Entrepreneurship- a Sign of Desperation?

Hi everyone! I just returned from a nice family reunion in Las Vegas. While I was over there, I was thinking a lot about local economies and their effect on Entrepreneurship. Yes, I know- I'm a bit of a dork. But I did whip up some observations I think are worthy of sharing, and I hope I can start some conversation on this topic!

In the most recent InBusiness Monthly, I read that a floundering economy has an inverse effect on small business formation. In other words, when times are good, we work at a set pay on a set schedule, we have a boss, and we humbly seek the occasional raise or bonus. The opposite is also true… when the going gets tough, we get our own businesses going! 

Think about it: what truly motivated you to start your own business? Were you fed up with your poorly qualified boss? Discouraged with the inherent difficulty of climbing the corporate ladder? Or maybe you're a natural born leader, a self-starter. For the average Missoulian, chances are it was simply the inability to secure a job that suited your skill set while still bringing in enough money to survive. And so, you went it alone.
So tell me, Missoula. Are we self-starters, or just desperate?

Not long ago, I read that a living wage in Missoula, Montana was around $11.24 an hour. That means in order to meet our basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) we need to have full time jobs that pay no less than $4 over minimum wage. Ironically- here in Missoula, finding employment that pays a living wage seems to be a pipe-dream.

I arrived in Missoula, Montana last Summer with my marketing background, strong resume, professional recommendations, and a penchant for networking. Reluctantly, I took my first job in town as a grocery store cashier, hoping for something more. I soon came to understand the gravity of the Missoula economic situation... I was working alongside several bright individuals who had earned Master’s degrees. How frightening it was to find that some must forego the career path they have spent years etching out, only to become a grocery store cashier. It savors of full resignation!

In conversation with a woman from Nevada, I learned that this isn’t just a localized problem. After 40 years of service in a government job, she’s in fear of losing it all in the face of extreme budget cuts at her place of work. I cannot imagine being let go and having to reinvent myself after four decades of service. But that’s her lot- and she’s already thinking about starting her own business. A family member may seek to expand his small NY business to a national level and she has the right experience and connections to help him with that growth.

Entrepreneurship, with its ultra-high stress and risk levels, is most people’s plan Z. So why are so many in Missoula self-employed? We’re all out of options! Perhaps Missoula's greatest source of pride is merely a symptom of its greatest shortcoming. What do you think?

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Content by Laura Gabriele