Has the business world even been so reliant on the innovations of young entrepreneurs? As the corporate world adapts to the revolution in communication and technology spurred on by the internet, it leans more and more on the input and direction of millenials, as they are now known, who came of age in a world of social networking and instant messaging.
Time was, the experience of young entrepreneurs was limited to dog-walking and lemonade stands. Now, many of the most important companies of the past 10 years have been started by people younger than 25. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the patron saint of young entrepreneurs, was a sophomore at Harvard when he launched his now-famous social networking experiment. The founders of Google were college students at Stanford when they decided to launch their own search engine. The list goes on.
For franchisees, the meteoric rise of the young entrepreneur creates both great opportunity, as well as a few challenges. Many ideas from young entrepreneurs come from right outside of the box, and unlike the blue-chip, tried and true franchise models, their business ventures often include an element of risk.
That said, franchisors should not feel in the dark when dealing with young entrepreneurs. There are networks to tap into. Many of America’s top business colleges, like Wharton College at the University of Pennsylvania, boast their own entrepreneurial centres. Other colleges have carved a niche out of entrepreneurship. Babson College in Massachusetts, the alma mater of Arthur Blank, the co-founder of Home Depot, consistently ranks first in polls as national undergraduate entrepreneurship programs. The Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Indiana University is another top ranking entrepreneurial program.
It is clear that young entrepreneurs have changed the business world irrevocably, and as the largest generation in American history with over 80 million people, the changes are only beginning. The businesses that survive will be the ones that adapt the fastest. Today’s young entrepreneurs would rather go it alone than feel stifled in a stale office environment. Equally, tech-savvy entrepreneurs do not see a division between work and the social innovations like Facebook that define their lives outside of the office.
Business owners and franchisors will have to shrink the generation gap in order for young entrepreneurs to flourish. But recent history of business tells us the next billion dollar idea is right under our noses. The challenge is to find it.