Beyond necessity versus opportunity entrepreneurship: some lessons from English deprived urban neighbourhoods

  • Nick WilliamsEmail author
  • Colin C. Williams


When discussing the motivations of entrepreneurs, it has become commonplace to represent them dichotomously as either necessity or opportunity driven. This paper evaluates critically this dualistic depiction of entrepreneurs’ motives through an examination of the rationales of entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs living in a deprived urban neighbourhood of an English city, a group of entrepreneurs who have been conventionally depicted as largely driven by necessity into entrepreneurship in the absence of alternative means of livelihood. Reporting the results of a face-to-face questionnaire conducted in 2008 with 459 respondents and a further 18 follow-up in-depth interviews, the finding is that forcing individual entrepreneurs’ motives into one or other of these categories grossly over-simplifies their rationales which in lived practice are not only a mixture of both opportunity and necessity but also temporally fluid shifting most often from more necessity- to more opportunity-oriented rationales. The outcome is to reveal that the opportunity versus necessity dichotomy, which uses the perceptions of an entrepreneur’s originating condition as the defining feature of their motivations, is a misleading way of categorising types of entrepreneurship not only because motivations change over time but also because entrepreneurs are frequently driven by both necessity as well as opportunity factors. The result is a call to move beyond the conventional either/or depiction of opportunity versus necessity entrepreneurship and towards a richer, more nuanced and dynamic appreciation of entrepreneurs’ motivations.


Opportunity entrepreneurship Necessity entrepreneurship Deprived urban neighbourhoods 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sheffield Business SchoolSheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Centre for Regional Economic and Enterprise Development (CREED), School of ManagementUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUnited Kingdom

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