Entrepreneur Careers Background
Have you ever baby-sat neighborhood kids? Mowed a lawn or two in the summer? Run a lemonade stand? Then you already know something about being an entrepreneur. You’ve set your own hours, named your prices, and earned money. The entrepreneurial spirit has long been strong in kids and teens; this is evident in the number of junior achievement organizations, such as Future Business Leaders of America, devoted to the interests of young entrepreneurs. A Gallup poll found that 70 percent of high school seniors want to own their own businesses someday.
Although entrepreneurial enterprises are popular with teenagers, people often outgrow the ambition to embark on their own businesses because they need to support a family and pay rent or mortgage and don’t want to risk financial security. But many adults choose to break away from the norm and start their own companies. Some of the biggest corporations of today started out as small businesses: Coca-Cola was a concoction by a Georgian pharmacist who jugged his mixture in his backyard, then carried it to Jacob’s Pharmacy to sell for a nickel a glass; Henry Ford, who invented the quadricycle in 1896, was the man behind the origins of the automotive industry. And there are similar entrepreneurial success stories today, as people establish companies on the basis of diverse products and services. Dineh Mohajer invented Hard Candy cosmetics by mixing nail polishes together, gave the colors mock-exploitative names like Scam and Skitzo, and made gross sales of over $10 million her first year of business. Dave Kapell invented Magnetic Poetry, words on magnetic strips, and now pulls in millions of dollars a year in sales. And when these people aren’t running their businesses, they’re telling their success stories on TV, in magazines, and on the Internet, to a public itching to quit their own jobs and set up offices at home.
It’s not necessary to invent a new fashion trend or popular novelty to start a new business. The numbers vary from study to study, but the Small Business Administration reports that there are approximately 23 million home-based businesses in the United States. Some of these businesses may be making big money, but most are simply making their founders comfortable. In addition to providing services and making good living wages, many small business owners are fulfilling their dreams. For example, a personal chef may find the ease and slower pace of creating individualized menus much more satisfying than the odd hours and frantic demands of a restaurant kitchen. A husband and wife may gladly quit their full-time jobs to open up their home as a bed and breakfast. The owner of an adult day care service may see her business as an opportunity to give something valuable to the community.
Consulting is a popular entrepreneurial trend. The roots of consulting include the development of time-and-motion studies by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth in the early 1900s. They developed these studies to evaluate the efficiency of industrial employees’ work habits. They were hired to survey the design of different companies and then prepare proposals to redesign the methods used in their operations and tasks. Because of the demand for their specialized service, Frank Gilbreth started a consulting firm that handled requests on a freelance basis. This was among the first consulting firms established in the United States. Today, hiring specialists is an established business practice. It can often be more cost effective to hire a specialist temporarily than to hire a full-time, salaried employee.
Owning a small business has been a part of the American dream since the earliest days of the country, and the era from the late 20th century until today has seen a great increase in entrepreneurial ambition. This may be in part due to the downsizing trends of American companies. Whereas earlier in the century, a person could work for one company until retirement, such job security has become more rare. It’s increasingly common for men and women in their 50s to lose their jobs and find themselves with few job prospects. With severance pay in hand, these people often invest in the businesses they’ve been longing for, recognizing these ventures as no more risky than any other career pursuit. In the first half of the 20th century, a person chose a job path and stuck with it; today, people are more likely to experiment with a variety of careers throughout their lives.
There are more than 550 colleges and universities that offer entrepreneurship courses, 350 more than there were in 1984. Additionally, nearly 50 schools offer entrepreneurism as a degree program. There are also more organizations, periodicals, and Web pages advising people on how to start their own businesses and keep them running. Entrepreneur and Success magazines publish special issues devoted to small businesses, and they maintain Web sites. The Edward Lowe Foundation gives small business owners access to extensive databases, research, and conferences and publishes Entrepreneurial Edge magazine. From 1991 to 2000, the Small Business Administration (SBA) helped nearly 435,000 small businesses get more than $94.6 billion in loans. In 2003, the SBA lent a total of $248 billion in small business loans of under a million dollars each. The SBA also provides business start-up kits, workshops, and research assistance.
This wealth of information, along with the ease of accessing it via the Internet, has undoubtedly played a part in the boom in small businesses. Technology in general has made it easier to run a home-based business. Computer software, specially designed for a profession, takes much of the time and effort away from administrative details. Email and faxes allow better communication, and the Internet provides market research, industry support, and ways to better promote a business.