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For decades, Microsoft associated itself with the traditional definition of office work, long hours in front of a computer, but now the corporate giant of Generation Z is finding Generation Z entrepreneurs disrupting ideas about workplace crowding and the traditional 9-5 day. Many recent college graduates of Generation Z are upending the career paradigm and are seeking entrepreneurship rather than entering the corporate world.
“We’ve seen a lot of reimagining during the pandemic and a lot of digital transformation, which I think has really driven what we’re seeing a bit of a boom in entrepreneurship,” says Travis Walter, vice president of retail for the Microsoft Store. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of Generation Z They indicated that they have started, or intend to start, their own business, according to data from WP Engine and the Center for Generational Kinetics. Meanwhile, in 2021 alone, 5.4 million Americans applied to start their own businesses, according to government data.
The traditional idea of ”hustle culture” has evolved over the years, and while the grind offered by Generation Z looks a little different than millennials, that doesn’t mean they do less work. Instead, these entrepreneurs wear multiple hats with flexible work schedules, work vacations, and more attention to personal time. Nearly half of Generation Z, about 48%, have many side businesses, compared to 34% of small business owners, according to Microsoft Scan, conducted by Wakefield Research across 1,000 small business owners with less than 25 employees. Many of these companies are interfering with the rise in social media marketing. Entrepreneurs who use TikTok for their business (48%) are nearly as likely to have as many side activities as those who don’t (27%), according to Microsoft data.
“I think it’s important to let people work the way they need to work because then they can really do the best job, as we’re seeing with entrepreneurs and Generation Z,” Walter said.
Microsoft data shows that 91% of Generation Z entrepreneurs work unconventional hours; 81% say they work on vacation, compared to 62% of business owners overall.
“What do I really want to do?” It’s a frequently asked question, according to Philip Gaskin, Vice President of Entrepreneurship at The Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation. “That’s some of the energy of Generation Z,” he said.
Gaskin said that generation Z graduates are entering the workforce during the pandemic of “rediscovery,” a reassessment of personal and professional goals by many Americans across generations. Some people who may have been tired of their corporate jobs, or bored at some point in their lives, have been given time to stop and re-evaluate. Many people who saw an opportunity during the pandemic, often went with new technical ideas. The boom in new business formation is not a uniformly rosy scenario. In some cases it is a necessary job, according to Kaufman’s analysis, as people who have lost their jobs need new forms of income.
The shift correlates with the growth rate of new entrepreneurs for several years, with 2020 showing an all-time high, according to data from the Kauffman Foundation. It has significant implications for the labor market. “Most of the jobs created over the past five years were provided by companies no older than five years old,” Gaskin said.
Gen-Z also tends to the entrepreneurial path rather than getting involved in corporate America immediately after they graduate from college because many see it as a way to speed up their retirement. About 61% of Generation Z small business owners believe they will be able to retire faster than if they get a job at the company, compared to 40% of all small business owners who hold this view, according to a Microsoft survey. Among the broader small business community, collecting retirement savings through investment vehicles has historically been a challenge and much of their income has been reinvested directly into the business, which has provided them Reason to worry about financial security among entrepreneurs.
Ritwik Pavan, a Generation Z entrepreneur, has already started several companies.
“I’ve been on the entrepreneurial journey since high school and always wanted to build something because I always had a problem-solving mindset,” Pavan said.
The big idea he settled on after working in various technical fields, including app development, since college, is urban mobility.
With co-founders Matthew Schaefer and Christian Burke, launched in 2018, Vade helps reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions by providing real-time parking data to citizens.
Left to Right: Ritwik Pavan (COO), Christian Burke (CTO) and Matty Schaefer (CEO) of Vade discuss project plans.
“I help all these people solve problems and build their ideas, but I want to look for something I am excited to solve and for me, that problem was parking,” Pavan said. “The best part about being an entrepreneur is that we are driven by a big mission and we believe what we are going to do is change lives for the better and help cities become better places to live,” he said.
According to a Microsoft survey, about 88% of all small business owners who prioritize social goods say it has helped their business grow, including 82% of Generation Z respondents.
Pavan is an example of how the bustle of business has changed. His favorite part about being a small business owner is the flexibility that comes with the job, but that doesn’t mean working fewer hours than the president of the company like Jimmy Damon or Elon Musk stimulate.
“The truth is, as a founder, my co-workers and I for the first three years were working 18 hours a day, even 20 hours a day, and even now sometimes,” Pavan said.
But being able to make decisions for your company, he says, makes the long hours worthwhile, even if it also means being held accountable for the bad hours. According to Microsoft data, many Generation Z entrepreneurs, like Pavan, start making this decision before college, and many don’t see a degree as critical to their success: 78% of Generation Z entrepreneurs say a college education “isn’t.” “Very necessary” for them to run the business.