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Times Are Tough, But so Are You

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Economic news has been awfully gloomy lately. Gas is at record levels, grocery prices are skyrocketing, the real estate crunch borders on disaster, and the government is bailing out once-revered financial institutions.

It’s enough to make you hide your money under a mattress.

Yet a record number of Americans started new businesses in 2005 and during the first quarter of 2006. “Almost everyone wants to own a business,” wrote Phaedra Hise, who penned the article “Everyone Wants to Start a Business” on CNN in February 2007. In fact, there were 12 percent more startups during this period than there were at the height of the dotcom surge in the mid-’90s.

And when polled by a Yahoo Small Business/Harris Interactive Survey, 66 percent of respondents said they wanted to start a company someday. Add the fact that women are now starting businesses at two times the rate of men, and you have an environment that is entrepreneur-happy—and female-friendly.

In other words, entrepreneurship is hotter now than at any other time in modern history—despite the negative economic indicators.

Of course, it’s inherently risky to launch a business in any economy. A significant number of businesses won’t make it past the first year or two. The reasons for failure include lack of cash flow, poor management, and/or too-rapid growth.

But though it may seem counterintuitive, hard economic times like these can actually be a good time to start a business. With layoffs occurring more frequently in the corporate world—and pensions and full health-care benefits a thing of the past—workers are risking less by exiting their corporate jobs. Even top executive positions are more fluid than ever: In 2005, twice as many CEOs left their jobs as had done so the previous year, according to Hise.

Add to that the fact that technology has opened a world of new commercial possibilities for those who run their business from home or continue to hold a day job. And many women who have “off-ramped” to have children decide they want to get back into the work world, but on their own terms.

The result is that people—especially women—are creating their own options for work and future financial security instead of relying on the corporate world of the past. There’s no longer a “safe” career path to follow. That means Americans are getting creative.

So how can you create your own destiny through entrepreneurship, even during tough economic times? Here are some quick tips:

  • Follow your bliss. What are you good at? Is it making salsa? Organizing? Writing? Developing software? Consider your greatest strengths, and get creative. Start with the things you’re good at and that you feel passionately about, which make an ideal foundation for starting a business. If you can do it for someone else, why not do it for yourself? 
  • Temper your risk. Don’t quit your day job just yet. Countless entrepreneurs begin their businesses without leaving their jobs, which can make the situation much less stressful. Yes, you’ll have less free time. It’s one of the many sacrifices you may have to make to get your business off the ground. 
  • Stick with it. You will inevitably encounter roadblocks. But if you believe in your company--and your product or service—you will weather those times and grow stronger.

Obviously you shouldn’t pursue your business blindly or at the expense of basic human needs. But many of today’s successful business owners report at least one time when they could have gone under—but didn’t. When a roadblock goes up, find another route to get where you’re going.

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