Entrepreneurship. A word that was, for me at least, difficult to spell and difficult to say for the longest time. The idea of branching out on your own, to bet on yourself, and create something that you are passionate about, was always daunting. So, of course, my first job out of university led me to a start-up.
At our start-up, we think about and try to understand our generation on a daily basis. What is it that makes Generation Z tick, what do we like, where do we spend our time? Working with CPG brands exclusively, our understanding of Gen Z is typically centred around how we behave as consumers: how and where do we engage with brands? What decisions do we make in the supermarket, and why? Which of our values are non-negotiable when choosing between products?
But we have never previously looked at how Gen Z consumers are turning the tables on brands, and creating the kind of products and brands they are missing on the shelves. Gen Z is a generation that wants to shop sustainable, inclusive and – most importantly – value-driven brands (that are affordable on what is still limited discretionary income: brands, please remember that we are still in university or doing entry-level jobs!).
What we come across in our research regularly, is the disappointment and exhaustion of Gen Z having to deal with brands that promise a lot but very rarely deliver on their promises. It is no wonder that our generation is putting less and less trust in brands to solve the issues that we care about. Instead, we are relying on ourselves to step up and take initiative towards a better world.
So, let’s shine some light on what entrepreneurship means to Gen Z, why and how we do it and how brands can support our journey. 💜
Why is Gen Z obsessed with being their own boss?
I do not think I am the only person who thinks of entrepreneurship as something that is daunting. The way entrepreneurship functioned for the longest time, was a way that such business ownership seemingly only invited experienced and older people to the table – those who have had successful careers, seemed to know what they are doing and could be trusted to sustain a new business.
Thank Goodness for the internet! In an increasingly interconnected world, the barriers to starting up your own business are lower than ever before, allowing young entrepreneurs to take centre stage. Platforms like TikTok offer the opportunity to capture the attention of a truly global audience, quickly grow your community and sell your product direct-to-consumer. Just last year, on Small Business Saturday, TikTok partnered with AmEx on a digital campaign called #SmallBusinessAccelerator, designed to reinforce the possibility of reaching new audiences on the platform. Through the hashtag, users could find expert business guidance from popular TikTok creators.
But where is Gen Z’s desire for entrepreneurship coming from? Are we actually the most entrepreneurial generation yet?
We are a generation that has come of age in an increasingly uncertain world, and now we find ourselves trying to flourish in a ‘permacrisis’. We recently unpacked this tension in our blogpost on Gen Z vs. Millennial Marketing:
“Millennials were raised in a boom and Gen Zs in a bust, characterised by the 2008 economic collapse coupled with fears of climate change and the global pandemic; 52 percent of Gen Zs don’t remember a time before the Great Recession.”
What does this mean?
Gen Zers were only kids, when they felt the impact of the Great Recession on their families and perhaps started to realise that there is some risk associated with traditional careers. At a time, when we were finally entering the workforce ourselves, we found a shrinking economy devastated by a global pandemic. Not to suggest that entrepreneurship was without its fair share of risk, but these crises are powerful new reminders of the importance of self-reliance.
Fuelled by this drive for self-reliance, or a desire not to have a traditional career, our generation is disrupting ideas about workplace hustle and the traditional 9-5 day. Gen Z definitely does not have the same idea of “hustle culture” as Boomers do. We will put in the work, but we are emphasising our work-life balance, having flexible work schedules or working remotely at holiday destinations.
Almost two-thirds of Gen Z Americans have started, or intend to start, their own business. For Gen Z, their entrepreneurship is often rooted deeply in their passions, meaning they will turn their hobbies and interests into side hustles that will fulfil them. According to a recent Microsoft survey, nearly half of Gen Z, about 48%, have numerous side hustles, compared to 34% of small business owners.
Before she joined TRFF, our Innovation Specialist, Gaby, did exactly what Gen Z does best and successfully launched her own side hustle. Here is how she did it:
“I started my brand with £600 from my student loan and was able to turn this into a £10,000 turnover, with no marketing budget and no fashion experience. I learnt the basics via YouTube, creating designs online and initially selling via Depop. I used social media for marketing, with my friends as models. It’s amazing what you can do with the access to information and technology we have today.”
Let’s unpack how you can do it too. 🔥
How to successfully start a business as Gen Z
Exploit your technical abilities as a digital native 🌺
It is our generation’s unique advantage that we are fluent in the kind of digital platforms and technologies that offer an inexpensive starting point to market your products or services to the right audience. We spend our whole day scrolling on TikTok anyway, so we might as well make some money along the way and promote our passions. Entrepreneurs who use TikTok for their business (48%) are almost twice as likely to have multiple side hustles as those who do not (27%), according to the Microsoft data.
Our understanding is not limited to social media though! We will, for example, be able to adopt AI-powered tools easily and quickly, like this cool AI sidekick that Shopify unveiled in July of this year:
Get yourself some wisdom and support 🌱
We are a purpose-driven generation and will create our business as a means to have an impact. While that kind of passion and motivation is crucial, it is important to recognise that we do not know it all and are open to mentorship from people that are more experienced. The importance of networking cannot be overstated! Likewise, incubators and accelerators can provide some much-needed support to young entrepreneurs and help lift your business of the ground. A great example is the incubator ‘Beauty & You’ that was launched by Estée Lauder and omnichannel beauty retailer NYKAA, supporting the next generation of Indian Beauty Entrepreneurs.
How can brands support Gen Z’s entrepreneurial spirit?
⭐️ Launch your own incubator
⭐️ Sign up to a mentorship program
⭐️ Foster Gen Z intrapreneurs in your own organisation
Do you want to learn more about how you can better align with our generation, and create an authentic, dynamic and two-way relationship with Gen Z?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more on Gen Z and what makes them tick:
Talk to you again soon