Millennials Forego Traditional Careers to Pursue Entrepreneurship

This post by Blackstone Content Correspondent Summer Suleiman originally appeared on

Justin Shiels is working on the next issue of GoInvade, his creative lifestyle magazine, at a bare and exposed studio space in the budding central city neighborhood of New Orleans.

Working alongside him are creative companies Bats on Tees, a line of fashion friendly and clear purses created to meet the guidelines for entry into NFL games, and Matter Inc, an industrial design and consulting studio most known for creating black and white bird shaped soaps that represent the infamous 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil spill.

Below, the sounds of hammers pounding on the walls carries through the rustic, exposed space.Zeitgeist, an independent theater that comprises the first floor of the building is in the midst of reconstructing their stage. Coffee shop goers gather nearby at Church Alley Coffee Bar a shop that feels inviting enough to make you want to reach for a throw and cozy up on the slightly tattered sofa.

Justin Shiels, publisher of GoInvade at his studio space in Central City New Orleans

A graphic designer by trade, Shiels, started the magazine in 2009, at a time when he says the city was seeing an influx of transplants eager to join in the rebuilding efforts post-K.

Shiels says there was a large group of people interested in social justice, doing creative projects and trying to grow their own small businesses, but many of them had difficulty breaking into the local media circuit.

“I foolishly decided that I was the person that could try to help build some media options around local, young professionals, specifically, creative businesses,” Shiels said.

Foolish or not, Shiels shares this sentiment with many of his millennial peers—a group that have been both lauded and criticized for a number of reasons.

Shiels shares the studio space with other local business owners including Matter Inc and Bats on Tees

Musings on Millennials

Many thoughtful observations have been made on the group that often texts before they talk, checks in on their phones when they arrive almost anywhere, and share nearly every aspect of their lives on social media, such as ones in this article, titled The Next Greatest Generation.

Among the analyses, one observation suggests that a strong entrepreneurial spirit exists among this group. According to a new poll by the Kauffman Foundation and Young Invincibles, 54 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds either want to start a business or have already started one.

“I think millennials in general, have this desire to have a work-life balance more so than previous generations have had. And because of that, there’s this intense allure to have your own business, to create your own project, to do your own thing, because it makes you feel like you have the opportunity to have a greater balance in work and life,” Shiels says.

The Tech Generation

And one thing that has undoubtedly shaped the way this generation lives, works and plays is technology.

In addition to creating opportunities for entrepreneurship, advances in computer processing power, along with widespread access to cell phones and the Internet have changed how millennials communicate and interact with one another, according to a report published in October by the Economic Council of Advisors, titled 15 Economic Facts about Millennials

That progression through technology has been seen across nearly all industries, including transportation.

Photo courtesy of Uber

Tom Hayes, is the General Manager of Uber, a ridesharing service that uses a smartphone app to arrange rides between riders and drivers, in New Orleans.

Uber, which started in San Francisco, before entering other cities like New York, LA, and more recently, New Orleans, offers an alternative to traditional taxi services.

Hayes has been tasked with growing the company’s presence in Louisiana and the region. After establishing offices in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the company is considering other cities in the region.

Tom Hayes, General Manager of Uber New Orleans

Hayes says millennials make up a large part of their user base, and that the technology is changing the way people use transportation.

“The whole idea that you can open up an app, see cars driving nearby you, watch a vehicle as it drives to pick you up, not need to fumble around with cash or swiping a credit card when you get to your destination, just hop out of the car because your credit card is on file. It makes the process more stream-lined. It’s changing the way that people get around cities,” Hayes says.

Other companies offering similar services have since sprouted as a result of Uber, raising the question of whether or not this could be a new trend in transportation.

Another industry that has experienced exponential growth and change through technology is music.

John Reardon is co-founder of Musx an app that allows users to share music directly with friends and family. It’s been dubbed the “Instagram for music” by Marty Marshall, co-founder of Trillectro music festival. Reardon co-founded Musx with long-time friend, and college roommate Eddie Sniezek, who shared his love for music. Tiring of the need to copy and paste links on YouTube to share music (soMillennial), they decided to come up with a simpler way to directly share their favorite songs.

Reardon says technology has allowed his generation the ability and power to create.

“Technology democratizes entrepreneurship. With an increasingly connected world and decreasing overheads, a single bootstrapped entrepreneur has the potential to reach a global audience. This creates more opportunities,” Reardon says. “Entrepreneurship and technology possess both symbiotic and synergistic traits. Entrepreneurs can both create and improve technology and technology can provide a multiplier effect to entrepreneurship.”

Bats on Tees work at the studio alongside GoInvade and Matter Inc

Studying Millennials

Maude Standish studies millennial trends as the Director of Strategy with Mistress Agency. She is the former founder of Tarot Insight, a company that forecasted trends among millennials for consumer based companies.

Standish says millennials’ view of career success, in comparison to their predecessors, has shifted. The notion that you join a company as you begin your career, climb the corporate ladder, and are guaranteed life-time financial security changed with the onset of the 2009 recession.

Millennials witnessed a system collapse with banks crumbling, many of their parents losing their own 401Ks, and long established companies disintegrate. This forced them to reevaluate their approach to their careers and future, Standish says.

“So what we see a lot is them trying to build up their different kinds of experiences in a way, their own personal brand, because they want to make sure that even if their organization doesn’t exist in the future, they will still be able to bring their skills elsewhere,” Standish says. And what that lends to is a spirit of entrepreneurship because it means that they are trying to test out new things. They can build up their own skills much more quickly if they develop their own company, or jump onto a smaller startup and rise up through the hierarchy much quicker and get all the skills they wouldn’t get going the traditional route.”

Church Alley coffee bar is beneath the central city studio that these young creative entrepreneurs are housed in

A Shared Vision

And it’s not just millennials that share in this entrepreneurial attitude. People like Andrew Yang, founder of “Venture for America,” an organization that recruits top college graduates to work in startups across the country, believes entrepreneurship is the answer to building a sustainable, strong economy.

In his recently published book, “Smart People Should Build Things” Yang writes, “We need to build the path for the next generation to create new opportunities for themselves and others.” In an excerpt from the book, Yang makes this argument for entrepreneurship:

If year after year we send our top people to financial services, management consulting, and law schools, we’ll wind up with the pattern we’re already seeing: layers of highly paid professionals working astride faltering companies and industries. But if we send them to startups, we’ll get something else. Early-stage companies in energy, retail, biotech, consumer products, health care, transportation, software, media, education, and other industries would have a better chance of innovating and creating value. Even allowing for a certain amount of failure, we’d create hundreds of new companies and tens of thousands of new jobs over time. Our economy and our country would be better off. Our communities’ tax bases would go up, shoring up our ability to pay for schools and long-term development. We’d restore our culture of achievement to include value creation, risk and reward, and the common good. By solving this one problem, we solve many other problems at the same time.

Zeitgeist encompasses the first floor of the building

The largest, most diverse generation in the U.S. population, millennials now comprise roughly one-third of the total population in 2013, according to the report, 15 Economic Facts about Millennials

And whether they are embraced or criticized for their work ethic and lifestyles, one thing is certain—they’re not going away.

“Millennials are going to be the largest voice to be reckoned with for a long time, because they’re so large in number, they’re going to be defining terms for quite some time,” Standish said.