Background Note | HBS Case Collection | February 2001 (Revised October 2002)

Entrepreneurial History: A Conceptual Overview

by Nancy F. Koehn


Analyzes HBS cases on five entrepreneurs and the companies they built: Josiah Wedgwood, Henry Heinz, Marshall Field, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, and Michael Dell. These five cases and their accompanying teaching notes comprise a course module on entrepreneurial history that is intended for business school faculty teaching entrepreneurship, business history, brand marketing, or general management. Investigates five individuals in different industries, all trying to make new markets for their products during moments of great technological, managerial, demographic, and perceptual transitions. Acting within a particular historical context, each of the five people succeeded in creating mass demand for new products by earning consumers' trust and loyalty. To accomplish this objective, each also built a best-of-class organization capable not only of meeting customers' needs profitably at a specific moment, but of continually anticipating and responding to these preferences as they developed and the broader environment changed.

Keywords: Transition; Demand and Consumers; Competition; Business History; Entrepreneurship; Customer Focus and Relationships; Business Strategy; Society;


Koehn, Nancy F. "Entrepreneurial History: A Conceptual Overview." Harvard Business School Background Note 801-368, February 2001. (Revised October 2002.)