How coaching services help early stage entrepreneurs: an exploration of gender differences

Nicholls-Nixon C. L., Maxheimer M. M.

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, vol.29, no.5, pp.742-763, 2022 (ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 29 Issue: 5
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1108/jsbed-09-2021-0355
  • Journal Name: Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus, ABI/INFORM, INSPEC
  • Page Numbers: pp.742-763
  • Keywords: Business incubators and accelerators, Coaching, Entrepreneurial learning, Value creation, Women's entrepreneurship
  • TED University Affiliated: No


© 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited.Purpose: Entrepreneurial support organizations, such as business incubators and accelerators (BIAs), provide coaching as a core element of their service offering for startups. Yet little is known about how coaching creates value from the entrepreneur's perspective. This is an important issue given that entrepreneurship is recognized as a gendered phenomenon. The purpose of this article is to explore how the coaching services provided during incubation create value for men and women entrepreneurs. Design/methodology/approach: Focusing on university business incubators, our comparative qualitative study of 18 men and women entrepreneurs takes a grounded theorizing approach, and draws abductively on entrepreneurial learning theory, to explore the dimensions of coaching services that support venture development and explain gender differences. Findings: The emergent explanatory model suggests that venture development is supported by coaching service design (at the incubator level) and by coaching content and rapport (at the entrepreneur-coach dyad level). Gender differences were observed in the emphasis placed on accessibility of coaching services provided by the incubator and the guidance provided by the coaches. We theorize that these findings reflect differences in entrepreneurial learning. Practical implications: To better support entrepreneurial learning, gender differences should be considered in both the design and delivery of coaching services. Originality/value: Our findings provide deeper insight about how coaching services create value for entrepreneurs by revealing explanatory dimensions at two levels of analysis and theorizing the interrelationship between entrepreneurial learning, gender and venture development.