Emily Parker spoke with author Richard Higginson about his new book 'A Voice to be Heard', and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

Richard Higginson
Richard Higginson

Emily: In the book you talk about being an entrepreneur, and more specifically, about examples of Christian entrepreneurs. What is an entrepreneur?

Richard: Lots of people use the word entrepreneur to mean somebody who has founded and runs and owns their own business. That's a reasonable working definition.

But we came up with the definition, which is a little more sophisticated than that, and it's this: that an entrepreneur pursues opportunities to commercialise innovation, taking the lead in marshalling resources and providing goods or services in the market place in a new and different way.

What we're emphasising is that an entrepreneur is someone who's a business innovator. We weren't just looking for people who have started businesses, who are just copying everybody else. We were looking for people who were doing something new in one way or another.

Sometimes that was a different sort of product; sometimes a different sort of service; sometimes it was a distinctive style to the company; and sometimes it was a different corporate structure.

Emily: You look at some of the biggest Christian entrepreneurs of today, in terms of the impact of what they've been doing. Would you mind talking through a couple of those examples?

Richard: One of the best known is a guy called Gary Grunt, who runs the toy retail firm 'The Entertainer'.

He set that up as a young man in about 1981 with his wife, but he only became a Christian about 10 years later. When he became a Christian, he felt it was still right to carry on running his business, but he felt he should run it in a different sort of way; in a more ethical way.

In particular he took a stand on certain issues, like not selling toys or products that were connected with Halloween. He also decided that he wouldn't open his stores on a Sunday.

He's remained true to that ever since, but has been extremely successful. He says that he earns enough money six days a week that he doesn't need to work the seventh day. He would prefer that his employees have time off on a Sunday.

'The Entertainer' continues to expand at a great rate, I think he's got about 140 stores now.

Another example is David Ball. He has run a company named after himself 'David Ball'. He works in the construction industry.

He makes industrial sands and cements and he's been very innovative in the sort of products that he's made. He has now come up with a type of concrete that is free of cement, which is a remarkable thing. It sounds like a contradiction in terms, but he's actually invented a distinctive product that is very eco-friendly and good for the environment.

Emily: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs are facing today?