My husband and I are millennials. There. I needed to go ahead and get that out there.
According to the Pew Research Center, a millennial is any person born between 1980 and 2000. According to Urban Dictionary, which offers a slightly more subjective definition, millennials “tend to be more confident and optimistic (sometimes unrealistically so) than previous generations.”
My husband and I were both born after 1980. And yes, we’re both pretty optimistic.
We may be millennials by definition, but (we’d like to think) not by connotation. That’s because millennials are often categorized as selfish, flighty, spoiled kids who are more intent on chasing unattainable dreams than settling down and accepting reality.
We’re more often characterized by our selfies and hashtags than by our work ethic or creativity. And yes, we may take the occasional selfie. But many of us are stepping out from behind our phones and starting businesses, too.
Why are so many of us choosing to forgo traditional 9-to-5s with insurance benefits and 401(k)s in favor of striking out on our own? Aside from the obvious perk of not starting the countdown to retirement as soon as we graduate from college, here are a few reasons why so many millennials are starting their own businesses:
We are socially-motivated.
If you’re only thinking of Facebook and Twitter right now, hear me out. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report found that 84 percent of millennials gave to charity while 70 percent volunteered their time in the previous year.
Millennials are also using their buying habits to make a statement by making mindful purchases from fair trade and socially-conscious establishments. On a personal note, I’m much more optimistic about my potential to help others in the long run, much more than when I was an employee who barely had any time or money to spare. The payoff might not be as instant, but the potential is much greater.
We want to use technology for good, not just for tweets.
Social media can make a huge impact on the success of a small business or creative. We recognize that while vacation photos are fun and cat memes are funny, social media is actually a powerful way to connect with influencers in various industries and network more thoroughly than ever before. On top of that, many of us have grown up with the Internet as a part of daily life which, when used wisely, fosters a more global perspective. In addition to easy networking, technology also makes it easy for millennials to start businesses with minimal startup costs and lower overhead.
We’ve been taught to embrace our creativity.
You know those participation ribbons everyone gets nowadays, no matter how they perform? That’s probably a topic for a different article entirely. I will say this: While I don’t agree with the idea of praising everyone for a job well done, especially if a job wasn’t well done, I do think it’s important to focus on an individual’s strengths and foster them appropriately. Many millennials start businesses because we truly believe we have something helpful to offer the world. Of course there will always be those who do it for other reasons (attention, potential money or fame, etc.). However, those of us who have been praised for our true talents are therefore empowered by them. We want to use them to bring a little bit of extra light into the world.
We are uncertain.
Nothing about our political, economic, or cultural state is very comfortable or reassuring anymore. To many of us, settling into a mediocre job is just as precarious as starting a business, just in a different way. While millennials may be perceived as entitled -- and surely some are -- we also understand that we aren’t guaranteed anything and that our world isn’t going to offer us security. Many of our jobs won’t either.
Millennials are embracing the idea of a portfolio lifestyle in which we rely on multiple income streams instead of one. Whether uncertainty is a solid motivator for entrepreneurship or not is debatable. (In fact, uncertainty has the opposite effect on some.) But insecurity will push you in one direction or another. For many millennials, it pushes us to create our own security. Or at least try.
Despite claims that millennials are actually starting small businesses at the lowest rate in 25 years, many of the twenty- and thirty-somethings I know personally have started their own businesses or side hustles. Some of them have gone on to run their businesses full-time while others have worked happily on the side.
Is it a sense of impatience, entitlement, or a desire for instant gratification that drives so many millennials to become small business owners? Or is it just the ever-evolving nature of our personal and professional cultures? I’ve yet to experience instant gratification since I’ve started my business, and I my progress has required serious patience. I may not be able to speak for an entire generation, but I can safely speak for my husband and myself.
We started our own businesses because we have a need to create that we couldn’t ignore. We did it because we’d rather build our own ideals, in the best way we know how, than spend our lives building someone else’s.
Meghan Bliss is a full-time blogger and contemporary fiction author. She writes regularly at TheLadyinRead.com, a blog for women who read, write, and want to be read. When she isn’t determinedly typing away, you can find her watching sitcoms and superhero movies with her husband, cat, and baby-to-be. Her books are available at Amazon.com.