Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, the paper aims to identify and explain the behaviour and intentions of students in their decision to start entrepreneurial activities and establish an enterprise. Second, the paper aims to identify whether students in tertiary level institutions in Ireland display the personality traits of an entrepreneur, which are necessary to found an enterprise. Design/methodology/approach ‐ In order to implement the study linkages with Ireland's Network of Teachers and Researchers in Entrepreneurship was utilized in the formation of a database. This resulted in a stratified random sample of tertiary level institutions being collected. Data were collected from 248 randomly chosen third-level students. Findings ‐ The study presents some encouraging findings concerning the intentions of students to start a business. Some 82 per cent of respondents have had some thoughts or have started with the realisation and founded a business. This indicates that even at a young age Irish people are creative in their thinking and also see self-employment as a career option. The study further examined the personal background for entrepreneurial activities of the respondents. In applying aspects of personality to the respondents, the findings indicate that the majority are extroverted; they are highly compatible and conscientious and highly stable in terms of their emotions. These findings are quite heartening as these personality traits are important for entrepreneurs when establishing and running a business. Research limitations/implications ‐ The study identifies areas of improvement such as the development of selling skills; making students aware of the sources of funding available in Ireland and the incorporation of non-business students into the entrepreneurship classroom. Originality/value ‐ This paper presents original findings in a highly relevant, but under-researched field, that being tertiary level students and their intention to establish their own business.