The face of entrepreneurship is in constant flux. Anyone with a smartphone and a bevy of apps knows that starting up today is a far cry from what our parents considered opening up shop.

Say what you want about Generation Y, but as this giant cohort matures and enters the working world in full force, its trajectory will have an impact on just about every industry and community across the globe. The good news is more and more of them are diving head first into entrepreneurship.

To shed some light on this trend, the Young Entrepreneur Council and my company, Buzz Marketing Group, surveyed more than 675 young professionals aged 18 to 40 from all across the U.S. Our research shows that Millennials live up to their stereotype: They’re not into following the rules. They are less trusting of leaders and much less intent on acquiring the traditional trappings of success like homes and cars. And, they’re tech savvy.

But here’s what you may not know:

This is a generation that places a premium on freedom and autonomy at work. For many, jobs aren’t just about making money and finding stability. They’re about solving a problem and helping change a not-so-perfect world. Increasingly, Millennials are deciding that it’s easier, not to mention more fun, to pursue that goal outside the confines of traditional employment. 

Whether they're starting up or working at a startup, members of this generation are experimental and eager to get their hands dirty. Here's a snapshot of how Gen Y is already changing the way we live and work.

Economy

While entrepreneurship is inherently alluring to this generation, the state of the economy is also having a big impact on Millennials’ career decisions. The economy may be recovering, but the job market is still incredibly difficult for 20-somethings who are trying to find their first job or to move up the ranks--especially because many of them face student loan debt.

Based on the U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent report, the current unemployment rate for Americans aged 18 to 24 is 15 percent. The dour state of youth unemployment could explain some of the trends we're now seeing. 

One in four entrepreneurs report starting their businesses as a result of being unemployed, according to our latest research. That's up from one in five in 2011.

Education

Millennials may be eager to cultivate their desire and need for entrepreneurship, but the current entrepreneurial culture is outpacing higher education’s ability to help these business owners succeed. Our research shows that an overwhelming majority (94 percent) believes that entrepreneurship education is important given the new economy and market. However, only 38 percent were even offered an entrepreneurship class during their undergraduate and graduate careers, and almost two-thirds of them did not consider those classes to be adequate enough to actually prepare students for the world of entrepreneurship.

The university system tends to focus on preparing students to seek existing positions upon graduating, as opposed to taking a leap into entrepreneurship and navigating much less familiar territory. Either higher education institutions have to step up their game and provide more--and more useful--entrepreneurship classes or get left behind. Millennials will obtain the necessary information and skills they need elsewhere if they have to.

Government

Although young entrepreneurs are achieving various forms of entrepreneurial success, they do not necessarily feel that they are getting adequate support from government entities. Our studies revealed that two thirds of Millennials don’t think the government is helpful to startups and small businesses. This is consistent with Generation Y’s loss of trust in a variety of public institutions, including the federal government as a whole.

But their specific lack of faith in the government’s ability to create a healthy business environment is especially troubling given the overall rise of entrepreneurship. For those who are in positions of power, it is essential to be wary of Millennials’ waning confidence in political institutions especially considering risks like the ever-growing partisan gridlock.

Technology

This perceived lack of support has also pushed Millennials to take a look at other resources to further their business interests and allow their startups to thrive. According to our research, 97 percent believe that newer technological innovations--specifically crowdfunding--are important for the growth and development of startups and small businesses. The majority (86 percent) of respondents plan to use crowdfunding in the future to further support their businesses. This willingness and ability to embrace new tools and strategies will hopefully be cultivated as this generation matures and as newer technologies are introduced.

The bottom line: It's easy to just write off Generation Y as a bunch of entitled techies, but you'd be shortsighted. This generation will surely remain a powerful entrepreneurial force for many years to come.

Published on: Aug 5, 2014