The influence of age on the entrepreneurial legitimacy of newcomers

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Starting your own business is a popular phenomenon for the past few years. Just think about your own environment, you can probably come up with some names of people who started their own business. But do these people also become successful? Have they survived as an entrepreneur during the first few tough years? Whether this is the case has everything to do with the legitimacy of the entrepreneur. Legitimacy contributes to the growth and survival of entrepreneurs who started a new business within a new social field. The focus of this study is specifically on entrepreneurs who started a new business within the last five years, the so called ‘newcomers’. Newcomers have to deal with a challenge during the process of obtaining legitimacy. They need to conform to current arrangements of the social field they enter, called ‘fitting in’. At the same time, newcomers try do differentiate and to bring a change, denoted by the term ‘standing out’. The title of the thesis already gave it away; the age of newcomers in relation to legitimacy will be the core of this master thesis. Based on this, the following research question is formulated: How does the age of newcomers plays a role in obtaining entrepreneurial legitimacy? Sub-questions are formulated in order to answer the main question. A distinction is made between three age categories of newcomers, consisting of early newcomers (16-34), mid-career newcomers (35-54), and late-career newcomers (55+). The study consists of a comparative case study, which means several interrelated cases are compared with each other. Twelve newcomers, who are evenly distributed across the three age categories, are interviewed and media content about the newcomers is analyzed. On the basis of the results it has been found that the age of newcomers influences the way of doing business in such a way that is also has an effect on ‘fitting in’ and ‘standing out’. In turn, this has consequences for the legitimacy of newcomers. The early newcomers seem to have found the best balance between a ‘fit in’ and ‘stand out’. While the mid-career newcomers ‘stand out’ the most compared with the other two categories. This allows short-term problems with obtaining legitimacy. The age of late-career newcomers influences, generally in an indirect way, the legitimacy they obtain by their social field. By means of the results of the study, newcomers are recommended to actively respond to the effects of their age on obtaining legitimacy. Any follow-up study should focus on a specific sector of newcomers. The differences between men and woman in the process of obtaining legitimacy also need more attention.
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