Guest Columnist

Columnist: Millennials daring, taking risks as entrepreneurs

May 20, 2013 

Guest columnist Sheon Wilson

Networking with small business owners, I’m meeting lots of Millennials, the 20-somethings known as Generation Y, who have been vilified as lazy, selfish, phone-obsessed, hard to motivate and socially impaired.

“Entitlement – the idea that one deserves things without working for them – may have increased” among 25-, 26- and 27-year-olds, a recent study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests.

In the study, psychologists Jean Twenge and Tim Kasser found that 39 percent of Millennials thought not working hard might prevent them from getting a job they wanted. Among baby boomers, the number was 25 percent.

That may be true, but I’ve found a lot to admire about Millennial entrepreneurs, who abound in the small-business heavy Triangle. Without worries like dependents and mortgages, young entrepreneurs have less to lose.

The Gen Yers I’m meeting are daring and confident they can be successful.

“We live in different times, and a lot of that has to do with the Internet. You can run a business from anywhere,” said Corey Harris, 26, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate and owner of Mobile Webie, which updates a company’s marketing, creating Web pages for mobile phones that are easy to find in Google searches.

“We don’t see barriers as strongly as the older generations do. It’s easier for us to take risks,” Harris said.

Harris’ first business, Blinkness.com, used grade distribution data to help his fellow UNC students find the easiest professors. His second business, Blinktextbooks.com, helps them find cheap textbooks.

“If you don’t see it as a barrier that you don’t have as much money, you don’t know everything about what you want to do, or you still have things to learn, you decide you might as well do it,” Harris said.

That could be the motto of Duke graduate Justine Chow, 24, CEO of BaseTrace, a Morrisville startup that aims to play a big role in the energy industry.

The company’s DNA-based liquid, she said, can trace whether fracking – injecting water and chemicals into shale rock formations to find natural gas – is contaminating drinking water sources. Her company raised $35,000 from Duke and a private equity firm and could generate millions.

I met Chow when she spoke at the National Honor Society induction ceremony at my daughter’s school, Kestrel Heights, in Durham. She told the kids, “A few years ago, I was right where you are now. I was studying hard and looking forward to my future.”

Her company is a seat-of-the-pants operation, but “it’s a really good place to be,” Chow said in an interview.

“That’s what I like about doing this business,” Chow said. “It’s different every day.”

Her advice: “Make sure you keep learning on the job.”

That makes business sound like fun.

Sheon Wilson is a writer and personal branding specialist who lives in Durham. Follow her on Twitter @SheonWilson.

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