Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Increasingly, consumers are participants instead of passive audience members, and this mega-trend manifests itself in a variety of ways. In fact, the more we hear about GENERATION C making money from its creations, and the more we focus on the financial rewards consumers are reaping from participating in CUSTOMER MADE projects, the more the myriad of other entrepreneurial undertakings by ordinary consumers makes sense.
We have dubbed this trend 'MINIPRENEURS': a vast army of consumers turning entrepreneurs; including small and micro businesses, freelancers, side-businesses, weekend entrepreneurs, web-driven entrepreneurs, part-timers, free agents, cottage businesses, seniorpreneurs, co-creators, mompreneurs, pro-ams, solopreneurs, eBay traders, advertising-sponsored bloggers and so on.
Want numbers?
• According to a July 2005 survey conducted by eBay, more than 724,000 Americans report that eBay is their primary or secondary source of income. In addition to these professional eBay sellers, another 1.5 million individuals say they supplement their income by selling on eBay.
• Over 50,000 people in the UK draw a significant portion of their income from selling goods online. A study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows that the average household boosts its earnings by GBP 3,000 through online trading.
• And Mastercard and Warillow International published a research study on a new class of small business: the 'Web-Driven Entrepreneur', estimating that there are 5 million of these businesses in the United States, representing 25% of all small businesses.
So what are the drivers behind the MINIPRENEURS trend, and what does the ecosystem sustaining it look like?

1. Multinationals of one
(Re)sources once exclusively available (and exclusively affordable) to multinational firms, from access to marketplaces to partnering with top talent, are now at the fingertips of experienced, entrepreneurial individuals. Consumers are discovering that besides being the buyer in the capitalist equation, they can now also make a buck (or yen or pound or euro or dinar) by doing a bit of manufacturing, enterprising, venturing, selling, trading, or auctioning themselves.

2. Being in control of one's destiny
Building on the above: human beings forever fantasize about control, independence and being in charge. Let's face it, being one's own boss, even if it's only for three hours a week, is just too tempting to forego, as is the extra income. As we've discussed before, trends are often manifestations of something that unlocks existing needs and wants in a new way. The MINIPRENEURS trend certainly fits that mold.

3. Enterprising is chic
Gone are the days when 'entrepreneur' equaled running a small store, or conducting shady 'import and export' transactions. From Jones Organics to 21st century barbershop Sharps to German Sparschwein to Danish TrioBike to the slew of online success stories like Flickr and Weblogs, Inc: there's an explosion of hip, admired ventures, online and offline, around the world (accelerated by the tech revolution, and the truly exceptional entrepreneurs with vision and skills that started it; a far cry from the Old Boys networks in the past). It's Traditional Big Business that's now often seen as unsophisticated, at best. MINIPRENEURIALISM can actually be chic, allowing one to think big while implementing small.

4. Experience rules, and so does less risk
For decades, consumers in mature consumer societies have been training to become experts in business, marketing and advertising (read: seeing right through it, and understanding the workings beneath it). The business of business is something that now interests producers and consumers alike. No wonder MINIPRENEURS are confident enough to try their hand at businesses of their own. Added benefit: the risks they'll take as MINIPRENEURS are in no way comparable to the gut wrenching stress that comes with managing listed corporations. And neither is the cost structure! (More on that below.)

5. A need for the unusual
MINIPRENEURS, including commerce-minded members of GENERATION C, are providing other consumers with more choice and variety (which is the holy grail in a NOUVEAU NICHE world). They're offering something that's different, that's special, that's vintage, that's quirky, that's customized if not beyond personalized, that's fringe, or that's just not profitable enough to be developed by big corporations instead of well-meaning enthusiasts. The long tail depends as much on GENERATION C as it does on MINIPRENEURS.

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