Studies show Generation Z (those born after 1995, following the millennials) are self-starters who aren’t afraid to take control of their careers.
According to one Gallup study, nearly eight in 10 students in grades 5 through 12 say they want to be their own boss. Another study conducted by Millennial Branding shows that 72 percent of high school students and 64 percent of college students are eager to start their own business.
So what’s empowering teens to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset? In my latest for MediaPost, I share three factors that are contributing to it:
- The fragile teen employment market. As of 2011, only 26 percent of teens were employed—a sharp decline from the 45 percent teen employment rate that was more typical from 1950 to 2000. The weak economy and abysmal job market is encouraging teens to start their own businesses instead of taking on a more typical entry-level job.
- The rise of peer-to-peer sites and apps. Thanks to sites like TaskRabbit, it has never been easier to monetize your skills and knowledge. Teens are taking full advantage of peer-to-peer networks. Many online and mobile platforms enable teens to easily find freelance work and connect with potential clients.
- The ubiquity of social media. Creating and promoting your own content has never been easier, thanks to social media. YouTube, in particular, has caught the attention of innovative teens who are eager to share their expertise with the world. Today, teens can establish their own YouTube channels, and write, direct, produce, star in and promote their own content, on virtually any subject. As the success of beauty bloggers illustrates, media publications and big brands are recognizing the influence of these entrepreneurial teens.
Teens aren’t just after fame: they’re using social media to start their own non-profit, invent their own products or sell their own merchandise. Entrepreneurial Gen Zs are addressing social problems rather than waiting for government to take action. They’re forming their own small businesses rather than waiting for the job market to improve or for companies to consider them over millennials. Many are interning at established companies and then using that experience to go off and form their own company.
Companies can’t think of Gen Z as simply consumers. After all, the entrepreneurial teen is an empowered one. Collaboration is key because teens are establishing businesses that could compete with yours. To enhance the distribution of your product, for instance, consider reseller programs that tap into the entrepreneurial nature of your teen customers. Innovation contests and challenges with teen customers could give you valuable R&D insight. For marketing, partnering with influential teen YouTubers might make sense. When you collaborate with teens, they’re less likely to launch initiatives that compete with yours.
Also, remember that the entrepreneurial teen expects to have a voice. To connect with the empowered teen, you have engage in a two-way dialogue. Gen Z customers are not only buying your product, they’re also promoting it (or trashing it) online, improving it, changing it and using it in what they create. Companies need to build a relationship with teens, capture their feedback and use it to make better business decisions.
As I emphasize in my MediaPost article, the entrepreneurial nature of Gen Z today provides a huge opportunity for companies that are willing to partner with customers. Two-way, continuous engagement is key to harnessing the feedback and insight of innovative teens.