Date of Conferral



Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.)




John S. Johnson


Entrepreneurial small businesses are significant to the U.S. economy, as they represent 99% of employer firms and employ 49% of the private sector. Nearly half of new businesses fail within the first 5 years of operation. While external factors beyond the control of business owners account for some failures, many occur because of managerial inadequacies. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of successful entrepreneurs to understand the qualities needed to create and sustain new small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) beyond 5 years. The sample consisted of 21 entrepreneurs from Northeastern Indiana who created and operated SMEs successfully for at least 5 years. The conceptual framework for this study was human capital theory and entrepreneurial leadership theory. The data were collected from semistructured interviews. Participants completed transcript reviews and member checking was conducted to enhance data credibility and trustworthiness. The phenomenological reduction method was used for data analysis and included bracketing, horizontalizing, clustering, integrating invariant statements, and synthesizing composites. The following themes emerged in addressing the guiding question: entrepreneurial intention recognized at a young age, creative problem-solving skills, business and support systems, entrepreneurial passion, opportunity recognition and seizure, and task and managerial delegation. The study findings can help inform best practices to help future entrepreneurs, and those who educate, train, and mentor them, create and operate successful new ventures.