clients - women - would come out and buy. Now, she has four employees and she wants to expand.

She says she dreams of having a private factory. It would have two parts: one with 12 machines, and 12 girls working. She says she would also run a school to train her female workers.

In Johannesburg, Mthuli Ncube is the director of the entrepreneurship institute at the University of the Witwatersrand. He talks about South Africa's special problems. "Africa has a shortage of quality entrepreneurs who are prepared to take risks," he said.

But South Africa's most prominent black entrepreneur, Richard Maponya, has long been taking risks to build a property and retail empire. Even during the apartheid era, he charged ahead. Now in his 80s, Maponya recently opened a vast shopping mall in the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto.

Donald Trump, the successful American property developer, says entrepreneurs must have passion, be tenacious, think big, absorb new information, take action, learn to negotiate and enjoy competition.