From Shark Tank to the sharing economy, solopreneurship has become a weightier portion of our economy in recent years. In fact, according to a recent report from MBO Partners, what they call “independents” remain a powerful economic force, contributing more than $1.3 trillion annually to the economy, more than 6.7% of U.S. GDP.
Why are these individually driven enterprises becoming so popular? Part of this trend is driven by the powerful Millennial generation who believe that work means pursuing passions, having work-life flexibility and setting one’s own course. Being a solopreneur centers on benefits to the person as an individual, and encourages self-expression and independent thinking. These are all concepts that have helped to define this generation.
The solopreneur lifestyle is even further supported by just how easy it is to start a bootstrap-style business in today’s marketplace. All that’s needed for many enterprises is a computer and an Internet connection. The ubiquitousness of both of these necessities makes it more accessible to start a small business. In fact, that’s how my firm began. Although we started with more than just one person, we all worked remotely, saving the expense of an office space. We aren’t alone. Having recently completed a small business program through Goldman Sachs, I saw the same thing play out in my cohort. Access to technology allowed the start of businesses ranging from AI-driven healthcare software to public works engineering, all with very little up-front investment.
The core of the solopreneur trend is the quest for freedom, and the adage weighing freedom against responsibility remains true in this situation. While technically “independent”, solopreneurs are serious when it comes to spending their money. They must make responsible purchase decisions and, because their very livelihood is often dependant on their ability to “hustle”, they know how to hustle for the best deal when they are shopping. We see this play out in their promiscuity when it comes to purchase behavior, as they shop for value above badge, and have heightened anxiety about making the right decision with their dollars.
Much maligned by the media and “experts”, the Millennials have learned to chafe at their supposed generational markers. Truthfully, they have “grown up” and are leading the charge when it comes to running their own companies and creating independent business opportunities. They are making tough, decidedly grown-up decisions, and brands need to acknowledge that this powerful generation has indeed come into its own and has finely hewn decision-making skills. Time to treat these adults as adults. This mentality is a promise that marketers should keep in mind when building brands.