Oct 14, 2020
We said it last time, and we’ll say it again; it’s officially goodbye Millennial Pink and hello Gen Z Yellow and technicolor for the next generation of social entrepreneurs. Generation Z has already been dubbed a group of super creatives and digital masterminds, and now the most entrepreneurial and innovative generation yet.
Because Generation Z grew up in an era of overall progress, they are determined to make the world a better place. As the first digitally native generation, they are used to having any news source and social platform at their fingertips, making them one of the most informed and empathetic generations yet. Medium claims this is “a group with a heightened social consciousness and the means of connection to do something about it.”
We’ve witnessed Gen Z youth like environmental activist Greta Thunberg and gun control activist Emma Gonzáles quickly mobilize groups of Gen Z to lead movements that instill real change. Gen Z leverages their creative activism for social entrepreneurship.
A Nielson study also reports 54% of Generation Z say they desire to own their own company with factors like debt, the planet, control, and their desire to live a purposeful life driving their entrepreneurial goals. And because of this, we’re seeing Gen Z opt for less traditional education routes to avoid collecting debt and get ahead on solving societal issues with their businesses.
Generation Z was set to inherit a strong economy and a record-low unemployment rate but are now entering the workforce during an economic downturn as severe as the Great Recession. But even though the unemployment rate is dramatically higher than it was in pre-pandemic years, Generation Z is risk-aware of financial and economic instabilities. By having seen their Millennial family members and colleagues collectively struggle during the economic downturn in 2007, they’ve decided to develop solutions for their financial success and future generations’ financial success.
Millennial entrepreneurs who chose the traditional college to career path accumulated student debt before financing their start-ups, leading to even more debt and has driven Gen Z’s primary entrepreneurial minds to be debt-free.
They’re interested in developing their business ideas and selectively choosing higher education to push for free educational opportunities. Companies like Google, Adobe, Hubspot, and Microsoft are taking on the role of educator, offering free job skills training and certifications to help Gen Z actually get the job they apply for in the future. Gen Z is also interested in taking a gap year before college to determine what they really want to do before picking a major to focus on in college.
Don’t get us wrong, Generation Z, like many generations, is still learning to adapt to the economic effects of COVID-19. Nevertheless, their ability to problem-solve using the tools at their disposal is what makes this shy and quirky generation a force to be reckoned with in the entrepreneurial landscape.
For instance, small business owner Stooph Wang is one of the oldest members of Gen Z and started looking for jobs right when the economy began to take a turn for the worse in 2020. She shares with us, “It was a time when everything was out of my control. It was hard to watch my friends get super awesome jobs on LinkedIn while it seemed impossible for me.” It was essential for her to do something that honed in on her skills as a designer and creative and was how her Instagram t-shirt business, Unemployment Shirts, was born. It started off to make fun of her situation while shedding light on how her peers might also be feeling.
This scrappy aesthetic and self-awareness that Gen Z does so well helped launch her successful t-shirt business. Now that Wang has a full-time job, she’s evolved her business model to help support people and organizations in need. “I learned that there is no time to be selfish and that there is always someone who could use some help and support. There’s so much stuff going on in the world; there’s no point in not helping.”
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Gen Z’s strong desire to change the way we’re accustomed to thinking is true for most Gen Z companies. For example, emerging underwear company, Parade, entered the underwear scene looking to rewrite the “American underwear story.” On Parade’s website, CEO Cami Tellez writes, “I grew up going to the mall, seeing supermodels blown up on storefronts and thinking: this is what it means to be sexy.” Tellez continues, “for too long, underwear has been about restricting us to the flat pink surface, but now we know that’s just one glint in the sea of self-expression.” Tellez is a lot like other Gen Z entrepreneurs who didn’t stick the conventional path. She also dropped out of college to launch her business because she felt like there was a gap in the industry for an underwear company like Parade driven on self-expression.
Most Gen Z marketing tactics are good and diverge from traditional advertising. They use micro-influencers, memes, graphics, and emojis to convey messages to their audiences. A lot of the “addy lingo” is cutout with just an overall clear message that followers can instantly get from each post. Since Gen Z adopted social media much earlier than previous generations, they can tell when a company is not genuine. They’ve been manipulating messages ever since they can remember.
Gen Z companies to follow:
We hope you learned something from the next generation of entrepreneurs and how they’ve already shifted industries with their companies and “work for myself” mentality. Don’t forget to check out the companies listed and check back in for part 3 of Decoding Gen Z!