Defining success in subsistence businesses
Subsistence entrepreneurs play an important role in developing economies by forming small businesses that represent a way of life, providing employment at the base of the pyramid and contributing to the alleviation of poverty. The definition of success for subsistence businesses has not yet been well established in SMEs literature, in which success is related to financial measures. However, not all businesses can be measured with the same indicators of success. Financially-oriented measures of success may not always be appropriate for assessing socially embedded businesses. This paper begins to address this gap by assessing how subsistence entrepreneurs themselves define and achieve business success. For this exploratory research, in-depth interviews were conducted with eighty-five subsistence entrepreneurs. Discriminant function analysis typified five subsistence business groups: family-limited businesses, motivationally limited businesses, past boom businesses, followers, and leaders. Several factors separate the business groups, including the education and complacency of the entrepreneur, sales revenue, long-term business plans, acceptance of technology, growth intentions and commercialization into international markets. In contrast, socio-cultural attributions such as family value, goals, and motivation to get into and stay in business represented commonalities between subsistence businesses in terms of their definitions of success.
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