Mattel recently launched entrepreneur Barbie. Armed with a briefcase, smartphone, tablet and a pink dress, she launched her own LinkedIn profile on the first day in job. While public opinion on entrepreneur Barbie has been divided, the message about entrepreneurship – a career choice that was previously met with scepticism – is absolute. Entrepreneurs are the new cool. They are changing the world.
Industry leaders such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Larry Page, Carman cereal’s Carolyn Creswell, Freelancer.com’s Matt Barrie and many others have illustrated the power of believing in an idea and making it a reality. And, in Australia (one of the most entrepreneur friendly countries in the world), entrepreneurship is steadily growing with 9,000 new businesses formed in 2013 (0.4% increase over 2012).
Shift in power – corporate vs entrepreneur
In the past, big brands and corporates were the mainstay of economic change in the world. They were the innovators and guardians of new technology, ideas and mainstream movements that became everyday habits. However, since the market got disrupted with accessible technology, social media and globalisation, the balance of power has evened out. Customers now have more power and voice.
Small businesses are making a big impact by not only creating jobs and economic opportunities, but also in fostering the spirit of innovation. Big brands that have traditionally fit customers around their value proposition are trying to adapt to the changes. Very few companies such as Apple and Burberry have shaped their narrative around the customer by creating individual experiences. Entrepreneurs on the other hand are getting acknowledged as creative thinkers who want to help people and build their value proposition with the customer in mind. And, customers are responding to them.
In a pyschographically-fragmented world, communities bonding over common purpose or interests have more power over brands. Where corporates are trying to engage with these communities – Huggies with mums, Woolworths with schools – small businesses have intuitively moulded the spirit of community into their core value proposition.
Technology, the great change agent
Technology, to a large degree, has been the wind beneath entrepreneurship’s wings. It has helped break down barriers to entry, made it easier for women to consider starting their own business, facilitated early dialogue and research with communities and, given a global voice to small businesses.
As with Apple, Instagram, Etsy, Burberry and other brands credited for ‘getting it right’, successful entrepreneurs have used technology as a means to an end. Australian entrepreneur driven brands are using technology to not only deliver products and services but also real value for customers. Some examples include custom made shoes company Shoes of Prey that allows you to design your own shoes, fitness queen Michelle Bridges who delivers programs to a global community via an online portal and events software developer iVvy creating the world’s first real-time booking software in hospitality. Sydney based Shoes of Prey achieved the rare feat of being featured by its competitor when it was placed on David Jones shop floor to help the 175 year-old brand reach new audiences.
With fewer barriers and less hierarchy to overcome, entrepreneurs are creating self-reliant, community-based economies and experimenting with new ideas that are becoming social movements. While the concepts of co-creation, connected experience and personalisation are debated and discussed by major Australian retailers as the key to increasing sales; Shoes of Prey, Michelle Bridges and iVvy are ahead of the playing field by delivering all that and more.
Outside of the brands, technology has enabled 14 year-olds in school to use their Instagram, Paypal and eBay accounts to source and sell small items such as jewellery, clothes, hats, etc., to their network of family and friends. While the concept of lemonade stand outside homes used to teach kids the value of earning, technology has taken it 10 steps further by teaching them networking and entrepreneurship.
The business models are changing. With more freelancers, consultancies, innovators, tech start-ups, mumpreneurs, and social entrepreneurs entering the market, entrepreneurship could be the key to tackling issues such as increasing youth unemployment and declining consumer confidence. Entrepreneurs are becoming early adopters and shaping grassroots movements that are changing behaviour of the masses. They are driving innovation, creating jobs, fuelling growth and bringing about change – one community at a time.