I’m not afraid to admit it. I’m a millennial. And I’m an entrepreneur.
Like it or not, fellow millennials, there are certain traits that most of us share in common. It’s more than a bit ironic that our authority-rejecting and ego-centric nature compels us to reject the notion that the millennial generation shares a number of characteristics, often boisterously, but the fact remains: we’re different than generations past.
This isn’t to say that every millennial exhibits every millennial stereotype, or that you can use these common traits to predict the course of our generation’s future, but you can use this information to identify tendencies, thoughts, and feelings in your own life that may be subtly affecting the way you conduct yourself.
There’s some conflicting information about the nature of millennial entrepreneurship. Some reports suggest that the number of new entrepreneurs is lower than it has been in previous generations. Other reports suggest the millennial generation is responsible for far more new startups than previous generations. The combination of this information could suggest that there are more millennial serial entrepreneurs, but let’s stay out of the weeds here—the point is, millennials are creating lots of businesses, and we’ve been in for some rough surprises.
Thanks in part to the media’s portrayal of previous startups, in part to our intrinsic characteristics and desires, and in part due to the circumstances in which we were raised, millennial entrepreneurs are having to face these six harsh realities:
- The Get-Rich-Quick Mentality Doesn’t Work. Every few days, I read a story on TechCrunch or some similar website about a startup that got hugely popular overnight and sold for billions of dollars to some major corporation. Unfortunately, you don’t hear a lot of backstory—about the countless dark nights of the soul these entrepreneurs experienced before reaching that zenith. You also don’t hear much about all the failures that never even made it that far. Because of this lopsided media coverage, a lot of millennials are starting business because they think they can “get rich quick,” which isn’t true. You can get rich, for sure—but it won’t be quick. It’ll be long, and challenging, and at times, painful. You need to be prepared for that.
- Skyrocket Paths to Success Are Overblown. This kind of goes along with what I was saying in the previous point. Most entrepreneurs are seen as followers of a linear and predictable path; they come up with an idea, they build the idea, they grow the idea, and then they’re rich. The truth is, most entrepreneurs follow a much more zig-zaggy path. They come up with an idea, then they scrap it. They come up with another idea and move in with their parents for a while, watching Nickelodeon cartoons and wearing snuggies. Then they come up with a new idea, build it, fail, and go into a depression. This weird series of events repeats itself for several years until eventually, they find an idea they can grow and transform into something successful. And then everyone calls them an “overnight success.”
- Personal Finances Can Be a Bitch. Yeah, college is expensive, life is expensive, and nobody’s there to help you out. The average millennial college graduate is saddled with almost $30,000 in debt, and trying to start a business when your personal finances are in shambles is akin to building a swimming pool during a drought in the Sahara. But just because you don’t have a lot of money doesn’t mean starting a business is impossible. You’ll need some good credit on your side, and reducing your debt won’t hurt, but there are tons of financing options available to you, including grants, loans, and investors. Go out and seek the money you need. Of course it’s not that simple, but it’s not that complicated either.
- Entrepreneurship Is Mentally and Emotionally Demanding. Where to begin with this? Okay, this is an obstacle that all entrepreneurs face—not just millennials. When you’re in charge, making decisions, setting course in new territory, living up to expectations, putting on a brave face for your employees and partners, and all the while gambling your future on a crazy idea you had, it’s hard not to get stressed out. Entrepreneurship is lonely. It’s depressing. It’s frustrating. It’s also rewarding, exciting, and in my opinion, worth the journey, but you can’t go into it thinking everything’s sunshine and rainbows.
- Nobody’s There to Give You Feedback. For the average millennial, this is terrifying. We grew up in school systems based only on quantitative forms of feedback, and where our scores defined us. We also grew up in a world of constant communication and instant gratification. In the open market, when there’s no “authority” giving you direct, quantitative, actionable feedback, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But fear not! There are many forms of feedback you can use to fill this void—ask mentors, investors, fellow entrepreneurs, employees, and most importantly, customers about your business. The more you learn, qualitatively (which takes some getting used to), the more you’ll be able to improve.
- It’s Hard to Be Both Profitable and Genuinely Helpful. Hey, did you know that millennials have some positive qualities? It turns out, corporate social responsibility and positive social change is really important to us, and we’re starting more businesses and organizations that give back to our communities. But for new entrepreneurs growing organizations from scratch, there’s a harsh lesson here; it’s hard to be both profitable and genuinely helpful. Both demand a significant amount of revenue, and shifting your focus toward one inherently limits your resources for developing the other.
Okay, so this all seems like bad news. Holy shit, entrepreneurship is hard, right? But the nice thing is, you don’t have to do this alone. We live in a glorious age where information is freely available, countless resources are at your fingertips, and you can get in touch with almost anyone in a matter of minutes.
If you’re struggling as a millennial entrepreneur, I invite you right now—get in touch with me. I’ll help you understand the subtleties and challenges of business ownership, and more importantly, I can help you build the visibility and reputation your brand needs to survive.