Careers of commercially successful female entrepreneurs in context of underdeveloped markets and weak institutions

David Sarpong, Richard Nyuur, Mabel Kyeiwaa Torbor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Careers have come to dominate contemporary discourse on gendered entrepreneurship. This paper aims to explore entrepreneurial careers as recounted by commercially successful female entrepreneurs to examine how they strategize to construct desirable careers in contexts characterized by underdeveloped markets and weak institutions. Design/methodology/approach: Using a qualitative research design, data for our inquiry come from publicly available life history accounts of 20 female entrepreneurs appearing on an enterprise focus television show in Nigeria. The authors supplemented the television interview data with archival data in the form of publicly available digital footprints of the entrepreneurs collected from their company websites, magazines, online newspapers featuring these entrepreneurs and their social media pages such as LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Facebook and Instagram. Findings: The careers of female entrepreneurs operating in context of underdeveloped institution and markets, the authors found, are characterized by four heterogeneous ingrained dispositions and actions reflecting how they got in and got on with their entrepreneurial careers: (1) “Observing and playing business,” (2) traipsing the “path less traveled,” (3) a hook to the “Pierian spring” of entrepreneurship and (4) “Grace under pressure” in decision-making. Originality/value: The authors contribute to the entrepreneurship literature by providing insight into the lived experiences, agency and careers of commercially successful female entrepreneurs as played out in the form of a contextual practice of “wayfinding” to starting up and managing their own business ventures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)698-719
JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research
Issue number3
Early online date24 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright © Emerald Publishing Limited. This author's accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact'.


  • Commercially successful entrepreneurs
  • Entrepreneurial careers
  • Life history
  • Lived experiences
  • Underdeveloped markets
  • Weak institutions


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