There were a number of challenges facing small business owners this year, including supply chain issues, inflation and labor shortages – however, there were also a number of small business milestones to celebrate. In fact, the number of SMBs in the US grew 12.2 percent from 2017 to 2022 and reached 33.2 million in 2022, accounting for almost all (99.9 percent) of American 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, for 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’re seeing from Gen-Z in the workplace, and how can business leaders prepare?
Jason VandeBoom: ActiveCampaign recently conducted a study, finding that 45% of consumers said they had considered starting a small business in the past year. And, breaking this down further, 56% of students surveyed said they’ve considered starting a business in the past year. Amidst the difficulties faced by business owners, many are eager to try their hand at entrepreneurship.
According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, over 10% of Gen-Zers surveyed said they plan to start or grow their own business in the next 6 months. This generation brings creativity and a new perspective to the table—a table that now has seats open for those who embrace this new world of work. This does not always mean college or even trade school. What once seemed like the only path has now split into many. They are keen to earn money to support themselves and entrepreneurship is one way to do this.
It’s also clear that Gen-Z is eager to carve a career path outside the only historical option: a corporate 9-5. Instead, they want balance, fulfillment and to be extremely passionate about the work behind their paychecks. A way they are thinking of 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 more tech-savvy at a younger age because they grew up with smartphones in their pockets.
Therefore, it should be easier for them to use technology to start their own businesses, right? Wrong. With so many technology solutions out there, it can be extremely overwhelming. For Gen-Z, it’s not to know like to use technology, but exploiting STRAIGHT marketing software for the right job.
For example, basic CRM tools like using a spreadsheet or Pipedrive were once as good an option for solopreneurs as a digital rolodex. While it’s useful for storing customer information, it’s limited when it comes to the types and amount of automation you can use. ActiveCampaign is that next generation sales CRM for that next generation of business – one that wants to grow and scale at a faster pace. Our CRM enables access to powerful automations that sell for you, creating better customer experiences without the need for developer resources or having to spend a significant amount of time setting everything up.
It is very important to use the right tools these days. Growing businesses don’t just need to store customer information, they need to act on that information and reduce 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 every day, understanding their business needs and problems, and constantly iterating our platform to serve those needs. We consider our platform as iterative as many emerging 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 grow is huge. Some tools seem great when entrepreneurs are starting out, but then have limitations as their business grows. When researching business tools, choose those that are designed to help you achieve your goals, rather than looking for the most basic tools that may only work for a short period of time.
Many young entrepreneurs are creating e-commerce businesses from what may have once been their passion projects or side hustles. It is essential that these business owners also have an e-commerce platform built to help them scale like WooCommerce or Shopify.
To go further, it is important that their chosen e-commerce platform has integrations with other tools that help them grow. For example, when connected to ActiveCampaign, Shopify users can use purchase behavior to convert 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 import 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 survey by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 34% of Gen-Z report that they are worse off about their financial situation compared to this time last year. When they combine current financial struggles, burnout, and a desire for greater opportunity, Gen-Z aims to be their own boss.
Drenik: How do Gen-Z entrepreneurs differ from older generations?
VandeBoom: More than ever, younger generations are fueled by passionate work. They don’t just want to collect a paycheck, they want to make a bigger difference and make a positive impact 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 technologies and solutions that are easy to use, but not simple. Business solutions should be accessible, without the need for APIs or developer resources that many entrepreneurs may not have access to. Young entrepreneurs need to be able to solve their business problems, improve their customer experiences and expand with the help of technology so they can focus on what they do best.
Additionally, by partnering with organizations like Future Founders, tech companies can enthuse the next generation of entrepreneurs about how to successfully create their own businesses. Future Founders is building the nation’s largest inclusive community of purposeful young entrepreneurs and entrepreneurially minded leaders, and I’m grateful to work with such an amazing organization to help those with the same entrepreneurial passion that I have, and our clients have also.
Drenik: Thanks, Jason, for your insights on how Gen-Z can turn their business ideas into sustainable companies and how tech companies can support this next generation of entrepreneurs. With the calendar year turning around so quickly, we hope to see many new year’s business resolutions come to fruition.