July 15, 2024

Advancing Business Excellence

Pioneering Corporate Success

Why Gen Z Is Thriving in the Entrepreneurial World

Older generations have often tended to view entrepreneurship as a risky career path. For Gen Z, it’s the exact opposite.

Several years ago on a flight to Phoenix, AZ, I fell into conversation with two 17-year-old twins who could not have been more different. The sister was a brilliant, straight-A student; the brother was a highly entrepreneurial young man who had already started his own car wash business. I sat entranced as he shared how he’d already built five facilities in his region and had plans to expand with five more.

What was his biggest reason for becoming an entrepreneur? “I hate school,” he confessed to me. At the time, he was completing online courses to graduate six months early. Entrepreneurship was, to him, a one-way ticket out of the classroom and into the real world.

Not even old enough to vote, this young man was already well on his way to a rewarding and self-driven career. And he’s far from unique among his generation.

Gen Z is fast becoming known as one of the most entrepreneurial generations to date, with a 2020 survey from WP Engine finding that 62% of Gen Zers had plans to start or potentially start their own business someday. More recent research by Square puts the number even higher at 84% of Gen Zers who want to own their own company in the future.

The Square study found that, among Gen Z business owners:

  • 72% believe times have been economically tougher for them than for earlier generations, but that isn’t stopping 39% from wanting to start another business
  • 39% employ five or more employees
  • 46% want lower taxes, 42% want affordable housing and 35% believe in the benefits of universal basic income
  • 45% are using their own savings to get their business off the ground
  • 80% launched their business online or had a mobile component, while another 46% began with a physical location

“Many Gen Zers and younger audiences are looking toward entrepreneurial opportunities as a more attractive career path,” says Dave Liniger, a serial entrepreneur himself and founder of global real estate franchise RE/MAX. “This generation values independence and flexibility in their work life, often prioritizing work-life balance and the ability to control their own schedules.”

A further motivation for young entrepreneurs is their desire to make a positive impact in their community. “They’re motivated by social, environmental, and ethical concerns, leading to the rise of social entrepreneurship as well,” says Liniger. “Gen Z tends to support and start businesses that align with their values, focusing on community betterment.”

Entrepreneurship for Job Security

Along with the ability to make a positive difference, entrepreneurship has other attractions for Gen Z. “Entrepreneurship is an appealing career path for Gen Zers who have experienced economic instability and the rise of the gig economy,” says Liniger. “They view entrepreneurship as a viable path to financial security and personal fulfillment.”

This is in sharp contrast to the prevailing view of many in previous generations, who often viewed entrepreneurial pursuits as uncertain ventures fraught with risk. To these workers, the security of a corporate career was more attractive than the more nebulous promise of ‘being my own boss.’

Not everyone wants to be their own boss, and that’s okay. But for those who do, it seems a lot more attainable in our modern, tech-driven culture than ever before. “Growing up in the digital age, Gen Z has seen young entrepreneurs excel in the tech field as well as other industries, and aspire to pursue an entrepreneurial career path,” says Liniger.

While entrepreneurship is far from easy, the practical side of how to get started is less shrouded in mystery than it used to be.

“Although many young individuals often do not have the financial means or connections to start a company/business the same way as older generations do, digital and social media platforms today provide accessible options for personal brand building,” says Liniger, “as well as a means to monetize their passions through online businesses.”

Getting Started

To me, the fact that Gen Z is choosing entrepreneurship isn’t the most interesting thing in the big picture. Rather, it’s that so many young entrepreneurs today are bypassing the typical college route, choosing instead to find alternative education and training sources. Or, like the young car wash mogul I met, they’re just learning as they go.

“Many continue to believe that the traditional path to entrepreneurship often involves a college education, an MBA and years of industry experience,” says Liniger. Liniger, who did not attend college prior to launching his real estate empire, believes successful entrepreneurship is often more about personal character and work ethic than a formal education.

“In my most recent book The Perfect 10, I emphasize that success isn’t defined by the conventional markers of education or pedigree, but by the strength of character and adaptability,” he says.

While attending college isn’t necessarily a wrong way to get started on your entrepreneurial path, it’s no longer the only way. Liniger’s advice to young entrepreneurs who want to explore a different route is to work with and learn from someone they view as successful in their own business/industry. Then, apply those learned skill sets to their own career paths and work ethic.

“When I first entered the real estate industry, I first became successful as an agent by learning the ins and outs of the industry before taking the leap to launch my own company,” he says. “It’s beneficial to gain industry experience for a year or two to fully understand the inner workings and necessary tools you may need to then launch a business of your own.”

Where they’re Headed

Like me, Liniger is optimistic about the prospects of Gen Z entrepreneurs. “This generation specifically tends to march to the beat of their own drum, and has the mindset that’s ready to pursue an entrepreneurial path,” he says.

Maybe that’s why they’re not tuning in to the negative stereotypes often held about them by many in older generations. “We’re stuck in this quagmire and mindset that every generation that comes after us is inferior to the previous generation,” Liniger says. “This is a false notion to look at the generations younger than yourself and think ‘they just don’t get it’.”

Whether they run their own business or pursue employment at an established organization, Gen Z and other generations that come after will be the future of the workforce. “Many individuals within these newer generations will continue to achieve success and flourish within their respective industries,” says Liniger.

One thing’s clear: It’s a mistake to underestimate what they can accomplish.

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