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The Pros and Cons of Starting a Business vs. Innovating Within a Company This article compares entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship and highlights pros/cons and success stories.

By Candice Georgiadis Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Are you weary of the hamster wheel that is your 9-to-5? Are you torn between the siren call of unbridled freedom and the soothing lullaby of steady paychecks?

If you're currently stuck in a career crossroads, you might be pondering the eternal question: Should I rock the boat and start my own business, or play it safe and stick with the status quo? Well, fear not my indecisive friend, let's dive into the murky waters of entrepreneurship versus intrapreneurship and see what lurks beneath the surface.

Related: Are You an Entrepreneur or an Intrapreneur? (Infographic)

Starting a business: The entrepreneur's journey

Ah, the life of an entrepreneur. Starting a business is like taking a trip to the amusement park — it's a rollercoaster ride full of twists and turns. Sure, you get to choose your own adventure and chase your dreams, but be prepared to hold on tight and scream your lungs out.

Building a successful business requires blood, sweat and tears — and sometimes a little bit of vomit. But if you're brave enough to take on the challenge, you could be the next big thing in the business world.

Entrepreneurs have the luxury of calling the shots and pursuing their wildest dreams. They can bring their craziest ideas to life and make it big. And let's not forget the sweet smell of success (and money) that comes with it.

But let's be real, the journey to the top is like navigating a minefield blindfolded. According to a study by the Small Business Administration, there's a high chance of stepping on a bomb and having your business blown to smithereens. So, get ready to take that leap of faith and hope for the best.

Innovating within a company: The intrapreneur's journey

Ah, the intrapreneur. The perfect solution for those who want to dip their toes into entrepreneurship without fully committing to the risk and uncertainty of starting their own business.

Intrapreneurs get to innovate and be creative within the confines of a pre-existing corporate structure. They can enjoy the stability of a steady paycheck, job security and even health benefits if they're lucky.

But, let's be real, being an intrapreneur isn't all sunshine and rainbows either. You have to deal with corporate bureaucracy, office politics and probably attend an endless stream of meetings. And forget about being your own boss, because your ideas still have to go through a chain of command. And while you may get a pat on the back for a job well done, don't expect a giant bonus or a corner office with a view.

So, which one is better? There's no right answer, as both have their pros and cons. But let's take a look at some examples.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting Your Entrepreneurial Journey

Success stories

Here are some success stories of both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs that demonstrate their impact on the business world:

  • Elon Musk: Check out this guy Elon Musk, a real up-and-comer in the business world. He's the mastermind behind companies like PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company. He's a real trailblazer in the automotive industry, having shaken things up with electric cars and made space exploration a reality with reusable rockets. You could say he's kind of a big deal.
  • Sarah Leary and Nirav Tolia: The founders of Nextdoor, a private social network for neighborhoods, have successfully connected people within communities. Their platform has become the virtual equivalent of a bustling town square, where local businesses can hawk their wares to unsuspecting passersby and neighbors can trade their homemade goods and services with one another. With over 10 million registered users, it's no wonder that the platform has more users than the population of some small countries. It's like a virtual party where everyone and their pets are invited.
  • Sara Blakely: The founder of Spanx started her business from her apartment with only $5,000 in savings. She faced many rejections before her product was finally picked up by a major department store. Well, look at her now! Her company is worth a whopping billion dollars, and she's rolling in cash like Scrooge McDuck in his money bin. She's living the American dream and making us all feel like underachievers.
  • Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler: The founders of Brandless, an ecommerce company that sells high-quality products without a brand name, have disrupted the consumer goods industry. They have built a successful business by eliminating the middleman and offering affordable, sustainable products.

On the other hand, intrapreneurs have also made significant contributions to the success of many companies. Here are some examples:

  • Sheryl Sandberg: As the second-in-command at Facebook, Sandberg has been the company's resident taskmaster, keeping things running smoothly and monetizing the heck out of their user base through advertising.
  • Jeff Wilke: Wilke, the all-knowing master of Amazon's consumer business(retired now), had been the chosen one responsible for expanding the company's reach to every corner of the world. He led his minions to increase the product offerings to satisfy every customer's whims and fancies, and he even managed to ensure their undying loyalty through exceptional customer service.
  • Evan Spiegel: As the CEO of Snapchat, Spiegel has created a platform that has become popular among younger generations. His innovative ideas have helped the company grow and adapt to changing trends in social media.
  • Ginni Rometty: Rometty, the former CEO of IBM, magically transformed the company by waving her wand and making hardware disappear into thin air. She also conjured up the company's focus on software and services and introduced new spells like artificial intelligence and blockchain to keep IBM relevant in the modern world.

So, what can we learn from these examples? Well, first of all, there's no magical formula for success, whether you're starting your own business or trying to innovate within a company. But hey, who knows? You might just stumble upon the next big thing and become the talk of the town. All you need is a brilliant idea, a solid plan and a bit of stubbornness to see it through. Easy peasy, right?

Related: When You Should Be an Intrapreneur Instead of an Entrepreneur

My advice

As someone who has seen both sides of the coin, my advice to both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs is to always stay curious, take reckless risks and rely heavily on the advice of others. Remember, you can't do it all on your own, so find some yes-men and build your network.

And if you ever feel like you're not good enough, just know that even successful leaders like Richard Branson and Sheryl Sandberg have struggled with imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. So, take comfort in the fact that it's a common experience, and don't let it hold you back from reaching your full potential.

Oh, don't worry about the obstacles that may come your way! As an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur, you'll face plenty of difficulties, but just ignore them and keep pushing towards your goals. After all, who needs a plan B when you have a plan A and sheer determination?

So, what if the odds are against you? Just keep hustling, and success will surely follow! Remember, as the great inventor Thomas Edison once said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." So, keep pushing forward, keep learning, and keep adapting.

Who knows, maybe one day you'll end up like Elon Musk, starting your own car company and launching rockets into space, or like an intrapreneur at Google, inventing the next big thing in tech. Or maybe you'll just end up creating the world's most innovative paperclip. Hey, someone's gotta do it, right?

Candice Georgiadis

CEO of Digital Agency, Inc

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.

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