The "Pass the Mic" series showcases voices, perspectives and ideas that spark interesting conversations.
The question I get asked most is the single question I feel most uncomfortable answering: "So, what do you do?"
I'm an entrepreneur. It's as simple as that. Strangely, the e-word has always rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps because I've experienced firsthand how challenging being a business owner is, I think it is used loosely these days and has begun to lose meaning.
But that's the answer. At 28 years old, I'm on my second business venture. My first company, GroupMe, was acquired by Skype (and subsequently Microsoft) in 2011. In 2013, I began my current venture, Fundera.
According to a 2014 study from Bentley University, 66% of millennials want to start their own business. That's a huge number, and an obvious indication that interest in entrepreneurship is on an incredible rise. So why are so many of us millennials choosing entrepreneurship as our career choice? Here are four reasons millennials want to start their own business:
1. We're embracing the hand we've been dealt.
In 2009, I graduated college smack-dab in the middle of the Great Recession. Many of my peers struggled to find work, particularly those who were not interested in the banking or management consultant route. Many moved home with their parents, writing cover letters full-time. Others found jobs, but were in positions for which they were grossly overqualified. Still, they were lucky: A 2015 study by Elance-oDesk and Millennial Branding reveals 39% of millennials have had difficulty finding a traditional job.
When faced with these obstacles, our generation had to consider alternatives, including hopping on the entrepreneurial roller coaster. Having graduated right into a crumbling job market, millennials are understandably wary of corporate America. Why would we put our fate in someone else's hands?
Our generation is armed with every tool needed to start a company.
2. We're capitalizing on our tech fluency.
The same study by Elance-oDesk and Millennial Branding revealed that 82% of millennials believe it is easier to start a business than ever before. And they're right. Almost any question you have can be answered with a simple Google search. Documentation is widely available on hundreds, if not thousands of sites, making it easy to answer the "How" in "How do I start a business?" You pretty much need nothing more than an Internet connection today to start a service-based business, making it cheaper and less complex than ever to get a venture off the ground.
On top of all this, millennials are the most "tech-fluent" generation we've seen in the workforce. We have the experience to put together a tech suite that could run an entire company at minimal cost. Our generation is armed with every tool needed to start a company, so it should be of no surprise that two-thirds want to do just that.
3. We want to work the way we want.
It probably comes as no surprise that the 2014 Bentley University study noted 77% of millennials say flexible hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age. It is often said that millennials desire both flexible work hours and work-life balance, but only a portion of this is true. It's not that we want work-life balance; studies by the Intelligence Group reveal 88% of millennials want work-life integration, wherein there are no clear barriers between what is life and what is work.
As an entrepreneur, you are in control of your hours, and at the same time, your business is in so many ways your life. Entrepreneurs have large workloads, but they get to decide when and where they tackle work that truly appeals to them.
It has become very cool to have your "elevator pitch" include that you're an entrepreneur.
4. We're looking up to the new kinds of rock stars.
When you ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, chances are 75% of them will say an actor, musician or athlete. After all, these are the kind of people they see gaining notoriety. Only recently have entrepreneurs started to become idolized and receive rock star-like status. Young people see 20-something entrepreneurs become billionaires, and their names (and net worth) splashed across the Internet. It has become very cool to have your "elevator pitch" include that you're an entrepreneur. It sends a different social signal today than it did 10 years ago, making it a wildly popular career choice for the first generation ever exposed to tech stars.
No matter the reason for the rise in millennial entrepreneurs, we're lucky it is happening. Small businesses create 2 out 3 net new jobs for our country, and the more young and growing businesses, the better it is for our economy. The real question is: How can we help millennials becomes the most successful generation of entrepreneurial leaders yet?