Larissa May left her Midwest life behind so that she could set her sights on her future. This digital consultant, social media extraordinaire and founder of the social movement Half the Story and blog “Livin’ Like Larz” made a bee-line for the Big Apple right after graduation to pursue her entrepreneurial goals.
“You can’t really do things on your own. It’s just about trying to find people that can help bring you up,” said May regarding suggestions for how to build a name for yourself.
50 percent of small businesses will fail in the first five years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This statistic may sound daunting, but there is hope for those that embody qualities that make a great millennial entrepreneur. A study done by Bentley University suggests, “millennials sense that career success will require them to be more nimble, independent and entrepreneurial than past generations.”
While this may sound like a cocktail party from hell for some, the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship’s Executive Director, Patrick Snyder believes traits that make a well-rounded entrepreneur can be learned. “People are not necessarily born entrepreneurs; there really is no such thing as a born entrepreneur.” In other words, be open to new information and know that there is a learning curve.
Will experience or youth get you farther?
The answer lies in the individuals’ current situation. It’s important to consider where you are in you career path whether it be in school, unemployed or working with a few years of experience behind you. “There is a tradeoff,” said Matthew Grimes, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “When you wait, it is easier to be successful because you likely have resources, money, connections, technology, knowledge, experience and time.”
While this may be true, Grimes acknowledges that once people have responsibilities like families or jobs with other companies, it becomes harder to break away. Millennial entrepreneurs like May find that experience is best acquired by diving in headfirst. “I think I’ve been successful because I’m resilient and passionate,” said May. “You can follow what you want to do in your mind, but if it’s not in your heart, it’s hard to make it authentic.”
Nicole Pitiger, founder of the clothing company One Piece Designs agrees. “I love OPD with all my heart. I have a vision that I see and I won’t stop until it becomes a reality.”
Self-evaluations are key
Assessing your preparedness for an entrepreneurial lifestyle is imperative. A Gallup study found that certain qualities help individuals become more successful entrepreneurs. Here are a few traits that experts and millennial entrepreneurs find beneficial:
1. Willing to Take Risks
Learning that half of small businesses fail within their first five years of operation can sting at first, but no risk, no reward. Also, being able to stand up after a failed attempt is important in those first few years. “The risk of failure is quite high as a young person, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t take the risk,” said Grimes. “Taking the necessary time and steps helps to de-risk the process, but companies should be founded around ideas that the world needs and you should be very passionate about it.” This is what makes an effective leader, according to Grimes.
Loyola University business student Catherine Fernandez has always seen herself starting her own company after graduation. “I’ve accepted that if I wait until I’m “ready” or until I have all the answers, it’ll never happen.” Fernandez has taken a page out of Snyder’s book. He believes that “the most successful are those that are comfortable with uncertainty and figure the rest out along the way.”
2. Know How to Network
Build a network that develops your support system before venturing into entrepreneurship. May puts value in interacting with industry professionals. Because of the relationships she has built, May hasn’t shown her resume to anyone in two years. Seeking mentorships is crucial to learning the ins and outs of this industry. “Find someone that you want to emulate, and not just in a work sense.” May enjoys learning from someone that has his or her work and personal life in order.
Starting a business requires an entrepreneur to either self-fund or have someone make the initial investment, according to Snyder. When an entrepreneur begins their career working for another company, they give themselves the chance to build resources monetarily and through networking. “A lot of people consider their employer a resource in their entrepreneurial venture,” said Snyder. In this case, the employer acts as a support or mentor for the entrepreneur to help them develop a network and resources.
3. Possess Self Confidence
Visiting Lecturer of Entrepreneurship in the Kelley School of Business, W. Wesley Pennington believes confidence is the key to entrepreneurial success. “Have a growth mindset and believe in yourself,” says Pennington. “Be comfortable with ambiguity and have the confidence that you will figure it out somewhere in the process.”
Pitiger sees persistence and dedication to your work as the truest forms of self-confidence. “It’s a roller coaster to be an entrepreneur, but believe you can do it and you’re half way there. It’s worth it.”
Work smarter AND harder
There are two ways to find entrepreneurial success, says Snyder. “Find something that someone else is doing and that everyone likes, but do it better, or choose something that you are passionate about and the market has a need for.” Remember that businesses typically succeed because they are in the right place at the right time, said Snyder.
As a recent graduate, May doesn’t “believe in just going to school for four years and then figuring out what you have to do next.” She encourages everyone, but specifically students, to get outside and practice what he or she is learning in class.