A new internal survey from Microsoft Stores of 1,000 small business owners shows how GenZ entrepreneurs’ attitudes towards work, mission, technology, and education differ from the rest of us.
The context for the survey is that we appear to be in the midst of a mini-boom in entrepreneurship. According to the Census Bureau, there were 5.4 million applications to launch new businesses in 2021 alone. Meanwhile, 62% of GenZs report that they have either started or intend to start new businesses.
It appears we may be witnessing the ascent of one of the most entrepreneurial generations in, well, generations. So why not find out what makes them tick? The differences are significant and may have a lot to say about the kinds of technologies and services that GenZ entrepreneurs will demand as they grow their businesses.
It’s About the Hustle…and the Mission
For starters, GenZ entrepreneurs are hustlers. Perhaps even more so than the generation that preceded them, the millennials who more or less invented hustle culture. In fact, 91% of GenZ business owners say they work outside of conventional 9-5 hours. And 81% said they work on vacations. That figure was 62% among all SMBs.
GenZ owners are also driven by softer considerations like giving back to society. About half of GenZ business owners listed social good among their top three business priorities. And 88% of GenZ business owners who said that they prioritized social good in their business endeavors believe this helped their businesses grow.
Perhaps the least surprising finding was that GenZ business owners are more likely to run their businesses on their smartphones.
According to the survey, “Additionally, a clear majority of Gen Z (64%) and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) small business owners (58%) operate at least half of their business on their phone, compared to 48% of small business owners overall.”
Another finding that really stood out involved GenZ business owners’ views on education. Most GenZ business owners (78%) think a college education is not required to run a business. And 65% of GenZ entrepreneurs use TikTok as a place to learn about business. This is almost 2X the figure for all businesses.
Why is this so interesting? Well, because it’s true that anyone with drive, motivation, and a capacity to learn can pick up a lot of information online. Whether it’s TikTok, Skillshare, YouTube, or another platform.
It’s certainly enough to start a side hustle or two. And probably enough to start most types of small businesses. Will engineering degrees and MBAs still matter, especially for those building scaled tech companies and raising venture capital to do so? Of course. But there may be a big paradigm shift afoot. It isn’t necessary to build a unicorn to make a nice living. Or to control your own destiny.
This combination of a more entrepreneurial generation, a growing aversion to college debt, and the explosion in the amount of free educational content may prove to be more powerful than we realize. Why get a degree when you can launch an eCommerce store for very little upfront cash after watching just a couple of YouTube videos?
And notably, GenZ entrepreneurs are already using multiple side hustles to cobble together a living.
According to the survey, “nearly half of Gen Z (48%) and non-Hispanic Black small business owners (49%) have multiple side hustles, compared to 34% of small business owners overall.”
That feels like a very TikTok generation trait. Create your own livelihood on your terms.