Lately I’ve been questioning whether we’ve given the Millennial Generation the wrong name. The more Millennials I meet the more I wonder. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and thriving among Millennials. So much so that I think they might be more accurately labeled the Entrepreneurial generation.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the Millennial generation did not invent entrepreneurship. But lately Millennial entrepreneurs are popping up like flower crowns at a music festival. Every time I turn around there’s another one dancing across my path.
Earlier this year, Millennial Branding released a joint study with Identified that found “Owner” to be the fifth most popular job title among Millennials. They also found that only 7% of those questioned were working for Fortune 500 companies. This data seems to fit nicely with the anecdotal data I’ve been gathering myself. Branching out to create one’s own enterprise seems more common among 20 and early 30-somethings than following more traditional career paths.
Why is that?
To find out, I decided to go straight to the source. I asked several subjects of our Millennial Momentum series what they thought was causing this trend and more importantly what motivated them to forgo the traditional path for the entrepreneurial track.
There was one answer that was nearly universal. Almost every leader I spoke with agreed that things are tough out there. The current economy has made the job market difficult to navigate. But certainly this isn’t the first generation to face tough economic times. So why does this generation in particular believe that entrepreneurship is the answer? In our discussions, I uncovered five reasons why I believe the Millennial Generation is so chock full of entrepreneurs.
A Desire to Contribute
Much has been written about the millennial generation social mindedness. For many of the millennial leaders I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with “why” is just as important as “what.” Most place more value on the impact their work has on their community and the world than the potential money that can be earned. David Burstein shared, “Millennials want to see social value in their work. They’re looking to make a positive impact in the world as they earn a living.” Many millennials are even willing to take a substantial pay cut to find work connected to their values. Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky explained, “It isn’t as easy to just go get a job. The opportunities aren’t there anymore. If I’m going to struggle, if it’s going to be tough any way – I should be making a difference.”
Creating a social-minded business in which the work makes an immediate and tangible impact is satisfying and motivating. Small scale, visible, local change is king. When Millennials are up close and personal and experiencing the impact of their own work it becomes more meaningful and ultimately more interesting. For many it is far more satisfying than contributing to the work of a large corporation even if that corporation is doing good in the world. This is because that large scale good can leave contributors feeling disconnected and less personally involved. As entrepreneurs, millennials are in the trenches doing the work, making the impact, witnessing the change; it’s a powerful draw.
One characteristic all Millennial entrepreneurs seem to share across the board is confidence. Many were raised by caregivers who told them, “You can do it; you can do anything.” And many believe it.
Their confidence is further boosted by their digital prowess and comfort in an ever-changing digital environment. As digital natives they take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them through social platforms. Chelsea Krost explains, “Millenials are the most educated & most underemployed generation in American history but social media allows us to build our brand, establish a voice, and amass a sphere of influence of our own and without anyone else’s help.” It’s empowering and confidence building.
A Low Barrier to Entry
Consider the collection of highly visible and highly successful millennial entrepreneurs making a name for themselves. Mark Zuckerberg, Danae Ringelmann, Aaron Patzer, and Alexis Ohanian are just a few examples. Millennials see their peers creating wildly successful companies out of little more than a great idea. And Millennials aren’t the only ones who see these wild success stories. Investors do too. According to Yunha Kim, “Venture capitalists are more open to backing young people than ever before.” Kim should know, at 24 she has raised venture capital in the million dollar neighborhood. The success of their peers and the availability of financing makes the barrier to entry low. Successful entrepreneurship seems completely attainable.
The Thirst for Flexibility
Millennials don’t seem interested in climbing the traditional career ladder. They don’t want to spend decades working in a cubicle only to advance when an opening becomes available. Many are much more interested in creating their own opportunities and forging their own career path on their timeline. Marvin Mathew explains, “Many in our generation want to work hard but create our own schedule. We want to grow, help the community, do good + do well on our own timeline.”
The Thrill of Success
Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart. It promises high highs and devastating lows. But that thrilling ride is something many Millennials are chasing. Entrepreneur Chandler Bolt admits, “That’s what attracts me to being an entrepreneur. It’s the thrill. Yes, there’s going be highs and yes, there’s going be lows. But experiencing that emotion along the way, that’s what life is all about.”
Are you a Millennial entrepreneur?
Why do you think the entrepreneurial spirit is so alive and thriving in this generation?
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Why Are There So Many Millennial Entrepreneurs?
I was recently told by a supervisor that I am an entrepreneur, based solely on the facts that I like to and can work unsupervised, I come up with novel ideas to help work flow, and I often question my superiors’ methods.
But, I have no desire to do business operations and lead, I just want my ideas recognized and the ones that work, put into action … and of course receive due credit/compensation for them.
Am I a true entrepreneur? I never considered myself one, as I like job security too much.
I think the “cool kids” refer to you as an intrapreneur! (…behaving like an entrepreneur while working within a large organization). You’re cutting edge! Keep doing what you’re doing – shaking up the system from the inside. 🙂
Sounds good … thank you so much.
Great read, Molly. I think technology is also one of the biggest influences. I believe growing up around constant innovation helps this generation think creatively in very new and different ways. The connectivity in today’s online world also makes starting a business possible from just about anywhere.
Glad you enjoyed it! You bring up a good point, Rob. Being surrounded by constant innovation has to have an influence. Thanks for bringing that up.
Great article! I think millennials are uniquely poised to be innovators. The millennials I have worked with are creative and have a desire to achieve bold success.
That’s exciting to hear, Dan!
I’m finding the same thing to be true in so many Millennials that I come into contact with.
I think it’s partly due to what we’ve seen happen to our parents and other elders in terms of being let go at a moment’s notice. There is no loyalty from companies (other than short term $$) anymore and we figure we’re better off doing the ‘owner’ aspect.
Such an interesting point! While none of the individuals I spoke with mentioned that explicitly, I’ve definitely read that in other articles on this topic and certainly believe it falls under the whole “current economic conditions” umbrella. I’m so glad you made that point. It speaks to the underlying reality!
As a millennial who opened a boutique 2 years ago with only $1,000 to start, I couldn’t agree more. I graduated in 2010 to no or low paying jobs. I was laid off shortly after getting my first job and started my business the same month. Granted I work to support my startup until it takes off, but that experience as well as seeing countless middle-aged family men get laid off with nothing to fall back on, has forever altered my view on long term employment. I’d rather take a gamble on myself and my abilities instead of someone else’s company.
Kasondra, thanks for sharing your story! I admire your hustle and think it’s admirable that you’re essentially working 2 two jobs to reach your goal. That’s incredibly impressive!
“I’d rather take a gamble on myself and my abilities instead of someone else’s company” sounds so much like so many other Millennials I’ve met! All the best in your endeavors!
It’s exciting to see all the innnovation and entrepreneurship in this generation. Of course many of these same circumstances (low barriers to entry) exist for the rest of us if we are willing to give it a go.
That’s such a good point, Karen! Thanks for your comment.