Faltering Economy Encourages Entrepreneurs

Holly J. Culhane SPHR
May 18, 2009 — 1,975 views  
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It's no surprise to anyone that our economy is faltering, as are financial systems around the world.  In late 2008 the headlines across America screamed "recession" and everyone simply said, "Well, duh!"  So, okay - we're in an economical downturn, a worrisome funk - now what?  Well, some old clichés come to mind, such as "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."  Or how about this one, "Just reach down and pull yourself up by your bootstraps."  Great advice - but just how is one supposed to accomplish these feats?

First of all, it is certainly true that during times of adversity some individuals appear to "weather storms" better than others; in fact, there are even those who seem to positively flourish.   Why is this?  What is it deep down inside some people that drive them to overcome obstacles and become creatively brilliant when challenged?  I believe Webster calls it "resiliency" and defines it as "the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy."  Many studies have been conducted with little consensus as to why some individuals exhibit this trait, while others flounder when confronted with life's critical challenges.

At any rate, one phenomenon is clear, when jobs are scarce and the economy is sinking, entrepreneurship rises significantly.  Sue Hellen, Business Consultant with Business Initiatives, a California-based management consulting firm, reminds us, "As some small businesses flounder and fail many more are starting up and building strong foundations on which to flourish and grow. Staying adaptable, keeping a positive outlook and continuously seeking out new opportunities are essential for the survival of any small business, especially in a weak economy."

If you're thinking this start-up phenomenon is an avenue open primarily to the male of the species, think again.  Just as American politics has come a long way - welcoming minority and female candidates, so too has the American working world evolved into a more gender-friendly environment.  Although this trend started rather slowly, it is now skyrocketing.  Just to give you a few statistics, "between 1977 and 2002, the number of women-owned businesses in the United States increased 824 percent (no - that's not a misprint) to 6.2 million firms.  Today, the Center for Women's Business Research projects that 10.1 million American firms are 50 percent or more owned by women, providing 13 million jobs and generating nearly $2 trillion in sales.  Those firms represent 40 percent of all privately held firms."  (Annac, Ayla, WTN News, "Women Entrepreneurs Important to State's Economy," December 3, 2008)

Perhaps when we look at the climate of American business, it's not too hard to understand why many women are opting for this particular course of action.  First of all, while women today are gaining ground in mainstream corporate America, their male counterparts still generally climb the ladder quicker.  Why?  Although there are several theories, it's probably a combination of factors.  Some reports argue the men are more aggressive and outspoken, forcing upper management to recognize their achievements, thereby propelling them upward quicker.  Also, there are still some of the age-old concerns about females juggling work with traditional roles like child-bearing and family nurturing.  And of course, the most significant reason - change is difficult and happens slowly, not overnight!  As a result, bright, successful women are often choosing to scrap the corporate route and find a particular niche with a need, and create an enterprise of their own in order to supply that market.  (Hastings, Rebecca, SHRM Workplace Diversity Library, "Women Encounter Obstacles, Attitudes on Way to Top," March 2007)

Additionally, the very fact that women do often wear several hats at once often leads them to strike out on their own to better manage their time in order to control all the various facets in their life - a help when striving to combine family and career successfully.  (Time Magazine, "Women Entrepreneurs," July, 1988)  Being one's own boss can provide more latitude when juggling schedules!  Hellen says, "Whether women are better able to multi-task is less relevant perhaps, than a woman's current willingness to stand up and be counted in business alongside her male counterparts. Thankfully women today are allowed freedom and self expression and many find their voice within the businesses that they successfully manage and own." 

Another indicator that NOW just may be the ideal time for a woman to take the plunge - there is a plethora of support organizations to assist along the way.  In 2003 Women in Corporate Leadership, reported that "60 percent of senior-level professional women did not have a mentor."  However, today there are literally hundreds of organizations available at local, state, national, and international levels to specifically assist women in business and/or female entrepreneurs.  From conferences, workshops, books, personal mentoring, and everything in-between, women are eager to support their sisters as they maneuver the myriad twists and turns of the sometimes maniacal corporate maze.  One need only google "female entrepreneurs" to view dozens of websites dedicated to this singular issue alone.  While men may have always had mentors, there are now plenty of savvy women at the ready to add to the ranks of powerful females in business!  Hellen concurs and suggests, "If you are a female entrepreneur, consider becoming certified as a woman-owned business. The federal government, as well as many large corporations, has specific diversity procurement goals and a strong incentive to look for qualified and competent women-owned businesses when filling contractual needs." 

So, if you're handed a pink slip, sit down and have a good cry - and then go out and conquer the world!

Holly J. Culhane SPHR


Identified the need for human resource and organizational assistance for small- and medium-sized business­es and formed Profes­sional Administra­tive Systems in 1987. Now known as P A S Associates, this firm combines specialists in the fields of human resources, labor and employment law, affirma­tive action, and substance abuse policies and education, providing an unsurpassed Human Resource Center.