Young Entrepreneur Blog Series: The advent of a new American Dream.

A few weeks ago I blogged about the alarming downward trend in the number of young people starting their own businesses. This is my first blog discussing some of the reasons I think that we are seeing less entrepreneurs. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and keep an eye out for the rest of my blog series!

New data has shown that the number of people under age 30 who own private businesses has reached a 24-year-low.  Of course, there are exceptions to this trend as with anything else. Mark Zuckerberg is a fresh-faced 30 years old, Pete Cashmore of Mashable is 25, WordPress co-founder Matthew Mullenweg is 26 and Chad Hurley, one of the founders of YouTube, is 30.

Some of those big names aside, what is responsible for this changing American dream that drives today’s potential entrepreneurs away from the long hours and hard work involved opening their own business?

A good paying job, even if the hours are long.  Starting a family.  A car that runs well and a modest house with a white picket fence. Being able to afford to put your kids through college. That was the American Dream of our parents (Baby Boomers), and it changed a bit for my generation (Gen X). We changed our American Dream to being successful, working our way up to a stable well-paying job, a nice car and a big house with a white picket fence. And of course, being able to afford to our kids through college.

Today I’d like to talk about the new American Dream, the one held by Generation Y and the Millennials (born 1975-1995), and the role it might play in the lack of young entrepreneurs.  Growing up on shows like Real Housewives and Keeping up with the Kardashians, given instant access to information with the internet and delivered instant gratification and attention with today’s handheld technology, the Millennial American dream includes a well-paying job immediately after college graduation, a work-life balance with ample vacation time, the McMansion next door and the family-sized BMW.

Maybe Millennials see the sacrifices of their parents and don’t want to work the long hours, days and weeks involved in making an idea or business successful.  They would rather find a well-paying job that they don’t love if it offers steady hours and a great vacation package instead of working much harder pursuing something that they are passionate about.

Or maybe Millennials see the workplaces of today’s hot new tech companies, like Google, Facebook and Twitter, which offer expansive vacation time, free gourmet cafeterias, casual dress and a host of perks that most businesses – especially entrepreneurs and small businesses – can’t afford to offer.

Or is it a reflection of what is idolized in today’s society?  The “Kardashian” or “Real Housewives” lifestyle, the flashy lifestyle. While behind the scenes the family surely works very hard on their empire, what today’s generations see on screen is a lavish lifestyle of traveling and fashion launched not by bootstrapping or a tremendous upwards climb, but by using scandals, TV and social media to get there. The message sent to today’s youth?  Simply be famous, not strive to create something that will change the world through your hard work.

So do you agree that the American Dream has changed, or am I simply grasping at straws? If you agree, what do you think we can do to change this for today’s future business owners and soon-to-be college graduates?

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Rob Basso is a recognized small business expert, successful business owner and entrepreneur.

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