There have been a number of struggles small business owners faced this year, including supply chain issues, inflation, and labor shortages—however, there have also been a number of small business milestones to celebrate. In fact, the number of SMBs in the US has grown 12.2 percent from 2017 to 2022 and reached 33.2 million in 2022, making up nearly all (99.9 percent) of US businesses.
I recently spoke with Jason VandeBoom, founder and CEO of ActiveCampaign, the leading provider of marketing automation, email marketing and CRM for growing businesses, about the next generation of business owners. VandeBoom shared what ActiveCampaign is doing to support these entrepreneurs and what those looking to start their own small businesses should invest in. So, let’s dive in.
Gary Drenik: What are the emerging trends you are seeing from Gen-Z in the workplace and how can business leaders prepare?
Jason VandeBoom: ActiveCampaign recently conducted a study, finding 45% of consumers said they’ve considered starting a small business in the past year. And, breaking this down further, 56% of students polled said they’ve considered starting a business this past year. Amid the struggles business owners have faced, many are eager to try their hand at entrepreneurship.
According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, over 10% of Gen-Zers polled said they plan on starting or developing their own business in the next 6 months. This generation brings creativity and a fresh perspective to the table—a table that now has open seats for those embracing this new world of work. This doesn’t always mean college or even trade school. What once seemed like the only path now has been divided up into many. They’re keen on making money to support themselves and entrepreneurship is a way to do that.
Prosper – Life Events In The Next 6 Months
It’s also clear that Gen-Z is eager to carve a work path outside of the only historical option: a corporate 9-5. Instead, they want balance, fulfillment and to be extremely passionate about the work behind their paychecks. One way they are considering taking charge of that passion. Starting their own business.
Drenik: How does ActiveCampaign support young entrepreneurs?
VandeBoom: At ActiveCampaign, we are aware that each generation has started using technology at a different point in their lives. Gen-Z is the most tech-savvy at the youngest age because they’ve grown up with smartphones in their pockets.
Therefore, it must be easier for them to utilize technology to start their businesses, right? Wrong. With so many technology solutions out there, it can be extremely overwhelming. For Gen-Z, it’s not about knowing how to use technology, but leveraging the right marketing software for the right job.
For example, basic CRM tools like using a spreadsheet or Pipedrive used to be a good option for solopreneurs as a digital rolodex. While helpful to store customer information, it is limited when it comes to the types and amount of automation you can run. ActiveCampaign is that next generation sales CRM for that next generation of business—one that wants to grow and scale at a faster rate. Our CRM enables access to powerful automations that sell for you, creating better customer experiences without needing developer resources or having to spend a significant amount of time setting everything up.
It’s so important to be using the right tools these days. Growing businesses don’t just need to store customer information, they need to act on that information and cut down on manual processes to save time and sell more. That’s where automation comes in, and that’s where the next generation is. They do more with less.
We support young entrepreneurs by talking to them daily, understanding their business needs and problems, and constantly iterating our platform to serve those needs. We consider our platform as iterative as many budding businesses are.
Drenik: What tools do entrepreneurs need to get started that they can also use as they scale?
VandeBoom: A sales CRM that can help them scale is a big one. Some tools seem great when entrepreneurs are getting started but then have limitations as their business grows. When researching business tools, choose those that are designed to help you achieve your goals, instead of looking for the most basic tools that may only work for a short period of time.
Many young entrepreneurs are creating ecommerce businesses out of what may have once been their passion projects or side hustles. It’s crucial these business owners also have an ecommerce platform built to help them scale as well such as WooCommerce or Shopify.
Going further, it’s important that their ecommerce platform of choice has integrations with other tools that help them grow. For example, when connected to ActiveCampaign, Shopify users can use purchase behavior to turn first-time buyers into repeat customers. They can track what their customers have purchased and recommend future purchases accordingly. Additionally, Shopify and ActiveCampaign users can now bring in their store data using the ‘product catalog’ to automatically send personalized emails to their customers.
Drenik: Will changing economic times inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs?
VandeBoom: According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, 34% of Gen-Z reports they are worse off regarding their financial situation compared to this time last year. When adding up current financial struggles, burnout, and yearning for a bigger opportunity—Gen-Z has their sights set on being their own boss.
Prosper – Personal Financial Situation
Drenik: How are Gen-Z entrepreneurs different from older generations?
VandeBoom: More than ever, the younger generations are fueled by passionate work. They don’t just want to collect a paycheck, and they want to drive toward greater change and a positive influence on society. At ActiveCampaign, we help maximize the spread of that influence and turn it into thriving, successful businesses.
Drenik: What can SaaS and other vendors do to support young entrepreneurs?
VandeBoom: Create technology and solutions that are simple to use, but not simplistic. Business solutions should be accessible, without needing API or developer resources that many entrepreneurs may not have access to. Young entrepreneurs should be able to solve their business problems, improve their customer experiences and scale all through the help of technology so that they can focus on what they do best.
Additionally, by partnering with organizations like Future Founders, technology companies can get the next generation of entrepreneurs excited about how to successfully set up their businesses. Future Founders is building the nation’s largest inclusive community of intentional young entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial-minded leaders and I’m grateful to work with such an amazing organization to help those with the same entrepreneurial passion I have, and our customers have too.
Drenik: Thank you, Jason, for your insights on how Gen-Z can turn their business ideas into sustainable companies and how technology companies can support this next generation of entrepreneurs. As the calendar year is turning very soon, we hope to see many new year’s business resolutions come to fruition.