Last year, the well-known business magazine, Entrepreneur, published an op-ed titled, “Sorry, Millennials- You Are Not Entrepreneurs”. And, if you are a millennial entrepreneur yourself, you are likely cringing as hard as we are.
The main takeaway from this article is that there is an entrepreneurial game to be played and that millennials simply don’t know the rules. That is, we don’t have an understanding of basic business concepts, and are lacking the skills to create and sustain our own business. le sigh. 😑
We stumbled across this post upon a quick Google search of the term “millennial entrepreneurs” and this cheeky piece was at spot #1. Clearly, people are curious about this topic, and trust Entrepreneur to give them the goods. There’s just one *little* problem… they’re wrong.
The ‘Millennial Entrepreneur Myth’ Debunked
There is a wide misconception that Millennials (those born roughly between 1980-2000), are less ambitious and more entitled than previous generations. This topic has been covered ad nauseam at this point (we even wrote a post about it!), but it is worth reflecting on again here – mainly because Entrepreneur Magazine is such an authority in the business content space. With a wide readership and influence, what they publish matters.
In fact, we at TrueToast are quite ‘small potatoes’ compared to their scope. But, perhaps consider us a voice for ‘the little guy’. After all, we are here to dismantle stereotypes about millennial entrepreneurs, and our generation in general. Some sources have gone as far as to say that millennial entrepreneurship is a “myth”. We aim to debunk that myth once and for all.
What ‘Entrepreneur’ Gets Wrong
First off, let’s just skim over the point that patronizing a significant portion of your reader base may be a bad move. There is a disclaimer on the original post that it is just an “opinion” piece, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have ramifications, especially being shared across such a large audience.
Really, whether millennials are becoming the new movers-and-shakers may be beside the main point – which is that discouraging people from starting a business of their own is a bit, well… discouraging. Further, the points brought up in the original article are just plain off.
1. Millennials are Not ‘Full of Sh*t’ 💩
The first paragraph of the original article opens like this:
“Most millennials that I meet consider themselves entrepreneurs, or at least innovators… However, the truth shows that millennials are full of shit. ” – David Meltzer, Entrepreneur VIP contributor
Once that heartfelt statement hits you right in the face, you go on to see what statistics he includes to justify his opinion – mainly that, “the number of people under 30 who own a business has fallen by 65 percent since the 1980s”. Unfortunately, access to this source is available by paid subscription only. However, there are a few considerations that should be made when thinking about this “stat”.
For one, millennials are just not in the same financial situation or climate as our parents and grandparents were when they were young adults. As a generation, we are riddled with more college debt than any generations before us. That is, instead of starting out with a college degree and some seed money, we are entering the work force with an average of $37,000 in debt. We also witnessed our parents struggle through The Recession and then were thus unable to provide us with much of a nest-egg to depend on post-grad. A 2016 college grad as an average net-worth of -$33,984.
And while we are on the topic of college, let’s think on this for a sec. We are also more likely to have gone onto higher education than previous generations, and for longer as well. That means that most of us are entering the workforce after college at an age of 23 or later. That gives us just 6 years to gain experience, start, and grow a successful business. And that’s IF we have the starting money to do so.
Perhaps millennials ARE pursuing entrepreneurship a bit later in life than the generations before us. But, it may be too much of an assumption to suggest that is due to laziness. We are still pursuing entrepreneurship, in spite of the obstacles stacked against us.
2. Entrepreneurship is a Valid Choice (for any generation)
In the midst of a more recent article in the New York Times regarding millennials and capitalism, it is pretty clear that our generation cares a lot about the state of the economy and our place in it. We are becoming dissatisfied with the current system; mainly, the idea what we should be confined to the 9-5 life
Entrepreneurship is a valid (and feasible) answer to this problem. In fact, there is something to be said about the connection between entrepreneurship and happiness. Millennials find a lot of purpose and fulfillment in self-growth, and entrepreneurship is a great medium for this.
Starting your own business can be a great way to turn your passion into something meaningful and profitable. Don’t let anyone discourage you from pursuing what you are passionate about.
3. Entrepreneurship is Risky, but…
One of the main points in the Entrepreneur article is that ‘nine out of 10 startups fail’, and that millennials are ill-suited to take this risk. However, the author goes on to list the “3 reason why startup companies fail”, which can be applied to entrepreneurs of any age demographic. The struggles of running a business are not unique to one generation, though the market may fluctuate over time.
If the assumed risk of starting a business should be the main reason NOT to pursue it, then I suppose we should all just give up now! Just kidding. But, this is the point the author appears to make in this post. Life is full of risks, and though all entrepreneurs should think carefully about starting a business, fear of failure should not be a deciding factor.
In reality, millennials (i.e. young adults) may be in a better position to start their own businesses because they have less to lose. Consider that Gen X and the Baby Boomer generations are more likely to have children, grandchildren, greater financial responsibilities, and more. Millennials, on the other hand (although statistically likely to be riddled with college debt x.x), have fewer responsibilities and more flexibility. And, the barrier to entry can be quite low in various industries, with little financial investment required.
True, we may not have a full piggybank of life lessons to go off of, but what better way to accumulate experience than to just DO? Many millennials feel a sense of urgency to take a chance and create a life for themselves on their own terms – why wait?
4. ‘Monetization Over Innovation’
One driving point of the Entrepreneur article is that millennials seem to value “innovation” over “monetization”. In other words, millennials are likely to start a business out of passion, without first examining whether there is a market for it. 🤔
For one, this is a main reason why most startups fail, for any generation. Many entrepreneurs have an “idea”, with little plan on if there is a market for it, or HOW to market it. Is this unique to millennials? I’m not so sure. (Show me your source, Mr. David Meltzer).
Second, this just doesn’t seem to be the case. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of statistics pointing to how much money millennials are making in entrepreneurship (we are new to it, after all). But, take a tour in any entrepreneur Facebook group and you are guaranteed to find a millennial entrepreneur who is KILLIN’ it, financially. As in, they monetized, baby!
Our generation often gets labeled as the “feel good” generation, in that we are socially conscious and particularly “sensitive”. But, if caring about the social good is wrong, I don’t want to be right. There is still money to be made in helping others. Whether those ventures look like “businesses” to Mr. Meltzer or not is a different story.
The distinguishing factor between having a hobby and having a BUSINESS is monetization. This is common sense. Very few people pursue entrepreneurship thinking, “I really just want to do all this sh*t for free”. If the author of the original article thinks that millennials don’t have monetization in mind, he is making a ridiculous assumption. We are both innovators, and savvy business people. How do I know? The proof is in the pudding.
5. Millennial Entrepreneurs are Killin’ the Game (in a good way)
Despite the lack of statistics around the success rates of millennial entrepreneurs (from both pro and con perspectives), there is quite a bit of evidence to show that millennials are killin’ it on the entrepreneurship front. TrueToast is fortunate to have a large network of millennial entrepreneurs, and the stories speak for themselves.
We got together some of our favorite millennial entrepreneurs to talk about their successes in entrepreneurship, and turn this stereotype right on its head.
Arne Giske, six-figure entrepreneur and founder of the Millennial Entrepreneur Community:
“Sorry David (Meltzer), you are not looking close enough and your headline is vague.
Come take a look in the #MEC and meet some young entrepreneurs who are out there doing it big. We don’t care if most entrepreneurs are 40 – we are not like most entrepreneurs.
The amount of six-figure earners in my network under age 40 would make most baby boomers sh*t their pants and question why they spent 40 years at the same company.
Yes, plenty of millennials suck at the whole entrepreneurship thing, fail, and quit. We are a part of the 5% that fails, and figures out how to fix it to succeed.”
Chiara Mazzucco, six-figure entrepreneur and Empowerment and Business Coach,
“Millennial entrepreneurs are learning to make more money in less time – and many that haven’t yet, will, because we can. We’ve thrown out old rule books and doubled down on the endless possibilities available to us online. Our world is vastly different than theirs, so it makes sense that you don’t see it. Let’s be clear about one thing: the only reason some millennial entrepreneurs haven’t landed into your stats is because they’re still in air – mid leap. We’re just flying further than many of our older counterparts.”
Sania Khiljee, Serial Entrepreneur & Blogger, Over 1.4 Million followers online
“…we are currently in the midst of the Information Age. Millennials create and consume content at a pace that is dizzying to older generations, and our ability to adapt to the technology at hand makes us better equipped to navigate the current entrepreneurial landscape. Millennials have qualities that are conducive to entrepreneurship, including a widespread rejection of the traditional 9 to 5, a greater tendency to take risks, and a burning desire for freedom and meaningful work.”
Millennial Entrepreneurs: Keep Kicking Ass and Taking Names
Don’t let any
old fogey writer discourage you from pursuing entrepreneurship. Further, don’t let ANYONE invalidate your accomplishments. You should not have to feel the need to justify your ambitions to people that carry unwarranted stereotypes about you. If the above stories are any consolation, it is clear that there are tons of millennials who are starting and scaling successful businesses. You can be one of them. Little by little, we can all prove these stereotypes wrong, and create a better future for ourselves and the generations after us.
Got thoughts about this article? Leave your rants in the comments below!