Studies Reveal Online Entrepreneurship Thriving

Two nationwide surveys released in advance of National Small Business Week suggests that entrepreneurial aspirations are rooted among the vast majority of the American public.

After a 30-plus year career as a sales and marketing professional in media sales, customer service and retailing, Mark Williams of Menlo Park, CA, finally went into business for himself, starting ShavingCream.com. The online business was conceived in the spring of 2002 and began full-time development in January 2003. It opened in December 2003.

"The chance to work for myself, to put my ideas into play, to answer only to myself are what drove me to start my own businesses," said Williams. "Many people close to me have been self-employed, giving me the inspiration and drive to join their ranks. My father, his father, my mother's father, and two of my brothers were and are self-employed. So are many close friends and acquaintances."

Williams started ShavingCream.com because he recognized that the Internet was the "new sales frontier" and felt that it would hold great potential for him in the years ahead.

"The cost of entry for Internet retailing seemed relatively low at the time and Yahoo! provided me with an array of turn-key, user friendly tools to help build my online business," he said.

The first year of ShavingCream.com's sales was punctuated by a vibrant Christmas selling season. Williams is predicting a three-fold increase in business by the end of 2005.

"Our expectation for tripling our business in 2005 is based on what we were able to achieve in sales during the start-up first year, our growing customer base and its repeat business, the growth expectations of the men's grooming products category, and the continued growth of Internet shopping. Our first quarter 2005 sales are nearly nine times greater than our first quarter sales of 2004, having increased about 750 percent year to year," he said.

“For many people, entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of their vision of the American dream.”

—Rich Riley
VP/GM, Yahoo! Small Business

 

According to a new survey conducted by Yahoo! and Harris Interactive, Williams is not the only entrepreneur who followed his dream of starting his own business. According to the study released this week, 72 percent of American adults have considered starting their own businesses and 75 percent said the Internet has made it easier to launch a small business. In addition, nearly half of those who have considered starting a business but haven't yet (47 percent) said they would "never be too old" to do so.

The nationwide survey of more than 2,200 U.S. adults is being released in advance of National Small Business Week, April 25-29. The survey, conducted earlier this month, measured sentiment among the general population about aspirations for owning a small business and the role of the Internet in enabling the start up of small businesses.

The survey results suggest that entrepreneurial aspirations are rooted among the vast majority of the American public. According to Yahoo!, the survey also supports research from the Untied States Small Business Administration indicating that the small business sector will continue to be a key factor in economic growth and job creation. Of those adults surveyed with entrepreneurial goals, 51 percent would like to launch their business within the next five years.

"For many people, entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of their vision of the American dream. Fortunately, continuing innovation in technology, and particularly the Internet, has helped make starting a business more attainable than ever before," said Rich Riley, vice president and general manager, Yahoo! Small Business.

Riley, a former entrepreneur whose business was acquired by Yahoo!, leads the division of Yahoo! that hosts more than 30,000 online stores.

The survey showed that higher percentages of men than women have thought about starting their own businesses, but a significant majority of women (66 percent) said they have small business dreams. In fact, 24 percent of men and 16 percent of women (19 percent overall) indicated that they had already started a business of some type.

Money Doesn't Buy Happiness
The Yahoo! survey showed that money was not at the top of the list of priorities for aspiring entrepreneurs, when asked to identify the main reason for wanting to start a business:

  • Passionate hobby/to do work I love (28 percent)
  • Be my own boss (25 percent)
  • To make more money (18 percent)
  • Create something people need (11 percent)
  • For the challenge (10 percent)
  • To get rich (or nearly rich) (6 percent)
  • Other (3 percent)

 

Late in Life Career Options
In addition to indicating that age was not a determining factor in giving up on entrepreneurial aspirations, a majority (56 percent) of those who have thought about starting their own business but haven't yet said owning a business was a type of work they would want to do later in life. Other careers these respondents would want to do later in life include:

  • Volunteering/Public Service (36 percent)
  • Consulting (26 percent)
  • Teaching (22 percent)
  • Retail/customer service (14 percent)
  • Corporate office/board member (13 percent)
  • Run for office (10 percent)
  • Sales (7 percent)
  • Other (16 percent)
  • Don't want to work (12 percent)

 

Aspiring entrepreneurs also listed a wide range of specific preferred choices for late in life businesses they would launch, including: healer/spiritual advisor, crafting for profit, sport fishing charters, performing belly dancing, gunsmith, and yarn shop.

"Small Business Week is an important opportunity to focus attention on the courage, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners," said Riley.

“The chance to work for myself, to put my ideas into play, to answer only to myself are what drove me to start my own businesses.”

—Mark Williams
President and Founder, shavingcream.com

 

"The findings suggest that a great many U.S. adults dream of being their own boss, and see the Internet as making it easier to make those dreams come true. The survey also collected data regarding the age at which most people believe it would be 'too late' to launch a small business and some interesting choices for later in life careers/types of small businesses," added Yahoo! spokesperson Ed Bryson.

Study Indicates Bright Future for SMBs
A second study conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Register.com, also shows that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the U.S.

According to that study, 47 percent of U.S. adults have taken initial steps toward starting their own business or supplementing their income.

The survey revealed several interesting results, including:

  • 31 percent of U.S. adults have crafted a business idea.
  • 24 percent have researched his or her idea online; 26 percent plan to do so.
  • 21 percent have already formulated a business plan, and 27 percent anticipate doing so in the future.
  • 9 percent have already built a Web site; 17 percent plan to in the future.
  • 7 percent have sold product directly through online channels, while 13 percent plan to do so.

 

"With almost half the nation's population wanting to start their own business or supplement their income, this study speaks volumes about the health of the entrepreneurial spirit in America," said Monica Hodges, general manager of Retail for Register.com. "It also underscores what a powerful force the Internet is for today's aspiring entrepreneurs. Whereas the Web was once the turf of large enterprises, today it can help to level the playing field for small business owners."

"Despite the thousands of new Web sites coming online each day, the survey suggests that a significant portion of future small business owners have yet to launch the online component of their business. Many small business owners may be intimidated by the prospect of building a Web site, fearing that it is too complicated, expensive or too time consuming. We're committed to exposing those myths and demonstrating how simple it really is for any business to establish an online presence," added Hodges.

If the experience of ShavingCream.com's Williams is any indication, this movement towards building a Web business isn't likely to slow down any time soon.

"The self-service nature of Internet shopping and selling has created a very healthy lifestyle for me and my family in that I can work from home if I want, enjoy flexible working hours, spend quality time with my family and friends, exercise, and work with my wife, who I met at work years ago and with whom work well with. Not having a long commute leaves more time for work and family," said Williams.

Devin Comiskey is the Managing Editor for ECommerce-Guide.com.

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