We all know one. You know, the recent (or not so recent) college grad living in his or her parents’ basement. Maybe it’s your cousin with the philosophy degree and $50,000 dollars of debt. Maybe it’s your next-door neighbor’s kid with the MBA who works at the mall. They may be victims of the economy waiting for their big break. Or they may be entrepreneurs in the basement taking charge of their own fate.
Today’s entrepreneurs are more likely to be 18 to 24 year-olds than 35 to 44 year-olds, according to The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. And why not? Let’s face it. Landing your first real job is tough these days. When you’re lucky to get one interview for every 50 or 100 resumés sent; when you’re competing with professionals who have years of experience to your four-year degree and two summer internships; when your dreams, creativity and exuberance outpace the progress of technology; why not risk it all to make those dreams a reality and put some cash into your pocket? (And hopefully pay off those pesky college loans in the process.)
The Great Recession has hit Generation Y hardest out of all age groups. Last year the national unemployment rate was approximately 10%, but the rate for Gen Yers was closer to 16%. To break the numbers down even more, unemployment for teens hovered around 21%. Approximately 37% of 16 to 29 year-olds were either unemployed or underemployed, according to The Pew Research Center. Those are grim numbers for even the most optimistic graduate.
Thankfully, there is an option. Don’t work… for someone else, that is. Create your own job.
That option is becoming more and more popular among young people, as evidenced by the boom in college entrepreneurship courses. The Kauffman Foundation reported that in 1985 there were about 250 entrepreneurship courses offered at U.S. colleges. Today there are over 5,000. There is even a program at Champlain College in Vermont called BYOBiz, designed specifically for young entrepreneurs. Students are encouraged to bring their start-up businesses to school and learn the skills to be successful.
A bad economy isn’t the only factor in the Gen Y entrepreneurship equation, although it likely has accelerated it. Much of what Gen Yers look for in a long-term work environment can be found as an entrepreneur: flexible hours, meaningful responsibility, creative freedom and the opportunity to follow dreams. These “youngsters” are also best poised to take on the risk of starting a new business. Most have no mortgage, no kids, no valuable 401ks, no hard-earned seniority and no shortage of ideas.
The unbeatable combination comes when you add the ability to live at one’s parents’ house–rent free. Roughly 40% of 2008 grads still live at home, according to a MonsterTRAK survey. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 65% of all new grads live at home. More than the chance to get on one’s feet, this becomes the opportunity to start a new business.
Next time you are sitting around wondering what that kid next-door could possibly be doing in his parents’ basement, now you know. He might be the next Mark Zuckerberg.
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