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Entrepreneurs vs. Intrapreneurs

In the ever-evolving and intricate landscape of modern business, two distinct yet equally crucial roles take centre stage - female entrepreneurs and corporate intrapreneurs.

Both share an unwavering dedication to innovation, an unquenchable thirst for success and a fearless approach to risk. However, beneath these common traits lie fundamental differences that hold significant implications, not just for business leaders seeking their ideal niche but also for the company considering the profiles of the staff they employ.

The distinctions between these roles transcend mere semantics. They can have substantial financial repercussions, impacting everything from training expenses to remuneration structures and even overall performance. Therefore, it's essential to navigate this dichotomy with precision.

In this comprehensive exploration, we embark on a journey to unveil the ten key differentiators that set these two business personas apart. Along the way, we'll draw on illustrative marketing examples featuring notable female entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to bring these distinctions to life, providing clarity and context to each facet of this intriguing comparison.

1. The Spirit of Independence

Female entrepreneurs are celebrated for their unwavering independence, as they forge their own paths and lead their ventures to success. Take Sara Blakely, the fearless founder of Spanx, for example. She fearlessly disrupted the shapewear industry with her innovative products, empowering women worldwide to look and feel their best.

In the same vein of entrepreneurship, Strive Masiyiwa, the visionary behind Econet Wireless, a multinational telecommunications giant based in Zimbabwe, demonstrates this trait. However, it doesn't stop with him; his wife, Tsitsi Masiyiwa, is a formidable entrepreneur in her own right. Tsitsi co-founded and leads various philanthropic and business ventures, including the Higherlife Foundation. This foundation is a beacon of hope, focusing on improving education and healthcare, and championing positive change across communities.

On the other side of the spectrum, corporate intrapreneurs play pivotal roles within established companies, igniting innovation from within. Consider the talented intrapreneurs at Patagonia, who are at the forefront of the brand's sustainability initiatives. Their collaborative efforts continually push the boundaries of eco-conscious practices, reshaping the company's ethos and impact on the environment.

Within the corporate landscape, Mary Spio, a Ghanaian-American entrepreneur, has made significant waves. Her journey includes stints at major media and technology companies, where she excelled as an intrapreneur. At companies like Microsoft and Boeing, Mary's innovative contributions have left an indelible mark. Her work in developing groundbreaking virtual reality and satellite technologies showcases the intrapreneurial spirit in action. Through her vision and determination, she's driven technological advancements and reshaped industries, all while working from within these corporate giants.

The distinction between female entrepreneurs and corporate intrapreneurs highlights the multifaceted nature of innovation. While female entrepreneurs chart their courses and create new horizons, corporate intrapreneurs wield their collective strength to drive change from within established companies. Both paths lead to groundbreaking advancements, reshaping industries and inspiring others to push the boundaries of what's possible. These diverse approaches to innovation enrich the business landscape, propelling us toward a more innovative and inclusive future.

2. Resourcefulness and Independence

Resourcefulness and independence are the cornerstones of female entrepreneurship, as these visionary individuals gather their assets and embark on their journeys. They often start with nothing more than a dream and limited resources, relying on their creativity to build from the ground up. A remarkable example of this tenacity is found in the story of

Anita Roddick, who founded The Body Shop. Starting from her kitchen table, she transformed her vision for eco-friendly and cruelty-free beauty products into a global powerhouse. With sheer determination, she navigated the challenges of entrepreneurship, demonstrating that success can be achieved through unwavering commitment to a purpose-driven mission.

Leela Bordia, another visionary entrepreneur, hails from the culturally rich region of Rajasthan, India. Her entrepreneurial journey began with the establishment of Neerja International. Neerja International was founded upon Leela Bordia's profound passion for preserving and promoting India's rich heritage of traditional art and craftsmanship. Despite facing the challenges of limited resources and the uncharted territory of promoting traditional Indian crafts globally, Leela Bordia's entrepreneurial resilience shone through.

Her unwavering commitment to empowering local artisans, particularly women, led to the creation of a platform that showcased the diverse array of India's artistic traditions. Over the years, Neerja International expanded its reach worldwide, offering a wide range of traditional Indian crafts, from exquisite textiles and jewellery to handcrafted home décor items. Leela Bordia's legacy is not only one of entrepreneurial success but also a testament to the socio-economic impact of preserving and promoting cultural heritage through entrepreneurship, empowering artisans, and enriching communities.

Corporate intrapreneurs follow a distinct path, leveraging the vast resources already available within their company. Proctor & Gamble intrapreneurs, for instance, harness the company's extensive research capabilities to develop innovative beauty solutions that impact lives globally.

However, one individual who has notably excelled in the corporate landscape is Sundari Narayanan. Sundari stands as a shining example of a successful intrapreneur within the corporate landscape of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Her prowess lies in effectively harnessing TCS's vast resources and expertise to spearhead groundbreaking initiatives in the realms of digital transformation and artificial intelligence (AI). As an intrapreneur, her role demands a unique blend of innovation, adaptability, and collaboration. She thrives in an environment where she can leverage the substantial backing of TCS while simultaneously driving change and innovation within the company.

Sundari's intrapreneurial skills are not only a testament to her professional acumen but also a source of inspiration for others navigating the corporate world. Her ability to navigate the intricate web of a large corporation like TCS and channel its resources toward pioneering ventures in digital transformation and AI holds invaluable lessons for aspiring intrapreneurs. She demonstrates the importance of a clear vision, effective communication, and an unwavering commitment to their company's goals. Her success underscores the potential within established corporations to foster innovation and drive change when individuals with an intrapreneurial spirit take the lead.

In summary, Sundari Narayanan's journey serves as a powerful reminder that intrapreneurship is a potent force for innovation, even within the confines of a corporate behemoth. Whether through entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship, these individuals exemplify the transformative power of innovation, dedication, and a relentless pursuit of a vision. Their stories inspire future generations to boldly embrace their entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial aspirations, knowing that resourcefulness, creativity, and resilience can lead to remarkable achievements.

3. Shouldering Financial Risks

Female entrepreneurs embark on their entrepreneurial journeys with the weight of financial risk on their shoulders, investing their own capital and resources into their business ventures. A prominent illustration of this commitment is found in the story of Cheraé Robinson, the visionary founder of Tastemakers Africa. Her entrepreneurial voyage revolves around Tastemakers Africa, a travel platform dedicated to providing travellers with authentic cultural experiences across the African continent.

Source: Black Enterprise

Cheraé's entrepreneurial journey is a testament to her investment of personal savings and resources to bring her innovative vision to life. Her unwavering dedication to promoting genuine cultural exploration through her business not only showcases her individual commitment but also demonstrates the profound impact it can have in driving socially conscious and globally connected ventures.

While Cheraé is based in the USA, her entrepreneurial endeavours ripple across the globe, particularly in the realm of promoting tourism and facilitating authentic cultural experiences in Africa.

In contrast, corporate intrapreneurs follow a different path, typically securing funds and resources from their company’s budget to launch their innovative initiatives. An exemplar of this approach is seen in the role of Debby Edelstein, who operates as an intrapreneur within Standard Bank.

Within the supportive framework of Standard Bank, Debby Edelstein employs the institution's extensive resources to champion gender equality and entrepreneurship through the Lionesses of Africa initiative. Her intrapreneurial journey is characterised by leveraging the financial backing and infrastructure of the bank, thereby reducing personal financial risk while driving forward impactful initiatives. Debby's story serves as a compelling example of how intrapreneurs can effect meaningful change and innovation within the corporate landscape, amplifying their influence by tapping into the resources and reach of their company.

The worlds of female entrepreneurship and corporate intrapreneurship represent distinct avenues for driving innovation and change. While female entrepreneurs bear the financial risks of their ventures, often investing personal resources, corporate intrapreneurs navigate their journeys within the protective cocoon of their company, leveraging corporate funds and infrastructure. Both paths, exemplified by individuals like Cheraé Robinson and Debby Edelstein, underscore the transformative potential of dedicated individuals who are committed to making a positive impact, whether at the helm of their own businesses or as catalysts for change within established corporations.

4. Risk-Takers: Pioneering the Path to Innovation

Female entrepreneurs fearlessly shoulder the weight of business risks, knowing that personal and financial consequences may follow if their ventures falter.

An exemplary risk-taker in the entrepreneurial realm is Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal. She started her fashion empire by scouring thrift stores for unique finds and, through her sheer determination, transformed it into a global brand. Her journey serves as a testament to the resilience and daring spirit of female entrepreneurs who embrace risk as an integral part of their entrepreneurial odyssey.

Another remarkable example of risk-taking is Sara Menker, the founder of Group Intelligence, a technology company in the agricultural sector based in Ethiopia. Sara's entrepreneurial odyssey was marked by her unwavering willingness to take substantial personal and financial risks to advance her visionary endeavours. Her commitment to driving change in the agricultural industry exemplifies the audacity and conviction of female entrepreneurs who blaze trails and navigate uncharted territory.

On the other hand, corporate intrapreneurs like Teresa Clarke demonstrate an exceptional ability to navigate within the structured environment of their companies while taking calculated risks that can significantly impact both their careers and the company's success. Teresa Clarke, hailing from Jamaica, has soared as a high-achieving intrapreneur within the prestigious financial institution, Goldman Sachs.

In her role, Teresa Clarke played a pivotal part in shaping the firm's African investment strategies, a venture fraught with unique challenges and uncertainties associated with entering emerging markets. Her adeptness at mitigating risks, combined with her strategic vision, enabled Goldman Sachs to explore and capitalise on valuable opportunities in Africa.

However, it's worth noting that Teresa's journey as an intrapreneur was not without its share of uncertainties. Leading sustainability projects in an eco-conscious corporation, for instance, involved a level of risk tied not only to her career but also to the alignment of these initiatives with the company's overarching goals.

Her success as an intrapreneur underscores the vital role of individuals like her in guiding companies through uncharted territory, taking risks that can yield substantial rewards when managed adeptly. It's a testament to the significant impact intrapreneurs can have within large corporations, driving innovation and charting new paths to success.


5. Operational Mastery


Female entrepreneurs embark on their journeys with a strong sense of independence, often as solitary trailblazers. They take on a multitude of responsibilities, juggling various aspects of their businesses while managing home and family responsibilities, all while witnessing the growth of their enterprises.

Isabel dos Santos, a prominent entrepreneur based in Angola, has made significant strides in the fields of telecommunications and investments throughout the African continent. Her unwavering commitment to her ventures has earned her recognition for her hands-on approach to managing a diverse portfolio of businesses.

Hailing from Angola, a nation with its own unique economic landscape, Isabel dos Santos has displayed remarkable acumen in navigating the complexities of various African markets.

Isabel's entrepreneurial journey extends beyond mere investments, as she actively involves herself in the strategic decision-making processes of her enterprises. Whether shaping the telecommunications industry with innovative solutions or identifying promising investment opportunities, she is renowned for her proactive involvement and leadership. Her hands-on approach reflects not only her dedication to her business endeavours but also her commitment to driving growth and positive change across the African business landscape.

On the other side of the spectrum, corporate intrapreneurs like Lisa Opoku, who hails from Ghana, thrive within the structured hierarchies of established companies while bringing their specialised expertise to the forefront. Lisa's remarkable journey as an intrapreneur at a renowned institution like Goldman Sachs serves as a prime example of the valuable role these individuals play within large corporations.

Lisa's daily responsibilities involve navigating the intricate world of complex financial operations. Her specialised skills and deep understanding of the financial landscape enable her to optimise Goldman Sachs' global financial strategies. This requires not only profound knowledge of her field but also the ability to adapt to the ever-evolving financial landscape, making calculated decisions that impact the firm's bottom line.

Operating within the confines of an established hierarchy, Lisa showcases the power of intrapreneurship in fine-tuning the operations of a large corporation.

Her contributions are not limited to her specific role but have a ripple effect throughout the company, ensuring that Goldman Sachs remains at the forefront of financial excellence. Intrapreneurs like Lisa Opoku play a pivotal part in maintaining a company's competitive edge while capitalising on their expertise to drive innovation within their defined spheres of influence.

6. Strategic Orientation

Female entrepreneurs often emerge as pioneers, boldly forging their unique paths and crafting not only thriving businesses but also formidable personal brands. A stellar example of this entrepreneurial spirit is Folorunso Alakija, a Nigerian billionaire with a remarkable journey spanning diverse industries, from fashion to oil. Her orientation is firmly fixed on the art of building successful businesses that leave an indelible mark on the world.

Folorunso Alakija's journey is a testament to the resilience and determination that characterise female entrepreneurs. Her ventures in the realms of fashion and oil reveal her extraordinary ability to spot opportunities, take calculated risks, and transform them into prosperous enterprises. With a discerning eye for innovation and an unwavering commitment to excellence, Alakija's approach transcends traditional boundaries, showcasing the transformative power of female entrepreneurship on a global scale.

Her success story not only inspires but also underscores the pivotal role that female entrepreneurs play in driving economic growth and shaping industries across the globe.

In sharp contrast, corporate intrapreneurs are recognised for their ability to nurture innovation within the established structures and cultures of their company’s. An exemplary figure in this realm is Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo. Her tenure at the helm of the beverage giant was marked by a resolute commitment to expanding and diversifying the company's product portfolio.

Indra's role as a corporate intrapreneur encompassed far-reaching responsibilities, including the identification of new growth opportunities, product development, and the integration of sustainability initiatives. Her leadership underscores the importance of fostering an intrapreneurial spirit within corporations, as it allows for the adaptation and evolution of businesses in response to changing consumer preferences and market dynamics.

Her legacy serves as a compelling case study for the positive impact of intrapreneurship on corporate growth and the continual pursuit of excellence in the business world.

7. Experience: Navigating the Unknown

Female entrepreneurs are celebrated for their fearless spirit, often pioneering in industries where prior experience may be limited. However, their unwavering vision and passion drive their business operations forward, proving that experience is not the sole determinant of success. A compelling example of such entrepreneurial determination is Isis Nyong'o, a trailblazing entrepreneur making her indelible mark in Africa's tech industry. Her journey serves as a testament to the power of a strong vision, coupled with unwavering determination.

Isis Nyong'o's venture into the tech world was guided by her prior experience in various tech and media companies. This invaluable experience equipped her with insights into the intricacies of the industry and the tools necessary to navigate its challenges. It's a prime example of how female entrepreneurs leverage their diverse backgrounds and knowledge to break new ground, highlighting that it's not only experience but also determination and adaptability that fuel their entrepreneurial success.

On the flip side, corporate intrapreneurs accumulate a wealth of industry insight through years of dedicated work within their respective companies. Consider the journey of Vimla Sriram, an esteemed intrapreneur at Tata Steel. Her extensive experience in the steel industry positions her as a driving force behind innovative projects within the organisation.

Vimla Sriram's tenure within Tata Steel reflects the profound impact of accumulated industry knowledge and expertise. Her ability to identify opportunities for innovation and improvement is a direct result of her years of dedicated service in the steel sector.

This underscores the significance of intrapreneurs as internal catalysts for growth and transformation, drawing from their deep well of industry-specific insights to bring about positive change within their company. In both entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial realms, experience emerges as an invaluable asset that contributes to the success and longevity of their respective pursuits.

8. Focus: Nurturing Success

Female entrepreneurs are renowned for their unwavering dedication to the success of their individual ventures. They prioritise the growth of their businesses, often building multimedia empires centred around their personal brand and interests. A prime illustration of this entrepreneurial focus is Oprah Winfrey, whose journey led to the creation of a multimedia empire that spans television, publishing, and more.

Oprah's story is emblematic of female entrepreneurs who channel their passion and energy into shaping businesses that reflect their unique vision and values. Her brand, synonymous with empowerment and inspiration, showcases the profound impact that an individual entrepreneur can have on industries and audiences worldwide.

Conversely, corporate intrapreneurs concentrate their efforts on enhancing the success of their company. A compelling example is Funke Opeke, an intrapreneur at MainOne, a telecommunications company based in Nigeria.

Her primary focus revolves around expanding and enhancing the company's network infrastructure to ensure its sustained growth and competitiveness.

Funke Opeke's role as an intrapreneur exemplifies the dedication of individuals who, while working within established corporations, drive change and innovation to elevate their company to new heights. Her commitment to expanding MainOne's network infrastructure aligns with the broader goals of the company and serves as a testament to the transformative potential of intrapreneurship within the corporate landscape.

These diverse examples underscore the entrepreneurial spirit and unwavering focus of Black female business leaders from regions such as Africa, India, the West Indies, and Venezuela. Their remarkable achievements demonstrate the immense potential for innovation and success in various industries and entrepreneurial endeavours, reaffirming the vital role they play in shaping the global business landscape.

9. Motivated Visions

Female Entrepreneurs are the embodiment of unshakable motivation, driven by a profound passion for their products or services and an unwavering desire to lead their companies to unprecedented heights of success. To them, their ventures are not just businesses; they are platforms to bring their unique visions to life and make a lasting impact on their industries and the world at large.

Consider the remarkable journey of Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, the visionary Ethiopian entrepreneur who founded the renowned brand soleRebels, celebrated for its sustainable footwear.

Bethlehem's motivation finds its roots in her deep-seated passion for traditional Ethiopian craftsmanship and a resolute commitment to crafting eco-friendly, artisanal products that resonate with global consumers. Her entrepreneurial spirit is a testament to how personal values and dedication can drive innovation and excellence in the world of business.

On the other hand, corporate intrapreneurs operating within eco-conscious industries often find their motivation in incentives, recognition, and the prospect of contributing to a greener and more sustainable future within their company.

A shining example of such commitment is Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu, the founding Managing Director and CEO of InfoGraphics Nigeria, a prominent information technology company based in Nigeria.

Chinenye's leadership role at InfoGraphics Nigeria places her squarely at the forefront of the company's initiatives and innovations in the tech industry. As a dedicated intrapreneur, she leverages her extensive expertise and personal values to drive positive change within the company, particularly concerning sustainability.

Her motivation is intrinsically linked to InfoGraphics Nigeria's steadfast commitment to sustainability and environmentally conscious practices. Chinenye seizes the opportunity to effect transformative change from within the company, aligning her personal values seamlessly with the company’s green initiatives.

Through her pivotal role, she endeavours to make a significant and lasting difference in mitigating environmental impacts. Her journey reflects the profound dedication and leadership that defines her contributions to the tech industry and her unwavering commitment to creating a greener, more sustainable future for all.

10. Celebrating and Recognising Female Pioneers:

In the dynamic and exciting realm of business, female entrepreneurs stand out as celebrated pioneers, leaving an indelible mark on their respective industries.

Regardless of their geographic origins, these women are synonymous with innovation and leadership, propelling their brands to global recognition. A striking example is Chetna Sinha, an Indian entrepreneur whose visionary creation, the Mann Deshi Bank, is dedicated to empowering rural women through financial inclusion.

Chetna's remarkable contributions to the banking sector and her unwavering commitment to women's economic empowerment in rural India have earned her widespread recognition and acclaim, making her a true trailblazer in the industry.

In sharp contrast, corporate intrapreneurs, despite their significant contributions, often operate in the background, their pivotal roles going largely unnoticed by the public. These unsung heroes of innovation play critical roles within their company, driving progress from within. Scientists, engineers, and specialists at eco-conscious tech companies, for instance, are instrumental in developing sustainable technologies and solutions, yet their names may remain unfamiliar to the broader audience.

Consider the impactful journey of Dr. Funmi Olopade, a Nigerian-American physician-scientist and intrapreneur. Dr. Olopade's groundbreaking contributions to cancer research and healthcare innovation predominantly unfold within research and clinical settings, earning her well-deserved recognition within her field while eluding widespread public acclaim. These individuals exemplify the essence of unsung heroes, shaping the future from within companies and leaving an enduring legacy in their respective spaces.

Navigating Challenges for Collective Success

Source: stupidDOPE

Finally, in the multifaceted world of female lifestyle, eco-sustainability, health-conscious, and Black Asian and minority ethnic -focused industries, it's imperative to delve deeper into the unique challenges that women of colour encounter, whether they choose the path of entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship. Understanding and addressing these challenges is pivotal for aspiring business leaders and organisations to foster inclusivity and drive progress in these specialised sectors.

In the ever-evolving and intricate landscape of modern business, two distinct yet equally crucial roles take centre stage - female entrepreneurs and corporate intrapreneurs.

Both share an unwavering dedication to innovation, an unquenchable thirst for success, and a fearless approach to risk. However, beneath these common traits lie fundamental differences that hold significant implications, not just for business leaders seeking their ideal niche but also for the company considering the profiles of the staff they employ.

The distinctions between these roles transcend mere semantics. They can have substantial financial repercussions, impacting everything from training expenses to remuneration structures and even overall performance. Therefore, it's essential to navigate this dichotomy with precision.

In this comprehensive exploration, we embark on a journey to unveil the ten key differentiators that set these two business personas apart. Along the way, we'll draw on illustrative marketing examples featuring notable female entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to bring these distinctions to life, providing clarity and context to each facet of this intriguing comparison.

Challenges Remain In Entrepreneurship

Black Asian and minority ethnic women embarking on entrepreneurial journeys often grapple with hurdles such as limited access to capital and resources, discriminatory biases, and a lack of representation. Breaking through glass ceilings and shattering stereotypes can be an uphill battle, demanding exceptional resilience and determination.

Nonetheless, it's essential to recognise that these challenges, while formidable, have also fuelled the determination of many of these female entrepreneurs to carve their niches, championing diversity and innovation.

Take, for instance, the remarkable story of Leila Mansouri, a British-Iranian entrepreneur who founded an eco-friendly fashion brand. She faced initial difficulties accessing funding for her sustainable fashion startup but persisted, leveraging her unique perspective and cultural heritage to create a brand that resonates with diverse audiences. Leila's journey exemplifies the tenacity and creative problem-solving often displayed by BAME female entrepreneurs.

Challenges Remain in Intrapreneurship

Within the corporate realm, BAME females pursuing intrapreneurship may face barriers like unequal access to mentorship and sponsorship, microaggressions, and the need to navigate complex organisational structures that may not always be inclusive. Despite these challenges, Black Asian and minority ethnic female intrapreneurs play pivotal roles in driving innovation within their company, often pushing the boundaries of inclusivity and diversity in corporate cultures.

An inspiring example is Aisha Khan, a Pakistani-British intrapreneur at a major pharmaceutical company. She recognised the need for diverse perspectives in drug development and tirelessly championed inclusive practices. Her advocacy not only led to innovative breakthroughs in drug research but also transformed the corporate culture to be more equitable and representative.

As business and company leaders, acknowledging and actively addressing these challenges is not just a moral imperative but a strategic one. Embracing diversity, providing equal opportunities, and fostering inclusive environments not only empower Black Asian and minority ethnic females but also enhance the adaptability and resilience of the entire industry.

In closing its important to understand the dynamic landscape of female lifestyle, eco-sustainability, health-conscious, and BAME-focused industries thrives on the diversity of perspectives and experiences brought forth by BAME females. By recognising and addressing the unique challenges they face, businesses can harness the collective strength of these individuals, paving the way for shared success, innovation, and progress in these specialised sectors.

It is not merely about understanding the distinctions but also about championing inclusivity and equity to navigate these industries' ever-evolving terrain effectively.


The dynamic interplay between female entrepreneurs and corporate intrapreneurs offers a fascinating lens through which to view the world of business. If you've been inspired by the stories and distinctions we've explored, we'd love to hear your thoughts and insights. Feel free to share your own examples of remarkable entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who are making waves in your region or industry.


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