Mark Zuckerberg. Dennis Crowley. Andrew Mason. These are just a few growing entrepreneurs, born between 1977 and 2000. In fact, the SBA and Junior Achievement Worldwide report that 69 percent of teenagers and two-thirds of college students say they want to start their own businesses.
So, what types of businesses are they starting? While many are starting businesses connected to social media or the web in some way (as Zuckerberg, Crowley and Mason did), there are some surprises. Some young entrepreneurs are reinventing old industries, like supply chains, credit unions and packaging. Some are creating businesses that cater to other Gen Y’ers. Others are joining family businesses, but turning them on their heads by hiring their parents and extended relatives as consultants and junior employees.
Why are Gen Y’ers so passionate about starting their own businesses? Research shows they may be more willing to take business risks than their Gen X and Baby Boomer predecessors. According to one study, 67 percent of Gen Y respondents were willing to take financial risks, even during the recession. They may be undeterred by competition, as they embrace a mindset where every other company is considered a potential collaborator. On the other hand, many members of Gen Y are starting their own business ventures out of necessity. In 2010, fewer than 25 percent of college graduates were able to get a job upon graduation.
One thing seems to be constant: Gen Y entrepreneurs tend to play by their own rules. While they may share a desire for financial independence with their older counterparts, they could be motivated by other factors as well. They may be convinced that they can improve an existing industry or company with the technological innovations and brand ingenuity for which their generation is known. Or this social justice-minded generation might want to conceive of businesses that have initiatives for social good built into their business models. A study by Cone, Inc. and Amp Insights shows that 61 percent of 13- to 25-year-olds feel responsible for making a difference in the world, and 79 percent of them want to work for a company that feels the same way.
Or, maybe Gen Y just wants to have fun at work. Studies have shown that these entrepreneurs value and protect work/life balance more than any other group. In fact, 59 percent of respondents to a survey of 37,000 college graduates said that balancing their personal and professional lives was at the top of their list of career goals.
This generosity doesn’t only apply to their schedules. They are almost shockingly flexible with their employees. They have embraced telecommuting, job sharing, part-time employment, virtual offices and creative morale-boosting efforts to a degree that puts most of the companies on the “best places to work” lists to shame.
Whether you’re a member of Generation Y yourself, a more seasoned entrepreneur looking for a younger business partner, or a consumer, this is a generation to watch. Have you learned any lessons from a member of Gen Y? Or, are you a Gen Y entrepreneur? Share your thoughts with the SBOC community below.