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.
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?