A meaningful life : being a young New Zealand entrepreneur : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
Changing characteristics of work and careers have resulted in a shift in perceptions of
the potential value of entrepreneurial activity. In parallel there has emerged an
appreciation of the non-economic impact of entrepreneurship on those who enact it.
However, there still remains a limited understanding of the consequences of choosing
to be an entrepreneur, and what that choice means in terms of that individual’s life
and work. The potential for the young as a group to engage with entrepreneurship as a
‘career option’ is high, therefore the central research objective of this study was to
learn what meaning young New Zealand entrepreneurs attach to ‘being in business’.
The study was grounded in an inductive, interpretive research design, underpinned by
the tenets of constructivism. Phenomenologically focussed, in-depth interviews were
used to gather data from ten young New Zealand entrepreneurs. These interviews
were semi-structured and emphasised language, meaning, and narrative. The resulting
data were analysed using elements of a constructivist grounded theory approach.
A key finding was that the nature of the relationship between the entrepreneurs and
their firms was a strong attachment grounded in emotion. The intertwining of the life
of the business with the life of the young entrepreneur was viewed positively, and
frequently involved personal transformation. Businesses were more than mechanisms
for achieving monetary wealth.
The relationship between the young entrepreneurs and their work was also intense.
Balance of work and life was not an issue, nor did they seek to differentiate between
the two spheres. They were content to have the two blended in a manner of their
choosing. Consistent with this was their drive for personal authenticity and adherence
to strong ethical imperatives. Being an entrepreneur was less about career (and even
less about a job) and more about fulfilling needs of a higher order.
Almost all the participants strongly identified as entrepreneurs. They felt it was the
identity most consistent with their values, attitudes, and aspirations. They accepted
that in some instances the label small-firm owner manager was accurate in terms of
the scale of their operations, but rejected its appropriateness on any other grounds.