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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Staying the course: the life stories of eight entrepreneurial women Peachey, Valerie


The impetus for this study was my own curiosity about how seasoned entrepreneurial women were able to stay the course. As someone who has experienced the world of the employee and that of the entrepreneur, my goal was to better understand how, within their varied personal contexts, the lifelong learning experiences of seasoned entrepreneurial women were shaped by socio-cultural influences, significant individuals, gender, and learning challenges. Theories and research on lifelong and biographical learning, entrepreneurial learning, women's learning, and entrepreneurial women's learning helped to frame the study. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews and focus groups with eight women entrepreneurs between the ages of 40 and 60, with 16 to 30 years' experience in running their service-oriented enterprise were conducted. These women's stories illustrate how serendipitous their careers were, that is, they did not begin their working lives thinking they would become entrepreneurs, rather, it became the path that best supported their desires, independence and creativity. They were shaped by and sometimes resisted parents' messages about the role that education, work and marriage with children should play in women's lives. How they faced and learned from adversity and from the support of business mentors and friends were also significant. As they reflected back on their lives, they have a strong sense of mastery. Success for them did not focus on finances, rather, their autonomy, freedom, and control over the direction of their lives and the development of strong caring relationships with others, were key. Their learning was dynamic and experiential, it was both self directed and drew on others' knowledge. Women contemplating an entrepreneurial path may find this study of interest as they can learn how others, particularly family, shape their dreams, how they might meet challenges and learn from adversity, and overall, how central lifelong learning is to the development of their entrepreneurial careers. Educators and policymakers need to appreciate the serendipitous nature of entrepreneurship, how they can create entrepreneurial experiences for students, and expose the learners to not only essential skills required to run a business, but also to the stories regarding the self-development of successful entrepreneurs

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