Beware the fuss about accidental entrepreneurs
We’ve been hearing a lot recently about so-called accidental entrepreneurs–unemployed people who start a business when they can’t find a job or, at least, need help paying the bills until they land a new spot. A New York Times story cites statistics from the Kauffman Foundation and an online legal document service as evidence:
Others among the unemployed are taking the entrepreneurial route. The most recent Index of Entrepreneurial Activity by the Kauffman Foundation showed a slight uptick of new businesses in 2008 — a full recessionary year — over 2007. An average of 320 Americans out of 100,000 formed a business each month, Kauffman said. What’s more, it found, the patterns “provide some early evidence that ‘necessity’ entrepreneurship is increasing and ‘opportunity’ entrepreneurship is decreasing.”
Accidental or by design, entrepreneurship is on the rise again this year. LegalZoom, the online legal document service, says the number of new businesses it helped to form was up 10 percent in the first half of the year, compared with the period a year earlier.
Also, the story cites the usual point made in such articles, that many large successful businesses were started during recessions.
Perhaps you’re picking up on my skepticism here. While I don’t doubt that there’s an uptick in startups launched by such people, I think their chances of becoming another Starbucks, Intuit or Petsmart (companies started during recessions) are tiny. Being a successful entrepreneur requires a certain drive, commitment, passion. And, for many people used to corporate life, it’s like landing in a foreign country with a strange culture–one they never get used to.
In fact, starting a business isn’t for everyone and all these happy accidental entrepreneur stories do a disservice to the vast majority of people who aren’t cut out for it.
If you can pinpoint a business that’s cheap to start and look on it as a way to make some cash during a job search, that’s great. I assume, it’s also a way to showcase your talents to a potential employer. But it’s foolish–and irresponsible–to create the impression that accidental entrepreneurship is going to be the answer for many people.