Business Terms Explained: 13 terms for beginners

There are many complex terms and concepts that can be intimidating, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged before even getting started. In this blog post, we break down some of the most common business and entrepreneurial terms to help beginners better understand the world of entrepreneurship and hopefully overcome some of those barriers. 

Don’t let the jargon and complexity of entrepreneurship discourage you from pursuing your dreams! Here are some key business and entrepreneurship terms explained to help you start your entrepreneurial journey:   

  1. Entrepreneurship is about creating value by identifying opportunities and taking strategic actions to exploit them. It’s a can-do culture focused on experimentation, innovation, and results.


  2. Business plan – A business plan is a written document that outlines a company’s goals, strategies, and financial projections. It’s an essential tool for entrepreneurs seeking funding or trying to grow their business.


  3. Startup – A start-up is a new business venture that is in the early stages of development and aims to offer innovative products, services, or technologies. Start-ups typically operate under conditions of uncertainty and limited resources.


  4. Scaleup – A scaleup is a business that has already passed the startup stage and has demonstrated its ability to grow rapidly. It has achieved a certain level of success and is now focused on scaling its operations to achieve even greater growth and profitability.


  5. Networking – Networking is the process of building relationships with other professionals in your industry or community. Networking can help entrepreneurs find new business opportunities, access funding, and gain valuable insights and advice.


  6. Pitch – A brief presentation that outlines a business idea or product in order to attract investors or customers.


  7. Funding – Funding refers to the money that an entrepreneur raises to start or grow their business. Funding can come from a variety of sources, including investors, loans, or grants.


  8. Supply chain – The network of businesses and organisations that are involved in the creation and delivery of a product or service.


  9. Revenue – The amount of money a company earns from selling goods or services.


  10. Cash flow – The amount of money that flows into and out of a business over a given period of time.


  11. Profit margin – The percentage of revenue that a company earns as profit after subtracting expenses.


  12. ROI – Return on Investment – A measure of the profitability of an investment, calculated as the gain or loss from the investment divided by the cost of the investment.


  13. Equity – The ownership interest in a company or property, representing the residual value of the assets after all liabilities are paid. 

By breaking down these terms, we hope to help beginners better understand the world of entrepreneurship and overcome some of the barriers and prejudices that may be holding them back. It is important to remember that entrepreneurship is not just for a select few – it is a mindset that anyone can adopt. Don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back from pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams. With a little bit of knowledge and a lot of determination, you can break down the barriers and take your first steps towards building a successful business.

Entrepreneurship in a Nutshell

Entrepreneurship is a temporary, non-linear search process for a business model that is desirable, feasible, and viable. At Erasmus Enterprise, located at Erasmus University Rotterdam, entrepreneurship is a core value that is fostered amongst students, academics, and professional services on the campus and beyond.

In a nutshell, entrepreneurship is about creating value by identifying opportunities and taking strategic actions to exploit them. This definition, as per the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship, highlights the essence of entrepreneurship. It’s a can-do culture focused on experimentation, innovation, and results. Entrepreneurs are unafraid to stray from the beaten path, and they build bridges between past inspirations and present challenges, all framed by shared values.

At Erasmus University Rotterdam, entrepreneurship is an integral part of the Strategy24, which aims to create societal impact in various disciplines. We offer academics a support network, advice, tools, and tips to achieve their entrepreneurial goals. Entrepreneurship is not limited to starting one’s own business. Instead, it’s about taking small actions that result in positive improvements in one’s immediate environment.

If you’re looking to start your own business, Erasmus Enterprise has you covered. Download our handbook to get started. By embracing entrepreneurship, you can create value, drive innovation, and make a positive impact on society.

Breaking barriers: How an academic entrepreneur is creating impact

Erasmus Enterprise has recently welcomed Iris Casteren van Cattenburch and Sonja Wendel, incorporating into our community The Human Stuff, their narrative-based research consultancy for creating cultures of care. Their journey demonstrates that it is possible to combine academia with entrepreneurship and turn research into positive societal impact. In an interview, Iris shared the exhilarating journey of building their business, along with the challenges they had to overcome. 

The Human Stuff helps organisations focus on the human element, thus improving the health of people and of the organisation. “Our premise is that every human being needs to be seen and heard to feel a sense of belonging. In this way they commit themselves to the vision, mission, and goals of the organisation,” shared Iris. By using an age-old learning tool that is accessible to everyone, our human ability to tell stories, they encourage customers and employees to cultivate a constructive and mutually beneficial human culture.  

Asked about how this journey to enter entrepreneurship as an academic was, Iris answered that for her it was not as challenging as for Sonja. “I have been self-employed as a communications strategist since 1999, so entrepreneurship is my starting point. I also combined my PhD research with my professional career,” told Iris. She developed her dissertation into a method to apply Shakespeare to organisational and sustainability challenges and became an associate researcher at GovernEUR, one of the impact centers of Erasmus Research & Business Support (ERBS) at the Erasmus University to add the narrative-based approach to their qualitative research projects in public administration. The director of ERBS, Laurien Poleij, connected her with Sonja. 

Sonja is an assistant professor and teacher at the Erasmus University Rotterdam (School of Economics) and senior researcher at the Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing. One of her main research objectives is to prioritise health and well-being, drawing on human experiences captured in stories. She passionately believes that connecting inter-disciplinary theories and practices can stimulate out-of-the-box thinking and enhance academic research to create impact. Sonja and Iris shared passion for stories and the impact they can have, by using them as interventions for improving organisational cultures, made them take the leap and embark on a business adventure together. 

Their biggest challenge was to develop the steps of their business process into something clear and understandable for their potential clients. Nevertheless, the support of ERBS, and from the business developers of Erasmus Enterprise (EE) and Erasmus Research Services (ERS) helped them overcome this hurdle. Their innovative research activities are developing into a promising business and have now become a separate BV under the umbrella of Erasmus Enterprise. Iris shared that being part of the Erasmus Enterprise community is inspiring for the entrepreneurial spirit everyone breathes. “No matter what age, position or background; it’s a community of skilled intellectual doers who want to make a positive change in the world.”  

The inspiring journey of these women serves as proof that although combining being an academic and entrepreneur can be a challenge, it is within reach with the appropriate support and perseverance. Their advice for fellow academics that want to do the same? “If you want to make a change, it’s worth your venture!”