Want to be an entrepreneur? Join the club - today people of all ages in nations across the globe are dreaming of starting their own businesses. And many of them will achieve those dreams.
It hasn't always been this way. When I started working at Entrepreneur magazine back in 1978, no one knew what an entrepreneur was - or wanted to be one. People studying business in college aspired to join corporations (The Organization Man was a bestseller in the 50s) and climb the corporate ladder.
The rebirth of entrepreneurship (I call it a rebirth, since people like JP Morgan and John D. Rockefeller who made their mark in the 1800s certainly were entrepreneurs) really started in the early 1990s when the "last hired, first fired" concept took hold and scores of women and minorities who were hired at America's corporations in the 80s were laid off during what was then called America's first white-collar recession.
But instead of retreating these women and minorities quickly embraced entrepreneurship. While their original intent might have been to start a small business until the economy righted itself, ironically it was these new business owners who helped right the economy and led to the paradigm-shifting emergence of entrepreneurs and the dotcom boom.
Why did this mind shift work? Well, part of it was circumstances as I said. People needed to pay their rent and feed their families, so they started businesses as a last resort. But those early entrepreneurs found they liked the freedom business ownership brought them. It promised the ability to do what you wanted, to spend your time either following your passion or "finding the niche and filling it".
But what sealed the deal was the concurrent democratization of technology. Computers that were once for the biggest corporations were now smaller and affordable. The birth of the Internet allowed people to get information in moments that once took hours. Software enabled businesses to replace employees (think bookkeeping) at a fraction of the cost, saving thousands of dollars in overhead.
Most important technology brought the world closer - making us all neighbors. Think about the evolution of shopping. Prior to the 1960s small business owners had stores and restaurants in neighborhoods, attracting local customers. That's the world I grew up in. My grandfather, a serial small business owner, owned several different types of businesses in his Brooklyn neighborhood. My dad and other grandfather owned a men's clothing store in Queens, New York. Then by the mid 60s, malls were being built at a rapid pace - killing a lot of independent neighborhood stores in the process, but drawing customers from a wider range - essentially redefining the neighborhood.
And then the Internet essentially made the world one large neighborhood. You could live anywhere, whether Ohio or Tokyo and have customers anywhere else. But that's the B2C side of the picture. What about B2B?
Technology allowed small business owners to find and connect with other entrepreneurs around the world. Think about how Alibaba.com enables you to find, connect and partner with companies who can sell you the products you're looking for at prices far below what you can find them for at home. You can find essentially anything there from kid's toy to parts for building a skyscraper. And with Trade Assurance, you can feel secure knowing your money is protected when you do business with a merchant who's been vetted by Alibaba.
One of the lessons we've learned in the past two decades of entrepreneurial dominance is that no one cares how old you are, where you live, what your gender or religion is. There are no glass ceilings in the entrepreneurial world. Anyone can be an entrepreneur. Indeed, the key to success is simply providing a product or service at a price consumers are willing to pay.
I've always said entrepreneurship is the great equalizer. You just need a good idea, a plan and the money and fortitude to carry it out. If you fail, that's ok. Just figure out what you did wrong, and try again.
World trade brings our planet closer. Consumers in America realize they're not much different than consumers in China. We all line up for the newest iPhones. We all want to know what the latest fashion trends are.
So whether you want to start or scale a small business, do it now. Take the next step. Don't fear failure - face it and embrace it. Define your goals (after all goals are simply dreams with a deadline), make a plan and go for it. Remember - and this is my motto - if you believe and if you persist, all things are possible.