Purpose – The purpose of the article is to examine how legitimacy as ‘an entrepreneur’ is gained in relation to others during the nascent phase.
Design/methodology/approach – Two firm creating teams are studied over a 12 month
incubation period. Data collected through participant observation, documentation and interviews
is employed as narratives in order to explore how nascent entrepreneurs gain legitimacy through
social interaction. Positioning theory is used to explore how negotiated rights and duties are
employed towards legitimacy gaining strategies.
Findings – Conforming, selecting and manipulating strategies are used to gain legitimacy during
a process of firm creation through interactive dialogue with key stakeholders (role-set).
Positioning facilitates a process of negotiated rights and duties that helps to define the role of
‘entrepreneur’ to which the nascent entrepreneurs aspire.
Research limitations/implications – The study is bounded to a specific contextual setting and
thus initial findings would benefit from further investigation in comparable and control settings.
Findings illustrate the ways in which nascent entrepreneurs employ legitimacy gaining strategies
through interaction with key stakeholders, an area of research not well understood. This
contributes to an understanding of how entrepreneurial identity is developed.
Practical implications – Designed firm creation environments can facilitate interaction with key
stakeholders and support positioning of nascent entrepreneurs as they attempt to gain legitimacy
in the role of ‘entrepreneur’, while creating a new firm. Legitimacy gaining strategies can
strengthen entrepreneurial identity development, which can be applied to multiple entrepreneurial
Originality/value – The article accesses individuals in the process of becoming entrepreneurs, a
phenomenon most often studied in hindsight. Emphasis on stakeholder interaction as
contributing to entrepreneurial development is also understudied. Legitimacy gaining strategies
are explored through narratives using positioning theory, an approach which has been discussed
conceptually but not readily applied empirically.