Daniel Pink’s book Free Agent Nation was published in 2001, predicting a new economy of workers he calls “free agents.” Although the Great Recession certainly put a damper on the growth of free agents, millennials are most likely to follow that trend. A study in 2013 polled millennial workers; 58% already self-identified as entrepreneurs while 89% wanted to be self-employed. In fact, Gene Marks of The Marks Group even went so far as to call them the Entrepreneur Generation.
Nearly three years later, the media hubbub seems to have died. An ambitious Huffington Post blog hasn’t had a post written since the fall of 2014. Magazines supposedly focused on millennial entrepreneurs are mainly writing about celebrity influencers and consumer gadgets. 30 under 30 lists of upstart entrepreneurs are stuffed with celebrities or tech wunderkind.
Outside of those lucky enough to experience venture capital windfall or reality stardom, entrepreneurs in their 20’s and 30’s face some major challenges. Here are the top five obstacles to success as a business owner:
- Millennials have an average of $92,000 worth of college debt, and it’s hard to pay off loans AND start a business. In fact, of the 600 millennials listed in the 2015 Forbes 30 under 30, 67% had zero college debt. As much as millennials may want to strike off on their own, many simply can’t afford it.
- Younger people are naturally more impatient, and this is a killer for business owners. I think millennials get a bad rap for impatience. I was, and am, super impatient and I think we all were in our 20’s and even our 30’s. And that impatient, even ADD-type of personality can be great for entrepreneurs as an over-developed sense of urgency can really drive business growth. However, if there isn’t an understanding of basic business principles, that impatience can make people give up too easily. I’ve witnessed many younger people try to start a business and give up too soon for this reason.
- The media has oversimplified virality. It seems easy to have an idea catch fire and before long you’ve got the next Grumpy Cat or even Facebook on your hands. Promotion is a complex beast, and many people jump in thinking social media traction is easy to achieve. They become very discouraged very quickly for this reason.
- There is a lack of good resources for millennial entrepreneurs as well. Most of the small business sites are owned by large brands like Deluxe and American Express. They’re geared toward an older business owner, and more traditional, brick and mortar businesses. There really aren’t resources that speak to the mind and voice of a younger generation of new business owners.
- Finally, it is my opinion that millennial business owners are going to run their businesses much differently than those of the generations before them. Profit will be important, but most of the young entrepreneurs I’ve met value a balanced life and social responsibility over making tons of money. This is going to take somewhat of a different business model altogether, and it’s going to take a while for them to figure that out. Ultimately, I believe it will be a much healthier business model, and one that is much closer to what Pink predicted all those years ago.
Are you a business owner or entrepreneur in your 20’s and 30’s? Would you like to be? Tell me the obstacles you face right now, and take my survey if you have a few minutes.