Kickstarting a new wave of micro entrepreneurs

Make-Stuff
By Alice Mitchell

After reading a Metro article, which hailed the success of Nathan Blecharczyk’s Airbnb.com, the website that allows people to rent out their homes to travellers on a budget as an alternative to staying in hotels or other ‘exorbitant tourist traps’, I began to think of this notion of micro-entrepreneurships and the factors contributing towards this growing phenomenon.

The internet has evolved in such a way that users now have access to a wealth of platforms to monetise their own assets and expertise, creating their own ‘micro businesses’. eBay, Kickstarter and Etsy are just a few sites through which people are able to sell their own products, anywhere in the world, to anyone in the world.

Taking Kickstarter as an example, it is a highly cost-efficient way of cutting out the risk factor when predicting whether or not a product will be successful, for the entrepreneur is able to put their product to the consumer before its production rather than taking an expensive wager on its success. Effectively, ‘money is no object’ for those with brilliant, creative ideas or those who have cool stuff they want to sell but don’t have the means to advertise it. It paves the way not only for boundless creativity but also for a sense of community which is absent in large, ubiquitous corporations.

But besides a cheaper way of doing business, why else are so many people turning towards this micro entrepreneurship? Well first, being your own boss and determining the direction of a business about which you are passionate allows you to cash in on your creativity and really believe in what you are selling. Secondly, this way of doing business allows you to be a lot more flexible with your time than an ordinary job would, meaning you can channel all of your energy into something that excites you (rather than something that excites your boss).

So, those are some of the pros from the vendor’s perspective, but what are the reasons for consumers turning in droves towards these micro-businesses?

Well, from a broader perspective, growing mistrust in large corporations following economic downturn means that consumers seek alternative outlets for their needs and wants. The transparency of these websites and the fact that anyone can do it seems to be a great leveller of the ‘seller vs consumer’ dynamic, and thus creates a relationship built on mutual ground and in turn, trust.

Sure, consumers may continue to be wary of buying a dodgy iPhone from eBay, when they could choose the safe option and buy one from the Apple shop, but thanks to word of mouth and the wholesome simplicity of websites such as Airbnb, trust is being instilled into consumers who are becoming increasingly open to the idea of such sites. What’s more, these micro-businesses provide the consumer with a notion of ‘alternative living’, which the larger more generic corporations struggle to pull off. Via Airbnb, you can experience your destination by staying in someone’s real home, in a neighbourhood to which you ordinarily mightn’t have access. This also does wonders for local economies.

I believe it was Confucius who once said “If you do something you love you’ll never work a day in your life”. This could not be truer for all those ‘corporate-gone-creative’ types who have ditched their ordinary jobs and pursued their dreams. This growing trend – often referred to by the media as ‘the rise of the creative class’ – will have far-reaching implications for creative types in the future. The financial parameters of setting up a business are shifting. People can sell their wares and, at the same time, put a stamp of individualism on the way they do things at little or no cost.

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