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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Age of Partrepreneurs

by jpaul (bio)

The first question that begs to be answered is…what is a partrepreneur? The dictionary according to me defines it as – A person who has full-time employment and benefits while working part-time on entrepreneurial projects in the evenings and weekends. Everywhere I turn these days I see partrepreneurs, and I like what I see.

Admittedly, this idea is not new, but what excites me is the number of forces coming together at this moment to make the next few years the Age of Partrepreneurs. Here is a list of factors that are converging to usher in the next era of entrepreneurship:

• Low cost to start-up
• Access to learning and collaboration
• Gen Y’s need for “meaning”
• Current economic uncertainty

It is incredible how easy it is to create a business these days. If you don’t own a business yet, you should set a goal by the end of 2011 to have one, or at least be collaborating with someone who is working on one. For those of us who work in Corporate America, this act alone will unlock brain capacity and creativity that has lain dormant since graduation. With the relative ease of building a website these days with a hacker friend or using one of the numerous sites that offer templates or outsourced programmers, you can have a site for less than $500 - including legal fees to incorporate on Increasingly common these days are ideas that are completely free to start using Blogspot, Facebook, eBay, etc. Think Modern Mormon Men (an excellent example of mormon partrepreneurs).

Never in the history of mankind has information been so readily accessible. If your new company involves a skill you don’t currently have, I am confident you can get online, join a community, listen to podcasts and follow influential bloggers and you can be competent in the skill by the end of the year. A great example of this is the photography/videography industry which is going through a massive influx of newcomers. My wife followed some great photographers online, used their “how-to” articles, posted some ads online and is now busy on Saturday mornings taking pictures (shameless plug: It is only appropriate, having celebrated Mother’s Day this week, to mention that mormon women can be excellent partrepreneurs. Naysayers may suggest that a woman who chooses to be a nurturing mother cannot also be a partrepreneur, but I suggest that it actually develops hidden talents and provides a much needed outlet for a mother who spends most of the day with two and four year-olds.

I read a great article in the Harvard Business Review entitled Meaning is the New Money. Basically, the current generation is more interested in changing the world than in accumulating wealth to buy bigger houses and better cars (both just seem like more work and headache to me). This generation gravitates to programs like Teach For America and spends their free-time connecting with friends across the globe and making micro-loans on websites like Kiva. That being said, not everyone can work at a company where they wake up every day and say, “Today I will help change the world.” However, rather than spend your free-time watching TV and managing imaginary sports teams to try and forget that you lack satisfaction in your day job (few statistics are more disheartening than that the average American spends four hours per day in front of the TV), why not find that satisfaction as a partrepreneur pursuing side interests and building meaningful companies?

You might ask, why not just leave your not-completely-satisfying-job and follow your passion full-time? Let’s not kid ourselves, our little economic recovery may be just that – little and short-lived. You cannot argue against the benefits and stability of working for Corporate America. I believe Mormons have typically followed this career path (ever noticed how many MBAs and lawyers there are in the church?) because it offers the stability required to have the number of children and live the suburban lifestyle of the typical LDS family.

I often find I am not alone in recognizing that the field is ripe for partrepreneur start-ups. As I discuss my vision with others, I have found a number of people in my ward who have similar dreams. In fact, we recently held our inaugural “Partrepreneur Night” where a group of five of us gathered over sushi to throw around ideas. The hour we scheduled quickly turned into three once we began critiquing the ideas that each of us had been tinkering with. Several half-decent ideas arose and a couple of websites have been purchased in the aftermath. Only time will tell whether these ideas pan out, but I can guarantee there is no better time to at least try.

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