Yang Zou


Small businesses are the backbones of the American economy and contribute nearly 46% of the U.S. gross domestic product. However, the failure rate for small businesses is high. Only half of all small businesses will be able to survive for 5 years, and only 20% of small business can survive 10 years. Failure is a common phenomenon among entrepreneurs of small businesses. This qualitative phenomenological study involved examining entrepreneurs’ perceptions of their failure experiences. The study involved exploring the impacts of failure on entrepreneurs, the valuable lessons that entrepreneurs have taken from their failure experiences, and how they have applied what they have learned into business practices. Ten participants were purposefully selected for an individual face-to-face interview. The researcher created and asked 12 open-ended interview questions during the interviews under the framework of 3 research questions. Through analysis of the data gathered from the interviewees, the findings revealed that failure has a tremendous impact on entrepreneurs’ finances, relationships, and emotions. The findings also included valuable lessons that entrepreneurs have learned from their failure experiences, including acquiring knowledge on business management, awareness of self-limitations, enhancing faith, and leading changes by setting examples and showing care to employees. The research also revealed entrepreneurs apply what they have learned from failure directly back into daily business practices. In the process, they had to accept their personal weaknesses by adapting to changes. Learning from failure is a continuous process. The lessons shared are critical to entrepreneurial growth, especially in leadership. What these entrepreneurs have learned and practiced is worth exploring in hopes of shedding light on entrepreneurial education.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Small business -- Management -- Case studies; Business failures -- Case studies; Leadership -- Case studies

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Schmieder-Ramirez, June;