The denouement of a calendar year is the perfect time to reflect not just where we are, but how we got here. How did entrepreneurs get here, social-savvy, always on, and running a business from a phone? There are many people who take the end of a year as the time to make resolutions and positive changes And then there are the rest of us.
While I love the idea of a new start come the stroke of midnight, New Year’s is just that to me: midnight It happens every 24 hours and I like to believe that with the start of each new day, I get the opportunity to refocus, realign and rock out on the things that I’m most passionate about. I’m not waiting for someone to give me the go-ahead. Does that sound like the attitude of an entrepreneur to you? Yeah, that’s not a coincidence.
A while back, I owned a custom baking business that created unique cookies for special occasions and to get business, I had to hustle. I founded an LLC, created a website that accepted online orders, printed marketing materials, used social media to tempt new customers and chatted with anyone who would listen about how delicious and beautiful my custom cookies were. Each day brought a new challenge and opportunity, so I tried to take advantage as often as possible. But what if the year had been 1994? Would my business have been as successful? Would I have been able to launch as easily as I did?
Technology as an enabler
A lot has changed for entrepreneurs in the last decade, most of it brought about by improvements in technology. It has never been easier to purchase a domain name, use a do-it-yourself web design platform and launch a website for your adoring fans. Nor has it been easier to find the educational resources that empower us to do these things ourselves, or for a low price. These are the opportunities that my father wouldn’t recognize when he started his own accounting firm in the 1980s.
No more thumbing through the Yellow Pages, or worrying that you’ll miss a call when you step out, or wondering how to stay in touch while you’re on vacation. Who would have imagined we’d have a solution that fits in your pocket?
Now most entrepreneurs see the opportunity to work anytime anywhere as a double-edged sword: free from the desk, but tethered to the smartphone.
Age doesn’t discriminate
Given the wealth of opportunities and resources available to virtually everyone, starting a business isn’t just a grown up thing anymore. Kids are taking their ideas and learning the ways of—and dominating—the business world at a much earlier age. Take, for example, culinary whiz kid, Remmi Smith. She started cooking healthy food with her mother at a very early age, filmed the cooking sessions in their kitchen and posted them to YouTube, where her culinary skills were noticed. She embodies the newly coined phrase “kidpreneur,” with her cookbook, cooking show, speaking engagements and stint as an ambassador to Sodexo to put healthier school lunches in place across the country. Talk about a far cry from your average lemonade stand.
With the ability to easily record videos, post photos or record music, younger people are turning their smart phones and laptops into studios, sound booths, canvases and online stores. And the best part is that they’ve grown up with this technology as the norm, so this it is second nature to them. It’s often easier to learn new habits, languages, technology and skills at a younger age, so it should come as no surprise that kids are taking on their own businesses well before they’re of age to vote. And they’re got the energy, ideas and optimism to hustle.
But being an entrepreneur filters up to the older generations as well. Now adults who might be contemplating or in retirement can put their wisdom to use by starting businesses that might be passion projects or continuations of a great career.
Social is second nature
Social platforms are woven into the lives of younger people (who already learn new technology much quicker than adults), so when they opt to become entrepreneurs, marketing through social media is a snap. Granted, the strategy behind social marketing for a younger entrepreneur might not always be as airtight as someone who has a few years’ experience in the business world, but they know they need to do it to spread the word.
Social media as an entire marketing entity has only exploded within the last few years and I say that knowing just how recent my own company has put an emphasis on the activities that occur through social media. We see brand sentiment over social channels and use it as a good barometer of where we stand with our own customers and prospects. By monitoring the comments across our social platforms, we can connect one to one with these people and address their concerns almost in real time. It truly is an amazing development in marketing and customer relationships.
Don’t think for a minute that when I refer to our business’ social practices it doesn’t apply to the modern day entrepreneur or small business owner, because it does. Engagement with customers and potential customers alike through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram (to name a few) can really help build a small business’ brand and create a positive sentiment. And while social media may seem like it’s second nature, especially to the younger generations, we all know how much work and time it takes, but we also realize the payoff and the impact that a single positive or negative comment can have.
While the foundation of entrepreneurship remains the same, the way it manifests itself has changed significantly even in the past decade. We can be young or old, well connected or on the verge of creating a network, business savvy or self educated. From granny’s post-war gas station to the sneaker head’s e-commerce site, entrepreneurship remains firmly planted in grit, determination, bright ideas and hustle. There really isn’t a definitive face of entrepreneurship. But was there ever?