Why Millennials Are (Rightly) Obsessed With Small Business

 

Call us special snowflakes, but we’re driving business to do better.

Ah, millennials. We’re a generation that wants to steer the boat, and a really cool one at that.

It might be a dinghy starting out (and maybe it never becomes a full-blown yacht,) but we want the business card with the word “founder” printed in effortlessly hip san-serif beneath our name.

While not all of us end up chasing those be-your-own-boss dreams, our attraction to entrepreneurship and small business runs deep: If we’re not making it happen ourselves, we'll sure as hell support someone else who is.

A recent report from America’s SBDC for the Center for Generational Kinetics found that nearly a third of millennials have started some kind of business and 75% would be encouraged to pursue entrepreneurship if they knew they’d have access to resources.

And where our parent's generation built shopping malls and marveled at the might of giant brands, the pendulum has swung the other way for Millennials; we want to support small brands that tell a story, that value quality and ethics over volume.

And while this isn’t the only factor contributing to the rapid closure of retail spaces and the crisis mode currently faced by franchise restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings, Ruby Tuesday and TGI Fridays, it represents a significant shift in culture.

The first answer out of society’s mouth is, of course, that we’re narcissists who feel entitled to the best and local-est of everything because we received too many participation trophies at some point (yawn.)

But what if we’re forgoing Applebee's for a Blue Apron obsession because it’s a superior product, costs less money, and doesn’t make you feel like garbage afterward? What if we’re committing ourselves to niche brands who at least seem to care about sourcing and ethics because we’re actually less selfish and more concerned about helping our communities?

Shame us all you want for Instagramming our meals and eating up our iPhone storage with selfies — we’re a generation that’s paying attention to how we can contribute to the greater good.

That desire manifests itself in ways including striking out to build a company-with-a-cause, or seeking out jobs with companies that give back to society in some way.

You might’ve noticed that in the wake of one-for-one models like TOMS and Warby Parker, you’d be hard pressed nowadays to find a startup that doesn’t align itself with a charitable cause in some way.

And while giving back to the community is by no means exclusive to the realm of small business and startups, millennials’ insistence on it has had a trickle-down effect. A study conducted by Fortune last year found that 2 out of 3 of those surveyed were at least somewhat more likely to want to work for a company that gave back, and 84 percent of those employed donated to a charitable cause in 2015, according to the Millennial Impact Report.

So keep on keepin ‘on, aspiring bosses and conscious consumers. We might catch flak for being special snowflakes, but we’re driving the marketplace to be better, and a bit of whining from the corporate buffalo wing lobby isn’t going to change that.

-Deena Drewis