Pop-up shops and e-commerce businesses are on the rise as Millennials are more willing to take huge financial risks and become entrepreneurs.
America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) conducted a study last year which showed that 49 percent of Millennials say they may start a small business in the next three years while 68 percent have already owned one or been a part of a company’s start-up.
However, with this being the same generation carrying massive student loan debt, financial stability and college-aged students are not often seen hand in hand. The SBDC study said 45 percent of Millennials cite lack of financial assets as limits for their small business plans.
Why, then, are so many still choosing to embark on their own business endeavors?
“It just seems so easy. You see all these people doing really cool things and you feel like you could do that. The hard part is just keeping it up,” Marlenne Ferrales, founder and owner of The L Team said.
The L Team sells custom made dog bandanas on Etsy, an e-commerce destination for unique and handmade items. The ideas behind her company are not complex. She sells dog bandanas because she loves dogs and her mother owns a sewing machine. She chose to call it The L Team to because all of her dogs are named Lady, Luffy and Lua.
Ferrales started the small company in November 2017 for another simple reason: she needed to fund her upcoming study abroad trip to Barcelona.
“In the very beginning I expected nothing. Just a cute little side gig to buy me my airplane ticket and that’s about it,” Ferrales said. “But in the first month it went really well.”
Having recently surpassed her goal of 1,000 sales, she said, “Now I can afford to go to Barcelona and back a few times over.”
This new generation of adults prefers to throw caution to the wind in order to do what they’re passionate about. Abigail Spong, founder and owner of Valley Girls, said the clothing brand was born from her passion for fashion and vintage finds. She scours secondhand stores and repurposes pieces for all shapes and sizes.
“I had been collecting vintage clothing since i was a kid with my mom and grandma. They kind of inspired it,” Spong said. “Valley Girls was my creative endeavor and it was never solely a way for me to make money.”
Valley Girls launched with a website created by Spong but operates primarily through social media –– another growing trend with young-adult consumers.
Social media sites like Instagram are one-stop shops for many and businesses have found profits in this. Apparel brands in particular market largely through social media employing regular people or famous people with huge followings to help market their brands. This is likely another reason young-adults feel they should market themselves.
Valley Girls hosted its first pop-up shop during First Friday in September at POP PHX located on Roosevelt Row. POP PHX was created by Ashley Bourget to be a host for small business owners who operate online to have a brick and mortar location.
Bourget said while working in commercial real estate, she noticed many retail vacancies and a void of merchandise in downtown Phoenix. She decided to put her real estate background to use and in an area help where some small vendors may lack.
“Watching vendors grow their customer base and the excitement they get from having a place to sell their products keeps me committed because they are so limited on where they can sell from,” Bourget said.
Her venture began with humble expectations. Like Ferrales and Spong, she did not expect that it would turn into a permanent endeavor.
“When I started it was just kind of for fun like a hobby,” Bourget said. “Once I saw the demand for it I really thought it’d be great to turn it into a business”
When unlikely endeavors become successful, many young-adults are no longer satisfied with the average, unfulfilling occupation.
“A lot of people have this dream to do something other than an average 9-to-5 job. What starts as a hobby becomes a profitable business,” Bourget said. “And maybe you have a dream that you can one day do that full time.”
Valley Girls owner agreed and said that she, along with many others her age, believes her passion should also be her job if she chooses.
“It’s really pounded into us that you either do your passion or you make money,” Spong said. “There’s not a happy medium for a lot of people”
Ferrales also said now she may not ever want to hold a 40-hours-a-week job working for someone else and receiving two weeks of vacation a year. Older generations on the outside looking in perceive this attitude as lazy. In reality, it is a strong entrepreneurial desire.
Because many young-adults are held back by financial instability, their small business creations are hardly ever their sole occupations or even their main focuses. Ferrales and Spong are both full-time students at Arizona State University and both have multiple part-time jobs in addition to their businesses.
Spong said she is content with keeping Valley Girls as her business on the side, however she would also be happy to see it grow.
“I think while being in college and a journalism student, I had been lacking a creative outlet,” Spong said. “Sometimes I wonder if turning this into my career would be less exciting. I just want it to be a local small-scale brand.”
Even Bourget, who is more financially established, still operates POP PHX secondary to her real estate career.
But for Ferrales, The L Team’s success has caused a change in her focuses.
“Before I would give priority to working at my actual jobs because I thought in terms of where I could make the most money,” she said. “Now I want the day off to work on bandanas because I know that ultimately it will bring me more money than picking up a shift.”
With a larger focus on the environment in recent years, many start selling their own goods as a way to promote sustainability. Spong said after starting Valley Girls, she realized she could use the business to promote mindful shopping and consumerism.