Gen-Y’s are today’s face of entrepreneurship. When an idea strikes they bring a level of energy and innovation that is simply unmatched.
In the past it was experience that gave entrepreneurs the ability to predict the next big thing. Now, passion and innovative thinking are the key drivers behind today’s successful entrepreneurs and tomorrow’s most prolific business leaders.
Before I started Redwood Strategic, I saw how companies constantly struggled to effectively build relationships between brands and students. I was passionate about using new media, marketing and the digital world to help them find a solution, and this eventually formed the basis of my company.
Still, at times it was very challenging to choose between the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds.
Although the prospect of working with an established company can bring safety, security and a stable income, I chose to follow my passion. For me, taking the plunge and pursuing an entrepreneurial career was not about financial gain; it was about being excited to go to work and having the opportunity to innovate in an industry that demanded new ideas.
Willingness to take risks is part of what characterizes Gen-Y’s, along with their ambition, innovative thinking and contagious energy. Aditya Shah, Co-Founder of LooseButton, an online shopping site that sells high-quality international fashion, is a Gen-Y entrepreneur who also had to choose between continuing on a corporate path or pursuing his entrepreneurial passions.
As a recent university graduate, Aditya was offered full-time opportunities at some of the most prestigious companies in both Canada and Silicon Valley. But after working for some large corporations, Aditya decided to pursue his interest in entrepreneurship, prompted by his decision to join Impact Entrepreneurship Group, a non-profit dedicated to encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit in young adults. Through Impact he discovered what he could accomplish and where he was able to make a difference made valuable connections with like-minds and gained vital experience for his entrepreneurial venture, LooseButton.
“Figuring out what makes you happy is key because this will lead to success,” said Aditya. “You enjoy work a lot more when you’re passionate about it.”
Not all grads are making the leap from education to entrepreneurship. Many Gen-Y’s are quenching their entrepreneurial thirst at innovative companies.
Google engineer Mike Lopyrev was at university during the dot-com crash, a time when creating a start-up didn’t seem like a great idea. Instead, Mike looked for interesting internships with cutting-edge companies.
Even though he chose to go the corporate route, by looking for a company with interesting people and a great infrastructure that allows for creativity Mike is able to be an “intrapreneur” by taking on new ideas and building concrete results.
“As an intrapreneur there is always drive to go out there and do something interesting,” says Mike. “Innovation and creation are part of Google’s corporate culture.” Google, he says, provides him with “a safe harbor to try new ideas and throw high-risk things out there to see what sticks.”
Before considering a corporate or entrepreneurial next step, think about your passions and what truly interests you. Although some Gen-Y’s may be comfortable taking a risk and diving head-first into entrepreneurship, many would rather just get their toes wet first. If this is the case, there are many opportunities to innovate within a company. Those looking for this kind of experience can seek out companies that provide intrapreneurial opportunities. Start-up companies are a great place to look and they are always looking for top talent.
Working on side projects around your work schedule is also a great way to transition from a corporate setting into an entrepreneurship. By taking your idea and running with it, finding out what works and what doesn’t, your project will begin to stand on its own. As you prepare for your next step in the workplace, consider quenching your entrepreneurial thirst.
Whether you are ready to pursue your big idea or you want to gain some experience first, finding a company that interests you is a great first step. No matter what you choose, trying as many different things as possible will help you succeed in your long-term career.
For those who are ready to take the plunge, it is important to seize the opportunity when it occurs. There will always be opportunities in the corporate world but there may not always be a perfect time to start your own business. Think about the ideas you have and the passions that keep you up at night and then pursue them. There is no better time than now.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Dave Wilkin, a Gen-Y entrepreneur, is an innovator in the campus marketing space, taking a unique approach to reaching students. Mr. Wilkin is the founder of Toronto-based Redwood Strategic, which aims to help Canada’s leading brands connect with the influencers, activities and initiatives that matter to students. He has mentored young leaders across the country, and he has advised non-profits and emerging entrepreneurs. You can reach Dave on Twitter @dwilkin. This is the second of a 10-part summer series Mr. Wilkin is writing for Your Business. The columns will appear every Wednesday.