Learning Style AND Entrepreneurial Operations:A Small Business Study

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Virginia Tech


Americans spent approximately $47.7 billion on pet products and services in 2010, an increase of 4.8% over 2009, making the pet industry a market segment ripe with opportunity for entrepreneurial small business venture (American Pet Products Association, 2013). Small businesses invite innovation, create and provide new jobs, foster entrepreneurial spirit and creativity, and create competition that drives future business endeavors (Hillary, 2001). The pet dog industry is a salient example of entrepreneurial activity in which the pressures of business, economics, and learning coalesce. Because small businesses bolster about half of the private-sector economy and represent more than 99% of all business firms (Small Business Administration, 2013), it is useful for small business owners to learn and prosper as entrepreneurs. "Entrepreneurship is a learning process, and a theory of entrepreneurship requires a theory of learning" (Minniti, 2010, p. 9). However, there is still limited knowledge and understanding of the interaction between learning and entrepreneurship, and such a process remains one of the most neglected areas of entrepreneurial research and thus understanding (Deakins and Freel, 1999). This study explored entrepreneurial decision making by using the construct of David A. Kolb's Learning Style Inventory to examine an entrepreneurial operation in the pet dog-training industry. The researcher worked hand-in-hand with the entrepreneur in a collaborative partnership to explore the phenomenon using narrative inquiry research methods. A series of semi-structured interviews were used to collect and analyze stories and identify key considerations for learning style in relation to entrepreneurship. The results showed the entrepreneur's preferred learning style aligned with his expressed style and demonstrated a keen sense of operations awareness. Additionally, the entrepreneur had learned how to leverage his strengths over time while recognizing and compensating for his weaknesses. For a novice or someone with a desire to learn more about their own entrepreneurial inclinations, results from a learning style instrument could provide such understandings with helpful implications for small business ownership. Future studies could contribute to entrepreneurial research and add greater voice to the pet dog industry.



Small Business, Learning Style, Kolb LSI, Entrepreneurship, Pet Dog Industry