Greetings from the North Dakota Small Business Development Network (ND SBDC, ND PTAC, and VBOC of the Dakotas!)
Who do you picture when you hear the words “business owner”? Statistically speaking, the most accurate picture of a business owner in the United States is an individual 55 years of age or older. According to the 2019 Annual Business Survey (data approved by the U.S. Census Bureau), this demographic comprises over half of the nation’s business owners. The same study found that just 6% of business owners are 34 years of age or younger.
Communities depend on local small businesses and their owners for economic development and for shaping thriving communities. It is easy to take these business owners, and the goods and services they provide, for granted. Yet as one generation ages, younger generations must step in to fill the gaps left in business leadership to ensure that the business ecosystem continues to thrive. The ND SBDC is dedicated to ensuring that the generations that will soon own and operate most small businesses in the nation are ready and prepared to lead. Ensuring current business owners have succession and exit plans is one piece of that transition. The other is understanding the capabilities, desires, and needs of up-and-coming entrepreneurs and business owners.
In an insightful Op-Ed titled “A New Generation of Entrepreneurs: Millennials and Gen Z,” the Small Business Administration highlights what makes these incoming business owners unique and the distinct challenges they face in business ownership.
Millennials and Gen Z are unique in their focus on social impact – they are value-driven and community-oriented. They demand meaningful social change and are cognizant of shopping at sustainable establishments that support their local community. Also unique to these generations is their high rate of solo entrepreneurs, those who self-employ but who do not employ others. This status is commonly known as a sole proprietorship.
The major challenge that Millennial and Gen Z entrepreneurs and business owners face is financing. The Op-Ed highlighted that of those citizens born between 1982 and 2000, 82% have at least one source of debt, whether that be student loans, credit card debt, a mortgage, etc. Furthermore, 42% of this demographic shared they do not have the financial ability to start a business.
Access to capital, financial literacy, and encouraging Millennials and Gen Z alike to look for business ownership opportunities are key to ensuring communities’ and businesses’ future success. Through the SBA, young entrepreneurs can explore funding options and access online learning opportunities, including a Young Entrepreneurs course that covers funding options, developing a business plan, and understanding the market.
However, the best resource available to North Dakota’s future business leaders is our ND SBDC professional business advisors. These advisors are skilled at assisting young entrepreneurs and business owners and addressing their unique challenges. Some of these advisors even actively work with North Dakota universities and K-12 school systems to introduce the idea of business ownership to our state’s youngest and brightest minds.
Look at and hear from these young and successful business owners and entrepreneurs that the ND SBDC has been honored to assist:
“SBDC has been instrumental during the planning stages of Rocket Wash, from their help with the business plan to the pro forma. They were easy to work with and very helpful to us with this process. Not only do we thank you, but also the community for a much needed service!”
“Working with my Advisor made me feel like I had that true genuine sense of support. She gave me great suggestions of which potential banks to start with and visit with. I would hands-down recommend the ND SDBC; I would not be where I am today without the help of the ND SBDC.”
“If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, there are bound to be things you don’t know – blind spots – the SBDC can help you work through. If you are a small business owner, resources and tools are available to help you tighten up your business. It is just a great decision to check out your SBDC and see what they can do for you, wherever you are in the process,”
Business ownership is attainable, and the state of North Dakota has much business leadership talent that has yet to be recognized and cultivated. If you or a young entrepreneur or business owner you know would like to schedule a no-cost advising session with one of our professional business advisors, register today to get started.
Tiffany Ford, State Director
And all the Staff of the ND Small Business Development Network