Most surveys on millennial perceptions of entrepreneurship reach a similar conclusion – this generation has set their sights on an entrepreneurial lifestyle. One such recent survey found that 66% of millennials had goals to start their own business. This may be because millennials view starting their own business as a path to financial independence and a flexible work-life balance. 61% of millennials expressed a belief that they could find more job security by owning their own business, as opposed to working for someone else. On the contrary, 64% of Baby Boomers felt working for someone else provided greater job security.
These numbers are even higher and rising with younger members of the generation. Data from Oxford University shows that almost 15% of incoming students reported an interest in becoming entrepreneurs in October 2016. By the following year, the figure had already risen to 19%.
Despite these high levels of interest in starting their own businesses, data shows millennials are actually less likely to be entrepreneurs than previous generations. Data from the US Small Business Administration found that fewer than 4% of 30-year-olds were self-employed full-time.
So, what is preventing millennials with entrepreneurial aspirations from pursuing them? Lack of financial resources may be one factor. In fact, 42% of millennials cited lack of money as the primary obstacle to starting their own business. No wonder, when 58% also report they are still carrying student debt. It may also be that millennials are still feeling the after-effects of the 2008 financial crisis. US Census Bureau data shows that start-up creation rates have still yet to rebound to pre-crisis levels.
One other possible obstacle is lack of experience. Data shows that the most successful founders are 45 years old, and those in their twenties are least likely to build a high growth generating firm. Millennials, more so than older generations, believe that a lack of small business knowledge is one of the primary obstacles preventing them from starting their own business.
Despite this, millennials entrepreneurs are transforming industries. Those millennials who are actively starting their own businesses are doing so at a rate that well exceeds the entrepreneurs who came before them.
It’s not surprising, given research on the generation’s values, that so many of the companies founded by millennials are driven by social purpose. While many of the generations are hindered by financial instability or lack of experience, millennials continue to seek opportunities to pursue a personal passion while taking ownership of their work-life balance. And with so many examples of non-traditional means to success – from startup rock stars to social media mega-influencers – entrepreneurship may seem like the solution. The question remains whether that outsized appetite will manifest in a groundswell of future action.