The Unequal Reality of Entrepreneurship: Privilege and the Great Equalizer

A candid exploration of the hidden challenges and inequalities that shape the experiences of business owners

In a world where entrepreneurship is often hailed as the great equalizer, promising anyone with enough determination and drive the opportunity to thrive, the reality is far more complex. Behind the scenes, money and privilege play a significant role in determining the success or failure of a business venture. This article delves into the untold stories of entrepreneurs, shedding light on the inequalities and privileges that can make or break their journey.

The Illusion of Equality

Many aspiring entrepreneurs are drawn to the idea of being their own boss, escaping the confines of a traditional 9-to-5 job and forging their own path. They are inspired by success stories shared in articles, podcasts, and case studies that paint a rosy picture of entrepreneurship. However, what these narratives often fail to address are the harsh realities of money and privilege that underpin the entrepreneurial landscape.

The Urgency of Survival

For some entrepreneurs, the need to generate revenue is a matter of survival. High monthly rents, loan payments, and startup costs create a state of heightened urgency. Every sale becomes crucial to staying afloat. However, not all business owners face the same pressure. Those who own their locations outright or have financial cushions can afford to take a more relaxed approach, choosing to prioritize personal comfort over maximizing income.

The Difference Between Hobby and Business

Entrepreneurship is not a monolithic experience. Some entrepreneurs build businesses with the intention of long-term success, while others treat their ventures as mere hobbies. The distinction between these two approaches becomes apparent when faced with challenges. Legacy businesses with deep-rooted customer bases and long-term credit terms have a significant advantage over newcomers. Privilege can determine whether a business remains a going concern or folds under pressure.

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The Unseen Privileges

Privileges that are not immediately apparent often shape the fate of entrepreneurs. Legacy businesses benefit from outsized reputations and established customer bases. Some entrepreneurs have the luxury of paid-off student loans, mortgages, and vehicles, while others receive family bailouts or have high-earning partners who can support them through rough patches. Access to home equity, investments, or retirement savings can mean the difference between weathering emergencies and closing shop.

The Inheritance Effect

Research suggests that privilege plays a role in the decision to become an entrepreneur in the first place. The probability of self-employment is positively influenced by whether an individual has received an inheritance or gift. This revelation challenges the notion that success in entrepreneurship is solely determined by hard work and skill. Understanding the role of privilege can help entrepreneurs navigate the challenges they face with greater clarity.

The Harsh Realities of Failure

Despite the best-laid plans and efforts, some businesses simply do not thrive. The absence of sufficient revenue limits the potential for growth and sustainability. While some entrepreneurs have access to additional funds to keep their businesses afloat, others must face the reality of closure. Blaming oneself for lack of success can be unproductive and unfair, especially when considering the disparities in privilege that shape the entrepreneurial landscape.


The myth of entrepreneurship as a level playing field persists, perpetuating unrealistic expectations and ignoring the inequalities that determine success. Open discussions about the role of privilege and the challenges faced by entrepreneurs are essential for a more nuanced understanding of the entrepreneurial journey. By acknowledging these realities, aspiring entrepreneurs can approach their ventures with greater insight, resilience, and empathy for themselves and others. Only then can we truly embrace the transformative potential of entrepreneurship.

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