Becoming an Entrepreneur in a Down Economy

by Emily Guy Birken

If you have spent any time in the last few years searching for a job, you have probably thought once or twice about becoming an entrepreneur. It’s certainly a tempting prospect: being your own boss, having more control over your career, and having potentially unlimited income all sound wonderful to job-searchers who keep having to adjust their expectations for a job. Of course, going it alone is not an easy path. If you are at a career crossroads and have a great idea for a business, here is what you can expect from becoming an entrepreneur:

1. College can help you. As Amy Reinink reported in The Washington Post, many college campuses are adding courses and programs geared toward helping students become entrepreneurs. If you are currently in college and have an idea for a business, take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about how to make your start-up work. Since the sad fact is that most businesses fail, learning how to handle all of the ins and outs of creating a business plan, filing taxes, finding investors, and marketing while in the safe environment of college will give you a great background for once you are trying to make your ideas work in the real world.

Even if your college years are behind you, you can still take advantage of entrepreneurship education through your local community college. Check out the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship to find a local school that can help you learn how to become an entrepreneur.

2. Social action can help you find investors. While the unstable economy is certainly a major factor for why entrepreneurs go into business for themselves, many new businessmen and women are also interested in being socially responsible in their careers. This means that they are often starting companies that will help to solve or mitigate a social problem.

Not only does this allow individuals to work for a cause they are passionate about, but it also provides a built-in method for finding interested investors. Since getting a loan for a small business is also difficult in this economy, many new entrepreneurs are seeking the help of angel investors—rich individuals who provide capital for a new business. Find someone who cares deeply about the social problem your start-up will help mitigate, and it will be an easy sell.

3. Have an escape plan. It’s unlikely that your start-up will become the next Apple, so it is important to protect yourself in case of failure. In addition to planning how your business will grow, you should also write in a “worst-case-scenario” strategy so that you do not lose everything. That includes how to treat your investors in case your business folds—you want everyone associated with your business to have a good opinion of how you conducted yourself, even if things don’t ultimately work out.

Believing whole-heartedly in your business plan while also protecting yourself in case of failure can be a mental tightrope walk, but it is important to remember that you can pick yourself up and try again should this venture fail. The entrepreneurial spirit is one that can survive a failed startup.

The Bottom Line

Becoming an entrepreneur is certainly not an easy path to employment. However, if you are passionate about your idea, willing to learn and ask questions, and know that you can dust yourself off after a setback, going into business for yourself may be a great career path for you.

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