We know Generation Z will transform workplace culture—but not all of this cohort will enter the workplace. This demographic, whose oldest members are between the ages of 18 and 23, is already displaying a passion for entrepreneurship. What’s driving Gen Z to be their own bosses, and how might they transform the business world?
Gen Z grew up in the shadow of the Great Recession, seeing their parents struggle financially and their older millennial siblings battle for scarce jobs. They don’t want to live out the same nightmare, so they are wary of taking on debt (21 percent percent already have savings accounts). Although the Center for Generational Kinetics predicts a higher percentage of Gen Z will attend and graduate from college than any prior generation, they are already planning how to avoid college loans.
More than half (60 percent) of Gen Z believe money is evidence of success, compared to 44 percent of millennials at the same age, according to a survey by We R Gen Z. Already, the survey reports, 70 percent of Gen Z’ers earn their own spending money—about the same percentage as millennials, except that Gen Z is 10 years younger.
Freedom and Self-Reliance
To avoid being at the mercy of employers, Gen Z is choosing non-traditional ways to earn a living. Nearly half (46 percent) of Gen Z workers are freelancers, Upwork reports, and 73 percent are freelance by choice, not from necessity.
While some Gen Z workers choose the self-reliance of freelancing, others go one step further by pursuing entrepreneurship. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of Generation Z want to be financially independent by age 30, Barna Group reports; five years after finishing college, 20 percent want to be entrepreneurs, Robert Halffound.
Gen Z is realistic about their prospects—77 percent expect to work harder than previous generations to achieve success. They’re also confident: 80 percent of high school students believe they’re more driven than their peers.
The Digital Generation
How will Generation Z businesses differ from prior generations? This is the first demographic to grow up in a fully digital world. Weaned on YouTube videos, Gen Z’ers know they can learn anything online—from how to make natural cosmetics to how to use 3D printers or find suppliers. They live their lives online and are natural social media marketers.
For some, showing bigger businesses (and older people) how to reach Gen Z is a business in itself. Back in high school, Tiffany Zhong knew she wanted to be her own boss, so she started asking venture capitalists for advice. When VCs started asking herfor Gen Z insights, Zhong realized she had a business on her hands. Today, her marketing firm Zebra Intelligence helps brands connect with Gen Z. Connor Blakley and Jonah Stillman are others who have capitalized on their Gen Z status to consult with businesses on managing and marketing to this generation.
Other Gen Z entrepreneurs sell products, not knowledge:
- Taylor Frankel co-founded cosmetics brand Nudestix at 17; today, the company’s products are sold in Ulta and Sephora.
- Allan Maman and Cooper Weiss, founders of Fidget360, gained viral fame (and made hundreds of thousands of dollars) by capitalizing on the fidget spinner craze in high school. (Weiss has since been involved in other startups while Maman is working on a new venture.)
- Teni “Tia” Adeola launched Slashed by Tia from her dorm room in 2017, creating clothing based on her passion for Renaissance painting; today her designs are worn by celebrities such as SZA and Gigi Hadid.
For all three companies, social media marketing and an instinctual connection with their peers online were key to success.
How will Generation Z transform the world of business? It remains to be seen—but I, for one, am looking forward to finding out.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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