Reading the New York Times this morning, I came across an interesting and well put together article by Alex Williams that really grabbed my attention, “Maybe it’s time for Plan C“. The front page of the article came with photos of entrepreneurs who had quit or been laid off during this Great Recession, and who then decided to open their own business; these photos depict some great shots of the laywer-turned-greek food shop owner, and the one-time textile director putting away items in her antiques shop, and so on.
The thrust of the article was captured in this paragraph: “The lures [of quitting your job or job search and opening a shop or small business] are obvious: freedom, fulfillment. The highs can be high. But career switchers have found that going solo comes with its own pitfalls: a steep learning curve, no security, physical exhaustion and emotional meltdowns. The dream job is a “job” as much as it is a “dream.”
Both the subject matter of this article – and the attendant photos – immediately and emotionally pulled at me. Not just because I get a rush every time I see a story about the entrepreneurial moves of lawyers, accountants and other every day corporate workers opening up their own shops and businesses (btw, I do get a rush everytime I hear these stories!). But also because this story really hits an additional cord given that unemployment is still such a huge crisis, and so many of the unemployed and underemployed have been out of work for so long.
Unemployment of roughly 9 percent for over 28 months and counting; an even greater percentage (nearly 15%) if you count the underemployed; and nearly half of the unemployed have been looking for over 6 months. It’s a human crisis that I think about every day. I count myself lucky and very humbled and fortunate – and I ask myself what more can I do. My goofy brain always comes back to entrepreneurship and the thought of how opening up a small business can provide at least a job or two, maybe even four or five. I think about how it would be interesting to see if we can crowd-fund some dollars for a new business that could be staffed, owned and operated by some of those looking for work right now. I’m not talking about a high-tech start-up, or pulling in traditional VC dollars, but putting together enough money to rent some space, produce some product, pay a few people and do some good in the community. I’m thinking more like a kickstarter.com-like crowd-funded thing, meets monster.com/linkedin, meets match.com.
But that’s easier said than done, right? It generally takes around $75k-$100k to open up a shop, restaurant, food cart or other small business (sometimes less, usually more). And the wages that a small business can pay to its employees or even its entrepreneur-owner may be less than needed, may not come with health benefits, may not be stable enough for those with families and other responsibilities, and may not even be matched exactly to the “passion” or interest of the people looking for work.
I’m probably being naive, but I feel compelled to try. To just do something. I’ll look into it and post something here on this idea very soon. Stay tuned – and if you think I’m nuts or have any suggestions for the best place and way to do this, let me know. I want to do something to help; and I want to channel it in an entrepreneurial manner – along the lines of those stories I read this morning in the NYT article.