This study explores the experiences of failure among entrepreneurs in China, focusing on the impacts of failure and the lessons they learned from these experiences. Entrepreneurial activities are characterized by greater percentage of risk and uncertainty, and failure is an inherent attribute of the entrepreneurship process. However, the social, psychological, and financial cost of failure is an under-researched area. The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a unique event that impacted entrepreneurs worldwide and offers awareness of the impact of the crisis on entrepreneurship. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study is threefold: to highlight the lessons learned from failure experiences, to suggest practically conducive ways for entrepreneurs to cope with challenges and failures, and to share advice from experienced entrepreneurs with prospective entrepreneurs. The research questions guide the study in exploring the reasons for failure, the impacts of failure on entrepreneurs, and the lessons learned from failure experiences. A sample of 8 entrepreneurs was selected based on specific criteria, including owning a business for at least three years, employing 5 or more employees, and experiencing failure in their venture. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to gather data, and significant quotes and statements were identified from the transcripts to develop clusters of meaning. The findings highlighted the psychological, social, and financial impacts of failure, including anxiety, sleep disruption, strained relationships, lower revenue, and accumulated debt. In terms of lessons learned from failure, there is a need to align entrepreneurial interests with national developmental needs. Moreover, embracing technological innovation, developing a customer-focused attitude, and leading by example are some of the important takeaways highlighted in this study. Continuous learning and being prepared for challenges were emphasized as important factors. Seeking emotional, social, and financial support were also significant in terms of coping with failure. The study suggests that entrepreneurs can benefit from the experiences and lessons of experienced entrepreneurs to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship and improve their chances of success. Overall, this research contributes to the understanding of the multifaceted impact of entrepreneurial failure, providing valuable insights into leadership lessons learned from failure experiences. The implications of the study offer practical guidance for entrepreneurs to navigate challenges, adopt effective management strategies, look for support and prepare for unforeseen circumstances.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Entrepreneurship—China; Failure (Psychology); Business failures; COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020---China

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Ricardo Vigil