By Jessica Wong
Entrepreneurs have always been at the forefront of innovation. Often starting out with limited resources, they made their mark by building businesses no one else had thought about. Trying a new approach and changing the status quo of businesses have been hallmarks of entrepreneurship.
Today, we are experiencing a shift in entrepreneurship that puts the field itself at the center of innovation. New-age entrepreneurs are no longer concerned with profits alone. Many of them start their business with a distinct purpose in mind, a cause that stretches beyond making money. They are changing the way we think about business.
What Entrepreneurship Looks Like in 2023
The coronavirus pandemic may have slowed down the economy and even brought it to a temporary halt in places, but it did the opposite for entrepreneurship. Statistics show that the number of entrepreneurs across the United States rose from 310 in 100,000 Americans in 2019 to 380 in 100,000 – or 0.38% – in 2020. By 2021, traditional areas of the economy started to pick up momentum, but the appeal of entrepreneurship remained high with 360 in 100,000 Americans starting new businesses.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau also suggests that the so-called Great Resignation has contributed to the continued growth of entrepreneurship. During the first year of the pandemic new business applications jumped to an all-time high of 500,000 per month. They have since dropped back a little but even the most recent data confirms that applications remain higher than 400,000 per month.
One of those ‘pandemic businesses’ is Texas-based VisionsForConfidence (V4C). Founders Madeleine Chen and Elizabeth Echt realized that there was a mental health crisis looming among children and young adults at the start of the pandemic. They felt that by sharing their passion for performing arts they could both build a thriving business and give back to the community.
A New Generation of Entrepreneurs
Aside from the growth of entrepreneurship in general, other changes are shaping the field. New entrepreneurs are starting at a younger age, and Gen Z is making its mark on business as we know it. In 2022, around 7% of new U.S. entrepreneurs were aged between 20 and 30.
Founders like Madeleine and Elizabeth are pushing the envelope even further, having started their business as teenagers. Alexandra Debow is another example of a teenage female entrepreneur. By the time Alexandra was 19, she was running two companies and considered balancing school work and business commitments her biggest challenge. Now a student at New York University, she continues to grow her businesses and her community.
Bold Visions for a Better Future
Entrepreneurship has traditionally been associated with high-growth and high-risk innovations. By contrast, owning and running a small business often relies on more established products or services.
Saying that, there is more to today’s new businesses than a penchant for high growth and an acceptance of high risk. Many of this new generation of entrepreneurs start with a bold vision for themselves and their businesses.
Their goals can be described as daring. Take Alexandra Debow, for example. Her first two businesses, The Entrepreneurs Network and The Why Wait? Collective both aimed to empower female entrepreneurs. Granted, Alexandra was a co-founder in both rather than starting them singlehandedly, but the vision was bold nonetheless. V4C’s goal of supporting young people’s mental health and helping children and young people grow their confidence through performing arts is equally audacious.
But how realistic are those business goals? After all, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that one in five new businesses fail within the first two years of operating. 45% fail within the first five years, and only 25% make it to their tenth anniversary. For many Gen Z entrepreneurs, it is too early to tell whether they will survive the post-pandemic years.
As the economy settles into an overquoted status of ‘new normal,’ time will tell how well bold visions fare. In the case of V4C, early evidence looks promising. Fundraising and business activities have allowed the founders and their team to grow the number of performing arts scholarships they have awarded from one initial scholarship in 2020 to six in the period to 2023, and additional donations to the fine-arts educational program in a school serving predominantly minorities and economically disadvantaged students, and to other nonprofit organization providing respite care for children with special needs late last year.
A Sense of Community
Perhaps one of the secrets to success for this new generation of entrepreneurs is their focus on a purpose that stretches beyond profits. For Madeleine and Elizabeth, creating opportunities for disadvantaged students has always been a driving force.
CEO and co-founder of V4C Madeleine Chen says: “We’ve been involved in fine arts since a very young age, and we realize that the resources that were given to us are not necessarily available to a lot of other kids outside of our own community. This inspired us to create a program that supplies resources and monetary support to students who want to pursue the arts as a career when they get older.”
Building bridges between communities and cultures sits firmly at the heart of Alexandra Debow’s entrepreneurial work. As a Canadian born and raised in Hong Kong, she is intimately familiar with the importance of making connections between people. One of her latest ventures is Entrepreneurs in Action, a 5,000+ community of like-minded entrepreneurs that exchange ideas over casual dinner conversations.
Building communities and giving back, as well as creating successful businesses might be the secret to the success of this new generation of entrepreneurs. And the idea of giving back is spreading among established entrepreneurs, too. Among the most high-profile examples are Mackenzie Scott, Bill Gates, and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. All are committed to giving back major parts of their fortunes through The Giving Pledge.
As the world is entering a new era of post-pandemic, digital business, entrepreneurship is being redefined. Businesses still exist to turn profits, but they have a bigger role to play in their communities and our society as a whole. Gen Z entrepreneurs recognize that shift toward community and are building their businesses on that premise.
About the Author
Jessica Wong is a digital expert and executive with over 20 years of success helping corporations and startups achieve digital transformation and develop robust data-centric digital campaigns.
As a digital expert, Jessica was invited to publish thought leadership articles on Forbes as an official member of the Forbes Communications Council. She also provides business advice to millions of Entrepreneur.com readers. She was named the Most Influential CEO by CEO Monthly magazine.
The Women in IT Awards have named Jessica a finalist for the Digital Leader of the Year. MARsum USA has recognized her as one of the Top 100 Marketing & Advertising Leaders. In recognition of her work with Valux Digital, The Female CEO of the Year Awards recognized her as the Best Digital Marketing & Public Relations Agency CEO. The Global100 Awards have also named Jessica CEO of the Year.
Through her extensive digital experience in pharmaceutical, healthcare and biotechnological, Jessica has been named as the authorized digital transformation advisor for the Rare Advocacy Movement (RAM), the first community-based decentralized autonomous organization dedicated to the best interests of people diagnosed with life altering rare diseases and their families.