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date: 15 October 2019

Socioemotional Aspects of Entrepreneurship for the Classroom

Summary and Keywords

There is currently great enthusiasm for entrepreneurship education and the economic benefits that entrepreneurial activity can generate for individuals, organizations, and communities. Beyond economic outcomes, however, there is a variety of social and emotional costs and benefits of engaging in entrepreneurship that may not be evident to students nor emphasized in entrepreneurship courses. The socioemotional costs of entrepreneurship are consequential: on the one hand, entrepreneurs who pour their time and energy into new ventures can incur costs (e.g., ruptured personal and professional relationships, decreased life satisfaction and well-being, or strong negative reactions such as grief) that can often be as or more personally disruptive and enduring than economic costs. On the other hand, the social and emotional benefits of an entrepreneurial lifestyle are often cited as intrinsically satisfying and as primary motivations for initiating and sustaining entrepreneurial activity.

The socioemotional aspects of entrepreneurship are often poorly understood by students, but highlighting these hidden dimensions of entrepreneurial activity can inform their understanding and actions as prospective entrepreneurs. For instance, entrepreneurial passion, the experience of positive emotions as a function of engaging in activities that fulfill one’s entrepreneurial identity, and social capital, whereby entrepreneurs build meaningful relationships with co-owners, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders, are two specific socioemotional benefits of entrepreneurship. There are also several potential socioemotional costs of entrepreneurial activity. For instance, entrepreneurship can involve negative emotional responses such as grief and lost identity from failure. Even when an entrepreneur does not fail, the stress of entrepreneurial activity can lead to sleep deprivation and disruptions to both personal and professional connections. Then, entrepreneurs can identify so closely and feel so invested that they experience counterproductive forms of obsessive passion that consume their identities and impair their well-being.

Keywords: entrepreneurship education, socioemotional costs and benefits, entrepreneurial passion, socioemotional wealth, new venture teams, entrepreneurial identity, grief and entrepreneurship, research to practice, family businesses


Enthusiasm for Entrepreneurship Education

There is just cause for optimism in the current state of entrepreneurship education. Growing demand for entrepreneurial skills has fueled the popularity of entrepreneurship courses in academia (Catropa, 2014). For instance, as of 2018 there were 228 colleges and universities worldwide that offered a formal undergraduate major in “Entrepreneurship” or “Small Business” (Katz, 2018), and among entrepreneurship programs in the United States, all have been established since 1975 (Katz, 2003). Additionally, there are now 83 accredited schools worldwide operating in English that offer doctoral programs in entrepreneurship, a total that has climbed from 12 in 2002 (Katz, 2019). This increase in programs is also at least partly a response to a history of robust student interest in entrepreneurship, evidence of which includes the nearly 200 second-year MBA students (almost one-third of the entire class) who reportedly enrolled in America’s first entrepreneurship course at Harvard Business School in 1947 (Katz, 2003).

Millennials, in particular, appear to have embraced entrepreneurship and the promise of self-employment. A 2014 survey reported that 67% of Millennials with a job (ranging in age from 18 to 34) expressed a desire to depart the traditional work environment in favor of self-employment (Ricketts, 2014). In another survey, 24% of Millennials have already started a business and 49% intended to do so within the next three years (America’s Small Business Development Center, 2017). Several popular press works have also recently noted the surge of interest in entrepreneurship among younger workers (Dimock, 2018; Love & Eum, 2018; YFS Small Business Contributors, 2017). Taken together, this surge in student interest coupled with increased course offerings suggests a continued positive trajectory for entrepreneurship education.

The Hidden Side of Entrepreneurship

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this enthusiasm for the benefits of entrepreneurship is that the full range of benefits of entrepreneurship may not be understood or appreciated in their entirety. That is, students and the public may be attracted to the substantial potential economic benefits of entrepreneurship, but less aware of its non-pecuniary, socioemotional benefits (Van Praag & Versloot, 2007). Conversely, students may be at least somewhat aware of the personal economic costs of entrepreneurial failure, up to and including bankruptcy (Lee, Peng, & Barney, 2007; Shepherd, Wiklund, & Haynie, 2009), which by some estimates afflicted more than half of the nine million new firms established in the United States between 1994 and 2007 within five years of their inception (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014). However, students are far less likely to recognize the social and emotional aspects of entrepreneurship (Bolinger & Brown, 2015).

Shepherd (2004) suggests that entrepreneurship educators have the opportunity to capitalize on the growing interest in entrepreneurship by leveraging findings from research in the entrepreneurship literature (e.g., the emotions associated with venture failure) to inform their curriculum and practices in the classroom. This article builds on this approach by describing the entrepreneurship literature that sheds light on the socioemotional costs and benefits associated with entrepreneurial activity. It suggests that instructors can provide students with an enriched, well-rounded understanding of what engaging in entrepreneurship actually entails by incorporating discussions of the personal emotions and interpersonal social costs and benefits that constitute the hidden side of entrepreneurship.

It is important that instructors discuss the socioemotional benefits of entrepreneurial activity because, although stories of entrepreneurs who became billionaires dominate the popular imagination, many entrepreneurs are in reality attracted to self-employment for non-economic reasons (Bradley & Roberts, 2004; Carter, 2011). Even at relatively similar levels of income, entrepreneurs on the whole report greater levels of job satisfaction and self-efficacy than those who are not self-employed (Benz & Frey, 2008). Also, outside of economic considerations, the concept of socioemotional wealth in family business research illustrates how family firms are motivated to engage proactively with key stakeholders in order to preserve social ties and to reinforce feelings of caring for others (Cennamo, Berrone, Cruz, & Gomez-Mejia, 2012). Thus, it is often the social and emotional benefits of entrepreneurship, whether the quality of social ties (e.g., friendships) that entrepreneurs develop or the passionate enjoyment of something they find interesting and fulfilling, that sustain high levels of job- and life-satisfaction (Blanchflower, 2004; Pollack, Coy, Green, & Davis, 2015).

Conversely, although less widely recognized than economic costs, the social and emotional costs of failure to entrepreneurs are no less devastating (Ucbasaran, Westhead, Wright, & Flores, 2010). Since entrepreneurs often perceive their venture in very personal terms (e.g., “my baby,” Cardon, Zietsma, Saparito, Matherne, & Davis, 2005), the experience of loss associated with venture failure can be vivid and heart-wrenching (Shepherd, Patzelt, & Wolfe, 2011). Similarly, failure can carry social costs for some entrepreneurs, such as stigmatization by friends and family (Singh, Corner, & Pavlovich, 2015). Entrepreneurial failure can also disrupt relational capital and precipitate finger-pointing and self-justification among teams of entrepreneurs (Blatt, 2009; Mantere, Aula, Schildt, & Vaara, 2013).

Finally, entrepreneurship often carries socioemotional costs even if the venture does not fail. For instance, the sheer volume of time and energy that entrepreneurs often pour into nascent ventures may stress relationships and foster marital conflict, neglect of children, or divorce (Dyer & Handler, 1994). Entrepreneurs can become obsessive to the point of behavioral addiction, with adverse consequences for the entrepreneur’s own health and close relationships (Spivack & McKelvie, 2018). Researchers have also found that entrepreneurial behavior and sleep problems may co-occur and undermine both entrepreneurial performance and thriving (Gunia, 2018). In short, socioemotional costs constitute the hidden “dark side” of entrepreneurship that may not be readily apparent to students.

The purpose of this article is to generate insight into the often-overlooked socioemotional costs and benefits of entrepreneurship and the implications of integrating socioemotional aspects into the entrepreneurship classroom. There are many ways to be entrepreneurial, including engaging in social and institutional entrepreneurship and internal corporate venturing, and while the economic considerations are very different, many of the socioemotional aspects are similar. However, this piece will focus on the type of entrepreneurship that is most relevant and interesting to business schools: for-profit ventures. In addition to highlighting relevant concepts from recent research, this article explains the dilemma of conveying the socioemotional aspects of entrepreneurship in the classroom when students and the public focus overwhelmingly on the economic benefits (and, to a lesser extent, costs) of entrepreneurial activity (Anderson & Smith, 2007). It also describes ideas for incorporating the socioemotional aspects of entrepreneurship into future research and the entrepreneurship classroom.

From Financial to Socioemotional Benefits of Entrepreneurship

The prospective financial benefits of entrepreneurial involvement have captured the public imagination, as entrepreneurs have proliferated on the Forbes 400 list of the world’s wealthiest people (Fontevecchia, 2014a). Indeed, entrepreneurship can be a means of upward financial mobility. For instance, the number of individuals on the 2014 list who overcame significant childhood poverty and hardship on their way to wealth was three times as high as it had been in 1984, while the number of fully-inherited billionaires dropped from roughly 25% in 1984 to 7% in 2014 (Fontevecchia, 2014b). Furthermore, the 2018 Forbes overall list of the richest people in the world features entrepreneurs taking up more than half of the top ten spots, including both of the first two spots in Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Bill Gates of Microsoft, who together are reportedly worth over $200 billion (Yancey-Bragg, 2018).

While the potential to strike it rich as an entrepreneur may be alluring to some, there are a variety of non-pecuniary, lifestyle benefits that are often cited among the main draws to entrepreneurship (Carter, 2011; Marcketti, Niehm, & Fuloria, 2006). For instance, entrepreneurs experience greater job satisfaction and self-efficacy compared to the non-self-employed, a finding that is consistent across a variety of counties, continents, and cultures (Benz & Frey, 2008; Bradley & Roberts, 2004). In addition to enjoying a high degree of autonomy, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to work on something that they are passionate about and find interesting, and report an overall high degree of satisfaction with their lives (Blanchflower, 2004). Those that chase their passions may choose to become “lifestyle entrepreneurs” who often run small firms whose focus is on working in a field they care about and operating a business that aligns with their own values, interests, and passions (Marcketti et al., 2006). Thus, entrepreneurship can offer a lifestyle of sufficient attractiveness that individuals are drawn to it for more than purely financial reasons.

Entrepreneurial Passion

The affinity that lifestyle as well as other types of entrepreneurs feel for their ventures is often described in terms of passion. Passion has been defined primarily in emotional terms as intense, highly motivating positive feelings that derive from engaging in entrepreneurial activities that are experienced as salient and meaningful to the self-identity of the entrepreneur (Cardon, Wincent, Singh, & Drnovsek, 2009). Fulfilling roles such as inventor, founder, or developer can help to solidify one’s identity, lead to a sense of personal satisfaction, and “enhance feelings of self-esteem” (Hogg, Terry, & White, 1995). These positive emotions and clear sense of self associated with the object of one’s passion may themselves be experienced by the entrepreneur as enjoyable and rewarding.

Passion is strongly associated with identity (Vallerand et al., 2003). Entrepreneurial identity, in particular, involves internalized expectations about roles, such as founder, inventor, or developer, that they perceive as distinctive, central to who they are, and a source of positive feelings when engaged in role-fulfilling entrepreneurial activities (Cardon et al., 2009). Thus, an individual who sees him or herself as a founder, inventor, or developer can tap into the positive feelings associated with passion by engaging in these roles in a venture with which they identify. Finally, entrepreneurial effort has been proposed as an antecedent to passion, further suggesting that entrepreneurship is a way to access these positive, passionate feelings (Gielnik, Spitzmuller, Schmitt, Klemann, & Frese, 2015).

Social Capital

In addition to facilitating positive emotions such as passion, entrepreneurs can reap socioemotional benefits from the social connections that entrepreneurial activity engenders. For instance, in a recent sample of new ventures, Beckman (2006) found that 90% were started by teams rather than solo entrepreneurs. Researchers have documented the importance of social capital in facilitating the growth and development of nascent ventures (Baron & Markman, 2000; Davidsson & Honig, 2003). But enhancing one’s social capital, such as through building one’s reputation and social status in the community, is itself a valued outcome of entrepreneurial activity (Miller & Le Breton‐Miller, 2014). Entrepreneurial activities create numerous occasions for building and nurturing social connections via new venture teams (Klotz, Hmieleski, Bradley, & Busenitz, 2014), interactions between entrepreneurs and their investors (Murnieks, Haynie, Wiltbank, & Harting, 2011), and networks of social ties among stakeholders, customers, and members of the supply chain (Batjargal, 2003; Borgatti & Li, 2009). All told, the positive emotions and social capital derived from entrepreneurial activities can offer substantial socioemotional benefits to entrepreneurs beyond economic considerations.

Socioemotional Costs of Entrepreneurship

Although the benefits of entrepreneurship ordinarily receive more attention, entrepreneurship is often, in reality, a difficult career, fraught with costs (Shepherd, 2004). The first point that potential entrepreneurs must appreciate is that the odds of being successful in a given venture are not good (Artinger & Powell, 2016). The fame and notoriety of successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk obscure the reality that succeeding with a new venture is difficult. New ventures are confronted with a variety of barriers to success, including liabilities of newness, resource constraints, and incomplete development of exchange relationships that hinder efforts to attract customers, develop supply chains, and gain efficiencies from economies of scale (Freeman, Carroll, & Hannan, 1983; Stinchcombe & March, 1965). It is perhaps not surprising, then, that the five-year survivorship of new ventures in nearly all industries is below 50% (Shane, 2008).

Although the economic aftermath of venture failure can be costly, the socioemotional consequences of failure can arguably be even more damaging. In the United States, entrepreneur-friendly bankruptcy laws allow most entrepreneurs to escape financial collapse following venture failure, and the opportunity to launch new ventures in the future usually remains (Fan & White, 2003; Lee, Yamakawa, Peng, & Barney, 2011; Peng, Yamakawa, & Lee, 2010). However, struggles with a loss of identity, impaired self-confidence, or stigmatization are socioemotional consequences that may be less apparent but no less damaging to entrepreneurs’ motivation and well-being (Cardon, Stevens, & Potter, 2011).

The socioemotional costs of entrepreneurial failure have received relatively little attention in the classroom (Shepherd, 2004), and this may be, in part, due to the fact that entrepreneurship education sits on the horns of a unique dilemma in business education. On the one hand, encouraging students to engage in entrepreneurship is often considered a worthy goal because entrepreneurial activity can drive economic growth and lift marginalized populations out of poverty (Bjørnskov & Foss, 2016; Jones, Penaluna, & Pittaway, 2014; Morris, Santos, & Neumeyer, 2018). Instructors who believe that facilitating positive perceptions of starting new ventures is one of the primary goals of entrepreneurship education may feel some obligation to extol the virtues of entrepreneurial activity (Athayde, 2009). Alternately, entrepreneurship educators themselves may not always recognize or fully appreciate the socioemotional costs of entrepreneurial activity (Shepherd, 2004), even as they do not appreciate the full extent of entrepreneurship’s socioemotional benefits (Zampetakis, Lerakis, Kafetsios, & Moustakis, 2016). Even if the socioemotional aspects of entrepreneurship are not overlooked, educators may avoid discussing them so as not to detract attention from building students’ entrepreneurship-relevant skills (DeTienne & Chandler, 2004).

On the other hand, a balanced treatment in the entrepreneurship classroom necessitates talking about the potential for and costs of engaging in entrepreneurial activity (Cope, 2011). Instructors may be reticent to give a balanced treatment by discussing the costs of entrepreneurial activity, however, bowing to public or institutional pressure against discouraging the aspirations of would-be entrepreneurs (Piperopoulos & Dimov, 2015). Furthermore, even when instructors discuss the personal costs of entrepreneurial activity, students often lack the experience or desire to grasp entrepreneurship’s socioemotional consequences (Bolinger & Brown, 2015). The confluence of these pressures, combined with the largely positive orientation toward entrepreneurship described in many textbooks (Edelman, Manolova, & Brush, 2008), is likely to contribute to a systematic lack of classroom discussion of the socioemotional costs of entrepreneurship.

But what are these socioemotional costs of entrepreneurship? Over the past two decades, a growing body of research has identified a variety of social and emotional consequences of entrepreneurial activity that may provide helpful insight to educators as they seek to convey to students a more complete appreciation of the personal costs of entrepreneurship. In the next four sections, this article describes four distinct varieties of socioemotional costs that instructors can discuss to facilitate a more balanced, realistic student understanding of the experience of entrepreneurship: “Grief, Identity, and Fluctuations in Emotional Responses,” “Sleep Deprivation,” “Obsessive Passion,” and “Social Costs of Entrepreneurship.

Grief, Identity, and Fluctuations in Emotional Responses

Entrepreneurship scholars have suggested that the aftermath of entrepreneurial failure includes the familiar process of grief, just as might be experienced with a significant personal loss such as the death of a loved one (Archer, 1999; Shepherd, 2009). This is because ventures can be more than just a job; they can also serve as a source of self-esteem, part of an entrepreneur’s identity, and a connection with family members (Bruno, McQuarrie, & Torgrimson, 1992; Meyer & Zucker, 1989). Just as entrepreneurial involvement in areas that individuals care about can reinforce their identity and bring about positive, passionate emotions, failure can disrupt an entrepreneur’s identity and add emotional pain to the already stressful economic costs of venture failure. Individuals’ identity and their venture’s success can become conflated, much as a parent might live vicariously through a child (Cardon et al., 2005). The end of a venture can leave individuals with a profound sense of loss and may well lead to grief-associated emotional and physical symptoms such as disturbed sleep, headaches, and fatigue (Jenkins, Wiklund, & Brundin, 2014; Shepherd, 2003; Stack, 1982). Avoidance of failure can drive entrepreneurs to forge ahead and increase commitment to a doomed venture, possibly making the economic aftermath of failure even worse (Brockner, 1992; McMullen & Kier, 2016). Grief responses can range from worries about letting other people down (Shepherd, Haynie, & Patzelt, 2013) to emotional damage to one’s own self (Shepherd, Wiklund, & Haynie, 2009).

Preparing prospective entrepreneurs to handle the emotional repercussions of failure is an area where entrepreneurship professors can play an important role (Shepherd, 2004). Specifically, instructors have the delicate responsibility of realistically communicating the odds that prospective entrepreneurs while also emphasizing how useful failure can be as a learning tool for the next venture (Coelho & McClure, 2005; Cope, 2011; Sitkin, 1992). Similarly, instructors play a role in preparing students for the negative emotions of failure, because grief that is not sufficiently processed decreases the ability to learn from venture failure (Shepherd, 2003). However, grief may also be passed through more quickly by using multiple approaches to recovery, such as processing the loss while also taking steps to restore elements of what has been lost (Shepherd & Cardon, 2009). Given the relatively long odds of success and high likelihood of a venture going defunct, it is important that entrepreneurs are able to absorb the lessons and learn from their failures (Shepherd, 2003; Shepherd & Cardon, 2009; Shepherd et al., 2013).

Beyond failure, the day-to-day stresses of ongoing ventures may create fluctuations in emotional responses that can take a socioemotional toll on entrepreneurs. Experiential sampling studies, in which participants rate their emotions several times each day via cellular phone reminders, suggest that entrepreneurs experience regular emotional fluctuations that can influence the effort that they dedicate to their venture (Foo, Uy, & Baron, 2009). Additionally, these emotional fluctuations are associated with decreased well-being and stifled progress toward venture goals (Uy, Sun, & Foo, 2017). However, the use of coping strategies was found to increase psychological well-being and mitigate the stresses of the entrepreneurial lifestyle (Uy, Foo, & Song, 2013).

Sleep Deprivation

The day-to-day pressures of, and worries associated with, entrepreneurship can also lead to sleep deprivation that may hinder daily functioning and overall well-being (Gunia, 2018). Sleep is vital for overall health, and cases of extreme deprivation (i.e., total sleep deprivation for a period of several days to weeks) have been shown to lead to damage to various organs and death in rats (Everson, Bergmann, & Rechtschaffen, 1989; Rechtschaffen, Gilliland, Bergmann, & Winter, 1983). While such extreme deprivation is exceedingly unlikely in humans, average sleep time has decreased over the last century in the industrialized world, and health hazards of sleep deprivation have long been enumerated (Nagai, Hoshide, & Kario, 2010; Taskar & Hirshkowitz, 2003). These hazards include compromised metabolic performance, including decreased tolerance to sugar (glucose), poor decision-making, decreased coping skills, impaired learning and memory consolidation, increased blood pressure, inflammation, risk of accidental injury, and increased risk of developing hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes (Mullington, Haack, Toth, Serrador, & Meier-Ewert, 2009; Nagai et al., 2010; Taskar & Hirshkowitz, 2003). Additionally, a meta-analysis encompassing 19 studies for a total sample of 1,932 individuals found that sleep deprivation results in impairments to both motor and cognitive ability, as well as mood (Pilcher & Huffcutt, 1996). Conversely, sleep quality is positively associated with positive moods including enthusiasm and inspiration, and negatively associated with negative moods like tension and anxiety (Williamson, Battisti, Leatherbee, & Gish, 2018).

Entrepreneurs, perhaps driven by ambition or the fear of failure, are particularly susceptible to sleep deprivation, and the cognitive and mood impairments associated with sleep deprivation have negative implications for many tasks important for entrepreneurial success (Gunia, 2018). For example, sleep-deprived leaders are rated lower in terms of their charismatic leadership by followers (Barnes, Guarana, Nauman, & Kong, 2016). Additionally, sleep deprivation harms the quality of leader–follower relationships by a hostility-mediated process, made worse because leaders are often unaware of the effects their sleep deprivation is having on their relationships (Guarana & Barnes, 2017). Additionally, evidence suggests that a lack of sleep may increase risk-taking behavior and decrease risk assessment (Killgore, Balkin, & Wesensten, 2006). Thus, entrepreneurial involvement can lead to sleep deprivation that has negative consequences for entrepreneurs’ health and for performing the functions necessary for venture success, potentially increasing the risk of venture failure.

Obsessive Passion

The experience of passion is typically extolled as a positive emotion toward how an individual feels about his or her life’s work (Cardon, 2008). Academic work on passion has described it as an emotion that is internally oriented and which leads to both motivation and persistence for the inevitable trials that accompany entrepreneurial activity (Syed & Mueller, 2014). Furthermore, passion is thought to reinforce an individual’s identity such that certain activities are experienced as personally meaningful because engaging in them enhance one’s conception of self (Cardon et al., 2009; Vallerand et al., 2003).

However, the close connection between passion and one’s identity may not always be positive, as it can lead to under-regulated, obsessive behaviors that can become psychologically and personally harmful (Ratelle, Vallerand, Mageau, Rousseau, & Provencher, 2004). In particular, Vallerand and colleagues define two types of passion: harmonious and obsessive, based on the way in which an activity about which one is passionate is “internalized in one’s identity” (Vallerand et al., 2003). Harmonious passion occurs when an individual enjoys and willingly engages in an activity without feeling compelled or controlled; that is, the activity is considered important, but does not overpower the individual’s life (Mageau, Vallerand, Charest et al., 2009). By contrast, obsessive passion is often marked by the connection of self-esteem or social acceptance to the activity such that the individual feels compelled to engage in the activity (Ratelle et al., 2004). The result is that the activity claims an inordinate place in the individual’s life, and becomes disruptive to, and causes conflicts with, other activities (Vallerand et al., 2003).

Entrepreneurial ventures have the potential to become obsessive passions because entrepreneurs often identify so strongly with their ventures (Fisher & Kotha, 2015) or with elements of entrepreneurship (Cardon et al., 2009). Entrepreneurs whose ventures have become obsessive passions may not experience the positive affect typically associated with passion, and thus, may not enjoy their ventures as much as they may have expected.

Social Costs of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial activity can also create risks and costs to one’s relational ties or social standing. For instance, entrepreneurs who fail may find that they must defend their competence against stigmatization by family and friends (Shepherd & Haynie, 2011). The time requirements and pressures of entrepreneurial activity can disrupt work–life balance such that friendships and family relationships are impaired for the sake of the venture (Dempsey & Sanders, 2010; Dyer & Handler, 1994). Entrepreneurship can become a form of behavioral addiction, often combined with experiences of obsessive passion, that has potentially catastrophic consequences for relationships with family and friends (Spivack & McKelvie, 2018). Similarly, teams of entrepreneurs may succumb to self-justification and blaming each other when the venture goes badly (Mantere, Aula, Schildt, & Vaara, 2013).

Nowhere may the social costs of entrepreneurial activity be more evident, however, than in family businesses. The destructive consequences of interpersonal conflict in families is so prevalent, in fact, that strategies for resolving and mitigating the adverse effects of relationship conflicts have become an important stream of research (Alderson, 2015; Paskewitz & Beck, 2017). These interpersonal conflicts are likely to only intensify in relation to questions of intergenerational succession (Miller, Steier, & Le Breton-Miller, 2003)., There are many research opportunities still available in this area, however, as there is much that researchers still do not know about how entrepreneurial activity may promote dysfunctional family dynamics such as marital conflict, divorce, or neglect of children. The next section, “Future Research Directions,” describes several additional opportunities for researchers in the scholarship of entrepreneurship education to explore the socioemotional costs and benefits of entrepreneurial activity.

Future Research Directions

Socioemotional Wealth Awareness

Socioemotional wealth is a concept drawn from the family business literature that refers to non-financial, emotionally rich motives for entrepreneurial decisions and persistence (Gomez‐Mejia, Makri, & Kintana, 2010). Sources of socioemotional wealth, which may include the emotional attachments of family members to the family business, the identification of family members with the firm, and binding social ties among family members and with suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders, can be such fundamental motivators that they help to explain decisions that risk substantial financial losses but preserve social ties or the family firm’s community reputation (Berrone, Cruz, & Gomez-Mejia, 2012).

Socioemotional wealth has been particularly helpful in explaining behavior and decision-making in family businesses because the interdependence of family members and the embeddedness of family firms in their communities increase the salience of socioemotional concerns (Le Breton-Miller, Miller, & Lester, 2011). However, socioemotional wealth is arguably also a helpful concept to discuss in entrepreneurship classes because it highlights how economic outcomes do not necessarily have to dictate decision-making or define new venture success. Non-economic motives for entrepreneurship are not confined to family businesses, as the literature on entrepreneurship in tourism industries highlights the prevalence of lifestyle entrepreneurship and the benefits of operating businesses closely aligned with one’s personal values, interests, and passions (Marcketti, Niehm, & Fuloria, 2006).

Some of the socioemotional costs of entrepreneurship may be mitigated if students are exposed to socioemotional wealth, lifestyle entrepreneurship, and other concepts that elevate in students’ minds the value of non-financial motives and measures of entrepreneurial success. For instance, it would be interesting for researchers to conduct longitudinal studies to assess whether prospective entrepreneurs who are made aware of socioemotional wealth before launching new ventures exhibit greater work–life balance (i.e., whether they are more likely to prioritize relationships and lifestyle over considerations of economic outcomes). Awareness of socioemotional wealth could also be combined with resilience training, for example, whereby students are taught concrete techniques for overcoming adversity, uncertainty, and disruptions in the life of a venture (Gonzalez-Lopez, Perez-Lopez, & Rodríguez-Ariza, 2018). Entrepreneurship educators also have a unique opportunity to raise student awareness of the socioemotional benefits of entrepreneurship, which may soften the negative emotions of venture failure to the extent that entrepreneurs perceive the entrepreneurial process and lifestyle, not only the ultimate outcome, as part of the reward of starting a new venture.

Relative Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Value Orientation

Another interesting direction for future research would be to examine differences in students’ relative intrinsic versus extrinsic value orientation (RIEVO; Sheldon & Krieger, 2014). Researchers have found that although individuals are happier when they focus on intrinsic values (e.g., social connections and affiliation), most individuals systematically overestimate the importance of extrinsic goals, such as economic outcomes, as a potential route to greater happiness (Sheldon, Gunz, Nichols, & Ferguson, 2010). Research on extrinsic value orientation dovetails with the concept of socioemotional wealth by highlighting the shortcomings of focusing on economic outcomes at the expense of socioemotional aspects of entrepreneurship.

Students are not unique in overestimating the rewards and underestimating the costs of the economic (i.e., extrinsic; Sheldon et al., 2010) aspects of entrepreneurship, which may in turn impair their satisfaction and happiness with a new venture. Another opportunity for longitudinal research, then, would be to explore individual differences in students’ RIEVO as a predictor of their subjective evaluations of their venture outcomes. For instance, it may be that students who are higher in RIEVO may be particularly susceptible to focusing on the economic benefits and overlooking the socioemotional benefits of entrepreneurship.

“Dark” Sources of Socioemotional Aspects of Entrepreneurship

There is also a need for research that explores the sometimes shadowy “dark” sources of the socioemotional aspects of entrepreneurship (Vallerand et al., 2003). For instance, previous sections of this article have described how entrepreneurial passion that becomes obsessive can become dysfunctional, with negative consequences for entrepreneurs’ well-being (Mageau et al., 2009). However, entrepreneurial passion can also arise from envy, jealousy, competitive rivalry, or even the desire to “pay back” a former employer for perceived wrongs. For example, the celebrated, decades-long rivalry between sports apparel retailers Adidas and Puma began when the older Dassler brother started Puma to compete against the family company as revenge for perceived slights by his younger brother (Akhtar, 2013).

Similarly, even socioemotional wealth can have a dark side (Kellermanns, Eddleston, & Zellweger, 2012). For instance, strong social and emotional ties to family can foster nepotism or entrenchment of family executives (Schulze, Lubatkin, & Dino, 2003). Similarly, socioemotional ties can promote substantial deference that manifests in excessive risk-aversion or strategic stagnation (Bertrand & Schoar, 2006). Strong social and emotional ties to family may even delay venture exit or otherwise extend entrepreneurs’ commitment to a poorly performing venture (DeTienne & Chirico, 2013). Even deep emotional concern for entrepreneurs’ stakeholders and community can lead to extreme altruism that can put the firm at risk of financial collapse (Schepers, Voordeckers, Steijvers, & Laveren, 2014). Further research on these and other potential dark sides of the socioemotional aspects of entrepreneurship can provide helpful guidance to entrepreneurship instructors in identifying potential traps that prospective student entrepreneurs, especially those who plan to participate one day in family businesses, might encounter.

Composition of New Venture Teams

The diversity of the characteristics of members of new venture teams has received substantial attention (Jin, Madison, Kraiczy, Kellermanns, Crook, & Xi, 2017). For instance, researchers have investigated differences in new venture team members’ education levels, functional backgrounds, and prior business experience (Foo, Sin, & Yiong, 2006). Researchers have called for additional work to more directly explore differences in the psychological characteristics (e.g., personality, general mental ability) of new venture team members that may influence decision-making and firm performance (Klotz et al., 2014).

Additionally, researchers should examine diversity in new venture team members’ socioemotional perceptions. For instance, future work could build on the literature on new venture team members’ social capital (e.g., Baron & Tang, 2009) by exploring how differences in the social connections and network ties that individuals bring to the team interact to facilitate or hinder venture outcomes. Researchers might also investigate a team’s emotional variance (Tiedens, Sutton, & Fong, 2004) by examining heterogeneity in the emotional experiences and responses of new venture team members. Finally, examinations of new-venture team member diversity should not only focus on economic venture outcomes, but also on socioemotional outcomes such as perceptions of conflict and individual satisfaction and well-being (Jehn, Rispens, & Thatcher, 2010). For instance, a new-venture team may be set up for decision conflict if some members place more value on economic outcomes whereas others are seeking lifestyle or socioemotional objectives. Additional research on new-venture team member diversity should be especially helpful for entrepreneurship students because the overwhelming majority of nascent ventures are now started by teams rather than individuals (Klotz et al., 2014).

Process View of Entrepreneuring

Another potentially helpful approach for helping students to understand the social and emotional aspects of entrepreneurship is a process view of entrepreneurship, or “entrepreneuring” (Burgelman, 1983; Steyaert, 2007; Whitehead, 1929/1978). Whitehead’s process–relational ontology of teaching and learning emphasizes emotional engagement (i.e., what he describes as “romance”) as a critical component of a cyclical, stage-based model of how learning occurs (Allan, 2012). Thus, helping students to appreciate the socioemotional aspects of entrepreneurship may also facilitate their ability to comprehend entrepreneurship as an ongoing process, rather than a discrete, completed action (Hosinski, 1993). It would also be interesting to explore whether the past experiences of instructors (i.e., whether they are former entrepreneurs) facilitate their ability to communicate the socioemotional costs and benefits of entrepreneurship.

A Longitudinal View of Socioemotional Aspects of Entrepreneurship

Investigations of the evolution of the socioemotional issues raised in this article could constitute fertile ground for future investigations. The current work discusses the socioemotional factors that are relevant in early start-ups, but what about older firms? How do the socioemotional costs and benefits evolve as ventures age? What about in older firms experiencing decline? The answer to these and related questions would likely take a variety of paths, depending on key characteristics of the initial venture, including motivation for starting the venture, growth ambition, passion, etc. These answers could also shed light on the importance of the socioemotional aspects of entrepreneurship over the life of the venture.

Suggestions for Practice

This article has explored the growing body of knowledge in which entrepreneurship researchers have begun to unpack the hidden side of entrepreneurship: the socioemotional benefits and costs of entrepreneurial activity that may not ordinarily receive as much attention as economic aspects in the entrepreneurship classroom. However, researchers have lamented how the socioemotional side of entrepreneurship has yet to make the leap from academic journals to educational practice (Shepherd, 2004). This section describes several ideas for how entrepreneurship educators can convey the socioemotional costs and benefits of entrepreneurial activity to their students and stakeholders.

Finding the Balance

Classic introductory entrepreneurship curricula often include discussions of opportunity appraisal, business plan construction, raising capital, elevator pitches, and other activities that will be necessary to undertake either prior to launching a venture or in the venture’s nascence. While these are critical points of discussion, instructors must also make sure to present a balanced view of entrepreneurship that goes beyond citing statistics about daunting venture failure rates. The goal of these conversations should not be to give prospective entrepreneurs “death anxiety” concerning the possibility of entrepreneurial failure, thus decreasing their propensity for entrepreneurial engagement (Shepherd, 2004). Instead, educators should focus presenting material that will assist prospective entrepreneurs in acquiring the skills necessary for weathering and dealing with the inevitable storms of the entrepreneurial voyage. Shepherd’s (2004) work on venture cessation and grief is a wonderful template in this regard, offering ideas for discussion and role playing that allow students to consider how grief can be handled productively and in a way that allows the entrepreneur to learn from failure.

Broadening the Lens for Investigating Entrepreneurial Activity

Given the value of entrepreneurial activity, even at very low income levels, in alleviating poverty and lifting particularly vulnerable groups such as the unemployed (Caliendo & Kritikos, 2010), it is easy to focus on traditional forms of entrepreneurship and conventional measures of entrepreneurship outcomes (e.g., failure rates). However, there are many forms of entrepreneurial activity that can affect positive change, including hybrid ventures, social or institutional entrepreneurship, and even innovative, entrepreneurial behaviors within organizations (Colbourne, 2017; Maguire, Hardy, & Lawrence, 2004; Seelos & Mair, 2005). Employers value the “entrepreneurial spirit” (Smith, 2013), and with notable firms like Proctor and Gamble and Adobe enacting corporate innovation and sharing initiatives, entrepreneurship skills may become increasingly coveted within large organizations in the future (Fisher, 2015; Huston & Sakkab, 2006). Enabling students to understand the benefits that these less traditional forms of entrepreneurship create, however, requires discussing entrepreneurial success beyond venture growth, profitability, or persistence.

In discussing the outcomes of entrepreneurial activity in the classroom, instructors can shape and broaden their students’ conceptualizations of success. For instance, instructors can provide opportunities for students to self-reflect on their motives for engaging in entrepreneurial activity (Berdrow & Evers, 2011; Kirkwood, Dwyer, & Gray, 2014). Instructors can also introduce students to non-financial outcomes of entrepreneurial activity such as increased entrepreneurial self-efficacy (Shinnar, Hsu, & Powell, 2014), personal creativity (Gundry, Ofstein, & Kickul, 2014), the subjective experience of thriving (Carmeli & Spreitzer, 2009), and the development of social and community ties through social entrepreneurship (Litzky, Godshalk, & Walton-Bongers, 2010; McCrea, 2010). Importantly, entrepreneurship educators have the unique opportunity to provide space for students to reflect on the entrepreneurial identities that they wish to construct (Donnellon, Ollila, & Middleton, 2014) and to help students to establish healthy boundaries by decoupling the economic success of their venture from their personal identities.

Seeking Opportunities to Convert Research to Practice

Entrepreneurship educators are well-positioned to enrich their classes by drawing from the growing literature describing socioemotional aspects of entrepreneurial activity. Educators themselves must become entrepreneurial, however, to find ways to translate insights from entrepreneurship research into pedagogical tools and activities that convey the socioemotional benefits and costs of entrepreneurship to their students (Shepherd, 2004). Management education journals are increasingly recognizing the need for translating research findings into actionable knowledge for students. For instance, Management Teaching Review offers a “Research-to-Practice Insights” section for papers that describes teaching innovations designed to capitalize on research findings.

Experiential education is a powerful tool that can allow students to experience the socioemotional benefits and consequences of entrepreneurship first hand. For instance, Babson College, a private business school in Massachusetts, USA, requires each first-year student to take a course called Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship in which they “create, develop, launch, and manage a real venture” (Babson College, 2019). While beneficial, such courses are also very resource-intensive, and therefore not practical for most schools. In their absence, educators can make changes throughout their curricula to incorporate socioemotional aspects of entrepreneurship. For instance, instructors might invite guest speakers who have not been wildly successful in conventional economic terms, but who have found personal fulfillment from entrepreneurship as a lifestyle. Instructors might also seek out case studies that feature role models who have dealt with adverse personal consequences (e.g., chronic stress reactions or sleep disruptions) from the pressures of entrepreneurship or incorporate role plays that build student skills in coping with interpersonal conflict among new venture team members. And importantly, entrepreneurship instructors should include assignments that provide students with opportunities to reflect on the potential socioemotional costs of entrepreneurship that they may encounter and what strategies they might use to cope with them (Shepherd, 2004).

Reconsidering the Scope of Entrepreneurship Education

Our final suggestion for practice involves rethinking the scope of the goals of entrepreneurship education. Current models of entrepreneurship education tend to focus on the front end of the entrepreneurial process by raising student awareness of entrepreneurship as a career option and teaching the knowledge and skills that prospective entrepreneurs need to get their ventures up and running (Kirby, 2007). Institutions have developed a variety of innovative approaches to raise student awareness and teach entrepreneurial experiences beyond the classroom, including “startup weekends,” live-and-learn multidisciplinary venture incubators, business accelerators, and entrepreneurship labs, among others (Bolinger & Brown, 2015). However, some students may not have to deal with many of the socioemotional costs of entrepreneurship until later in the entrepreneurship process, and long after their degree is completed. For instance, new ventures may continue for years before entrepreneurs experience the feelings of grief and loss of identity associated with venture failure (Shepherd, 2004). Entrepreneurs may even enjoy increased social ties in the early stages of a venture only to discover that the increased time and energy demands of growing a business gradually strain their relationships with family and friends. Thus, entrepreneurship programs may do well to consider how they can provide ongoing guidance and support to entrepreneurs, both current and past students, within the constraints of their resources and without hindering the education of new prospective entrepreneurs.

There may be innovative ways to provide support to past students and local entrepreneurs struggling with socioemotional costs within the confines of existing program structures. For instance, entrepreneurship programs may consider offering short, topical professional development courses for former students that include socioemotional-relevant topics (e.g., managing grief, improving work–life balance, managing interpersonal relationships). Entrepreneurship programs may also serve as hubs where former students can network with each other for support and advice for dealing with the socioemotional (as well as economic) aspects of entrepreneurship. Offering classes, targeted networking opportunities, and other forms of support to former students and entrepreneurs struggling with downstream socioemotional consequences may have the added benefit of helping to differentiate some entrepreneurship programs from their competitors.


Entrepreneurship education is growing in popularity and, with increasing demand for entrepreneurial skills from employers and rising interest in entrepreneurship as a career option among students, the future appears bright. With that being said, this article argues that a balanced, realistic education for prospective entrepreneurs requires making students aware of the less visible, socioemotional aspects of entrepreneurial activity. Specifically, students should understand the substantial socioemotional costs of entrepreneurial activity, even when the venture is an economic success. Conversely, students should also be aware of the socioemotional benefits of entrepreneurship so that they can appreciate the rewards of an entrepreneurial lifestyle even when the economic outcomes of a venture fail to meet their expectations. Only then will entrepreneurship fulfill its promise as a facilitator of economic growth, community development, and individual well-being.


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