I started Cutler PR in 2009 at age 22 -- just three months out of college. I began the business in my bedroom, with $200. I was scrappy and focused on results, and I hustled to make my company a success. As a millennial entrepreneur, I did things that in many ways were different from the actions of previous generations of entrepreneurs.
Here are a few of the top characteristics that set today's millennial entrepreneurs apart:
1. We grew up on entrepreneurship.
Past generations idolized climbing the corporate ladder, whereas for millennials, business success has often been envisioned in the form of enterprising endeavors.
"Gen Y is the first generation to grow up with entrepreneurial role models,” says Donna Fenn, author of Upstarts! How GenY Entrepreneurs are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success.
Our parents looked to the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, like Chrysler's Lee Iacocca and GE's Jack Welch, for career inspiration, but we grew up watching Steve Jobs lead the renewed Apple, Mark Zuckerberg create a social media sensation and other young innovators break new ground. We saw entrepreneurs, not corporate titans, as the rock stars -- and we all wanted to be them.
Not only did these role models attract us to entrepreneurship through role models, but events simultaneously repelled us from the traditional corporate lifestyle: We watched corporate scandals unfold, experienced elders get laid off or fired and other facets of the downside to corporate life reveal themselves.
We were inspired to create our own paths.
2. We are highly collaborative.
"Millennial entrepreneurs tend to be highly collaborative, and less protective when it comes to ideas,” says Fenn.
Those from the older generations will often play their ideas, the way they do their cards, close to the vest. But millennials are more likely to pitch their ideas, to gain feedback from peers and lay everything out there for the world to see and respond.
Millennial entrepreneurship is also often a group effort, and companies headed by co-founders are the new norm. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, doesn’t even have a private office -- like everyone else at Facebook, he sits at a desk in a massive open-floor plan.
3. We are digital superstars.
Although Gen Z is often seen as the techiest generation of them all, that title really belongs to Gen Y -- whose members came of age during the peak of the digital revolution.
"Although the iPhone might as well be an extra appendage for Gen Zers, millennials have developed a unique understanding of the inner workings of devices that have become more and more intuitive over the years,” says Aron Cutler, a doctoral candidate in psychology and a millennial techie.
“When millennials were impressionable children," Cutler says, "they needed to figure out clunky computers via trial and error, giving them a deeper knowledge.” And with this resulting intimate knowledge of technology, starting a business became much easier for millennials.
The widespread use of mobile technology and other modern resources has allowed these younger entrepreneurs to start and run businesses from their homes, significantly reducing startup costs.
The cloud and the varioius SaaS offerings have morever enabled automation to occur throughout all departments -- from marketing to sales to accounting to operations -- and that has cut costs significantly.
4. We’re motivated by purpose.
Most millennial entrepreneurs are not motivated solely by money. Money is important, of course, but being passionate about our work and knowing its larger meaning is at the center of the millennial entrepreneurship mindset.
Millennials want to know their work is making some impact and helping to make the world a better place.
I believe many millennial entrepreneurs would choose work that makes a difference, and pays less money, over the opposite work scenario.
5. We think outside of the box and constantly strive to learn.
We graduated during the worst recession in decades. Many of us were up to our necks in student loans. We couldn't find jobs.
To dig out of this financial mess, we millennials have had to be extremely creative and learn to do things in new ways. In fact, entrepreneurship education is now very popular in colleges and universities, Fenn says.“I think millennial entrepreneurs want to learn first,” she adds. “I think that that's what motivates them to start companies.”
The millennial entrepreneur mantra? To create awesome companies, as a team, and to use technology, ultimately to better the world. Most importantly, we want to always learn, especially from our failures, because that's another aspect of who we are and the unique path we're on.
What do you think? What traits do you think are most important to the success of millennial entrepreneurs?