What is a Business Enterprise?

Malcolm Tatum

A business enterprise is any type of operation that is involved in providing goods or services with the anticipated outcome of earning a profit. Its broad nature allows the term to be applied to any type of company or firm that is geared toward generating revenue by selling products of any type. The terms company, firm, and business enterprise are often used interchangeably.

A business enterprise may provide goods.
A business enterprise may provide goods.

While some think of a business enterprise as being a large corporation or conglomerate, any type of for-profit operation that involves sales to consumers can be rightly referred to using this word. A child who engages in the task of setting up a roadside lemonade stand, and has the goal of earning a profit from that endeavor, can be said to be operating an enterprise. So too can an individual who opens a small bookshop with the plan of selling books to generate profit.

In addition to providing goods, a business enterprise may provide a service.
In addition to providing goods, a business enterprise may provide a service.

Along with the sale of goods, a business can also be involved in the sale of various types of services. Companies that offer telecommunications services are part of this category. Local businesses that offer outsourcing services, such as accounting or janitorial support, are also considered to be business or commercial enterprises. Courier services also qualify as an enterprise of this type.

A child selling lemonade might be considered a small-scale business enterprise.
A child selling lemonade might be considered a small-scale business enterprise.

There is some difference of opinion as to whether an unincorporated entity that functions for the purpose of generating profit is also considered a business enterprise. For example, some would consider an individual who earns a living as an independent contractor, but has not incorporated as a sole proprietorship, to still be a business or commercial enterprise. Others would feel that the matter of incorporation is not relevant, and that as long as the individual is attempting to earn a profit from his or her efforts, the operation can rightly be referred to as an enterprise.

In most cases, a business enterprise must be licensed to operate within the local community. This includes any commercial enterprise that establishes a place of business where consumers are free to purchase goods or services, such as a retail store. The enterprise must also usually obtain a business license when the operation includes the presence of sales office in the area, or any other type of operation that is capable of generating revenue. Because the regulations related to operating a business vary somewhat from one jurisdiction to another, it is very important to contact municipal officials and identify what types of compliance are required in order to operate the enterprise in the local area.

Courier services are one type of business enterprise.
Courier services are one type of business enterprise.

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Discussion Comments


I have a small business enterprise. I, like others, had always thought of an enterprise as being a huge company.

However, the definition of "enterprise" states that it may be bold or require energy. I can tell you from experience that any business, big or small, fits that aspect of the definition!

Now that I have some experience as a business owner, I think that any business is a huge undertaking. And I think that to call it an enterprise is quite fitting.


My husband is very interested in starting his own business enterprise. He has wanted to own a business -- just a small one -- for as long as I can remember.

Exactly which offices does he need to contact to find out what kinds of licenses he will need to legally operate his business?

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