What is an entrepreneur? I've claimed to be one for ten years, yet I haven't built and sold any businesses, no bricks and mortars and I'm currently employed, I've never raised investment capital, and I'm not rich. Sounds to me like I don't fit the mold of an entrepreneur.
Here's what I have done from 18 to 21, I maintained a modest income re-selling undervalued products on eBay; from 23 to 25 I owned and operated a marketing consultancy and from 25 to present day I've been building my personal brand.
As I think about what I'm trying to pursue, I look around and see others on my same path who have already done it. They've taken their passion and their expertise' and monetized it. This wasn't possible ten years ago, but today it is and it's all thanks to technology and the Internet.
When I graduated from high school ten years ago, high speed Internet was just becoming mainstream. Millions of people were flocking to the Internet, and online communities and websites were popping up all over the place. It was clear that people wanted to connect. At this time, eBay and Paypal were crushing it. Everyone who wanted to make a few hundred bucks were scouring their garages and attics looking for old clothes and odds and ends they would normally only have the opportunity to sell locally in a garage sell, but eBay changed the game. They made it super simple to connect buyers with sellers and exchange goods and money easily, and to a global audience.
This was my Steve Jobs moment. When Steve Jobs typed a command on a keyboard and saw it displayed on a monitor connected to a computer at Steve Wozniak's house, he immediately began to see the future of opportunity. This is exactly how I felt when I made my first transaction on eBay. I was hooked! After the allure of the new hotness wore off, I found that it wasn't just eBay that was changing things. Technology and business was on the verge of being completely disrupted. I made a decision that day that I would devote every waking moment to learning this thing called the Internet, eCommerce, business, marketing, web design, and everything else that continued to evolve thereafter. Six months later after realizing that college wasn't equipped to teach me the skills needed in what I perceived as a new wave in business and marketing, I made the bold decision to drop out of college to fully dedicate myself to learning about the Internet. I had to be apart of this revolution. It was history being shaped right before my eyes. I never looked back.
Right now there's thousands of people around the world who are making arts and crafts and selling their pieces on sites like Etsy. There are also bloggers, vloggers, amateur film makers, personal trainers, life coaches, writers, photographers, comedians, unsigned musicians, news reporters, and app developers who are sharing their passions with the world and monetizing it.
Technology and the Internet is taking us back to our original primal instinct. We were never built to be employees. It wasn't until a few hundred years ago that the concept of working for someone else and being dictated orders caught on. Prior to that, we were all merchants. We gathered and created things of value and sold them in the local village. Sure, you can easily argue that if the world still worked this way today that we'd have no Internet, no modern luxuries, no technology, etc. That's all besides the point. I'm talking about the human connection that technology and the Internet has provided to give us back a piece of ourselves that we lost several hundred years ago when we were convinced to become employed.
Technology redefined entrepreneurship because it leveled the playing field. Ten years ago eBay allowed anyone to list an item on their website for a mere $0.35. Web hosting companies offer rates as low as $10/month to host your website and blogging and vlogging platforms like Wordpress and YouTube allow users to post and host their content for free. The zero barrier to entry that technology has provided has made entrepreneurship accessible to anyone and here's the best part. Most of the types of people I previously mentioned who are monetizing their passions and building profitable businesses never even intended to build businesses. They focus instead on creating remarkable content and products, and over-time they build a loyal tribe of followers. Isn't that amazing!
Can you believe that we're living through an era where you can accidentally become an entrepreneur through sheer passion and endurance? This is the story for some of my greatest heroes including Gary Vaynerchuk who leveraged his passion for wine with his talent in-front of the camera. He used his vlog Wine Library TV to build an audience, a killer personal brand, and a top-tier marketing firm. Marie Forleo leveraged her passion for people and her gift of gab to create a power brand online through YouTube and her website. She was even named a "thought leader for the next generation" by Oprah, and then there's Philip DeFranco. He completely changed the game of online news media and re-defined news for a new generation. His network of YouTube Channels is reported to receive over 50 million views/month. DeFranco has since sold his network of shows to Discovery and was made an executive VP. Not bad for someone who started a news vlog on YouTube and has yet to hit 30 years of age.
In addition to the low barrier of entry, technology has also redefined entrepreneurship due to the mobility it provides. In this day and age, time is a precious commodity that many of us don't have the luxury to spare. Cloud computing allows us to stay connected to all of our documents and files on all of our devices; web-based content management systems allow us to post a blog post, video, or photo on our social channels and content hubs, and all of this can be done on-the-go, at home, in an office, or anywhere else you've got a connection to the Internet.
So what does this all mean and where do you go from here?
I believe that we're living through one of the greatest culture shifts of our time. We're living through what many might consider on-par with the industrial revolution. The Internet is making more millionaires than bricks and mortars will ever be able to keep up with. The opportunity to be an entrepreneur has never been easier and more accessible, and I believe that in the very near future we will all have to be entrepreneurs on some level. Go back two generations to the Baby Boomers. Entire families were able to be supported on one man's income alone. Generation X required two full-time salaries and I believe Millennial's will require four incomes. Two from each partners' full-time jobs and two supplemental incomes from side-businesses. Don't believe me? Research the rate at which inflation is rising while employee compensation remains stagnant.
Now is the time to take those ideas and those side-businesses and turn them into real businesses, but the clock is ticking. Entrepreneurship in the Internet Age is won with time and talent. Those who have the talent and stick it out will become victorious.
So what are you waiting for? Do you have a hobby, talent, skill, interest, or passion? Get online and build a business and don't be afraid to call yourself an entrepreneur. I no longer am.