I’m what you might call a wannabe serial entrepreneur.
Rarely does a week go by without some version of a million dollar idea exciting me with the possibility of solving the world’s problems while simultaneously becoming rich myself.
Clearly dreaming big isn’t my problem.
There’s a big difference between having an entrepreneurial spirit and manifesting an entrepreneurial reality.
I can come up with million dollar ideas till the cows come home, but executing those entrepreneurial dreams is far more challenging.
This disconnect between entrepreneurial mindset and execution is one that seems to be manifesting itself now more than ever in millennials.
According to a 2013 study from Rasmussen College, 71 percent of millennials working a typical 9-to-5 job have the desire to quit and go work for themselves.
A 2014 study from Bentley University revealed similar stats with 67 percent of millennials wanting to opt out of the traditional “corporate climb” and start their own businesses. In fact, only 13 percent of respondents said their career goals involved climbing the corporate ladder to become a CEO or president.
Like many of my millennial counterparts, I’m happy to give up the stability of corporate benefits like health insurance and perks like business class travel for the opportunity to create success on my own terms.
Having seen both of my parents laid off after 20 plus years in their respective corporate positions, left with limited career prospects, overqualified, unemployed fifty-somethings, the idea of self-employment became attractive early on.
Couple that with the fact that, like many millennials, I subscribe to the “radical idea” of a career providing fulfillment, and a work environment that’s flexible and purposeful.
Rather than compromising those core ideals while I toil away at unpaid internships or sit in a cubicle for the sake of insurance, I work to create my own career reality that encompasses all of my ideals.
If the sacrifice is a little less pay and a little more risk, so be it – as long as it’s on my terms.
Despite strong entrepreneurial ideals and popularized millennial archetypes of hoodie wearing tech entrepreneurs, the data shows that the number of young entrepreneurs is actually in decline.
According to the Kauffman Foundation, start-up rates among Americans ages 20 to 34 peaked at 35 percent in 1996 and have since dropped to 23 percent in 2013.
That’s about 40,000 fewer new businesses per month being launched by young adults in 2013 compared to 1996.
A 2016 survey published by the US Small Business Administration found that less than 2% of millennials report being self-employed or a business owner – compared to 6.7% of Baby Boomers and 5.4% of Gen X. Furthermore, the study’s authors predict that the number of millennial entrepreneurs is likely to remain low for decades.
Finally, a Wall Street Journal analysis found that only 3.6% of households headed by adults younger than 30 owned stakes in private companies in 2013 – a 24-year low.
Some experts cite student loans as a possible cause. Saddled with record student debt loads, millennials may feel that they simply can’t afford to pursue entrepreneurship.
From 2007 to 2014, in the wake of the financial crisis, the average net worth of households under 30 fell by 48%. With less capital available, starting a business becomes far more risky.
Those young, indebted years however, can be the best time to take risks and turn dreams of self-employment and business ownership into actuality.
Without major financial obligations like a mortgage or family to support, young adults have less to lose from a failed business attempt than they likely ever will again.
Even so, nobody wants to lose – so how can millennials succeed?
The good news is millennials already have many of the traits indispensable to entrepreneurial success, passion and enthusiasm chief among them.
What they don’t always have though is the courage to take that next step of turning their passion-fueled ideas into working realities.
An aversion to risk isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if it cripples the growth of new business and prevents a generation of innovative thinkers from materializing their ideas, then we have a problem.
So what can millennials do to mitigate some of those risks while still taking a chance on their own million dollar ideas?
Side hustle! Millennials can lay down the foundation for their future entrepreneurial enterprises while still working their traditional nine to fives, earning the income necessary need to meet their financial obligations while saving up for an eventual departure from the workplace.
To realize their own entrepreneurial success, millennials need to pour their passion for million dollar dreaming into maximizing the resources available to execute those dreams.
Technology has also helped to remove many of the barriers to entry that once accompanied the launch of self-driven enterprises.
The flexibility to start a business from home, the opportunity to raise capital through simple web-based platforms, the resources to reach and connect with potential users and business partners around the world – it’s a wonderful time to be an entrepreneur.
After several years of failed self-starting, I finally took one of my million dollar ideas and turned it into a hundred dollar reality.
It soon became a thousand dollar reality and now it’s on the way to a reality in the tens of thousands.
Still shooting for the million… it’s a work in progress.
With a strong focus and commitment to following through, I was able bridge my own disconnect between entrepreneurial dream and reality.
My hope is that my millennial peers will find that winning combination of side hustle, resources, resilience and unwavering passion to do the same with one of their own.