Courtesy of Jackie Dubois
- For many young people, entrepreneurship is a desirable career that’s showcased on social media.
- Low startup costs, digital tools, and virtual talent make today a ripe environment for entrepreneurs.
- Here’s why now is the best time for Gen Zers to start their own businesses.
For many young people, entrepreneurship is a desirable career that’s regularly showcased on social media.
About 60% of 13- to 17-year-old respondents reported wanting to start their own business instead of working as an employee, as of a December 2021 survey by the nonprofit youth organization Junior Achievement. For some, this came in the form of gig work: 46% of Gen Zers performed freelance work last year, according to a survey of 3,000 professionals by the freelance platform Upwork.
It helps that some successful Gen Zers are earning more than America’s top CEOs. For example, Charli D’Amelio booked $17.5 million in 2021, according to Forbes, while the median pay for CEOs of S&P 500 companies was $13.4 million in 2020, according to The Wall Street Journal.
While starting a business, regardless of a founder’s age, is no small feat, today’s environment is ripe for entrepreneurial hopefuls. For example, inexpensive technologies like social media and online marketplaces give founders multiple pathways to potential customers, Dave Mawhinney, an entrepreneurship professor and executive director at Carnegie Mellon University, previously told Insider.
Here’s why now is the best time to start a business for young people and three Gen Z entrepreneurs who have done it.
There are strong backup options if founders fail
Starting a business is a risky decision: About 20% of US small businesses fail within the first year, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. But Gen Z founders know they have backup options if their startup sinks: There were 10.5 million job openings at the end of November 2022, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Additionally, returning to school is another avenue for founders who close their businesses. Jackie Dubois, now 21, was a student at the University of Miami when she started her art company, Jacqueline Dubois LLC, in May 2020. She posted and promoted her work on TikTok and Instagram and earned six figures in revenue in 2021, according to documents verified by Insider.
But Dubois’s relationship with social media turned toxic and she decided to close her accounts. With college as a viable backup, Dubois re-enrolled while taking a step back from the business to focus on her mental health.
“Social media was the reason I was able to take a year off of school, find a warm and wonderful audience for my art, and do what I love full time,” Dubois said.
Low costs and digital tools ease the process of starting up
Alyssa Nguyen is a founder and graphic designer.
Courtesy of Alyssa Nguyen
When the pandemic sent workers home, many people sought ancillary income and ways to fill their free time. Meanwhile, the combination of virtual talent, available digital tools, and low startup costs created a ripe environment for entrepreneurial hopefuls, Axios reported.
Those factors helped Gen Zer Alyssa Nguyen start her eponymous graphic-design business. After she was sent home from her junior year of college in March 2020 and the internship she had lined up was canceled, Nguyen needed to make money. She started to teach herself graphic design and launched her startup at the end of 2020. In 2021, she booked $170,000 in revenue, which Insider verified with documentation.
New ventures in copywriting, social media management, and virtual assisting have been among some of the most successful, Mawhinney said. And many Gen Zers have the skills necessary for these businesses due to their social media literacy, adaptability to virtual schooling, and constant digital communication.
“COVID-19 was really hard, but in some ways it’s the reason that I have the life that I have right now,” Nguyen said. “It’s the only way it would’ve ever been able to fit designing and running a business into a full-time school schedule.”
Young founders could change the workforce
Michael Yan is the cofounder of Simplify.
courtesy of Yan
Meanwhile, as Gen Z founders create companies, they have the potential to attract talent who are eager to work for companies that align with work-life balance values.
“The way Gen Z is treating mental health and well-being is so different,” said Dr. Nina Vasan, the chief medical officer at the mental-health startup Real.
For instance, Michael Yan, the 22-year-old founder of the job search platform Simplify, says mental health support is a crucial benefit for his employees. He offers one-on-one conversations with his staff to better understand their individual needs.
“As Gen Z continues into more positions of power, they will be able to change policy and culture in a way that will permeate and change the older generations,” Vasan said.