‘The Power In What They Do Comes From How They Communicate’

By CJ Fairfield
The Frederick News-Post, Md.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Erika Brown, owner of “Hippy Chick Hummus” in Maryland shares her approach to doing business. What works, what doesn’t and how she is making her dream a reality.

The Frederick News-Post, Md.

Erika Brown has a laid-back approach to her business. She trusts her employees to work independently, she values work-life balance, and she encourages them to speak up if they don’t agree with a decision.

That’s what makes it a more cohesive work environment as everyone is learning and growing with the business, she said.

“It’s a very symbiotic relationship,” she said. “It’s not just me telling them what to do and that’s it. They actually contribute a lot and help me develop some recipes, Instagram posts and events that we have.”

Brown, 28, is considered a millennial and owns Hippy Chick Hummus on North Market Street in Frederick. A millennial, according to Pew Research, is someone born between 1981 and 1996. In 2019, that puts them between the ages of 23 and 38.

A persistent misconception is that this age group is graduating from high school and walking around staring down at their iPhones.

But they’re actually entering the workforce or have already established a career. But the biggest wave, as seen in Frederick, is that they’re becoming entrepreneurs and changing the business landscape.

The biggest change is that millennial business owners offer a relaxed work environment where each and every employee is valued.

“I definitely think I have a slightly more relaxed, independent-style workplace,” Brown said. “I don’t like micromanaging as a style of managing a business. As a millennial I know there’s going to be some cellphone use, which I’m fine with as long as it doesn’t interfere with customer service or production of food.”

She doesn’t look at cellphone use as a bad thing. It can be an asset as employees take photos of the specials and other dishes and then share it to their social media sites.

“It’s not ‘all work, no play,'” she said. “At work I’ll make them food and we’ll laugh and joke around. We’re all about the same age, it’s a millennial-run store and you can definitely feel that walking in.”

When she opened the restaurant, she said people thought her parents were the owners and helped her out, or that she was a rich kid, or had an investor backing her, “but it’s always been 100 percent me, with the help, of course, from my family and friends.”

“When my mom used to help me at farmers markets people used to speak to her like she was the business owner,” she said. “I started this at 25, so I guess people thought someone at 25 wasn’t capable of running a full-blown business.”

But she’s proved them wrong. The cafe is set to celebrate its second anniversary this summer.

Josh Funk, 32, who owns the Rehab 2 Perform physical therapy location in Frederick, provides a progressive working environment. He wants to make it easier for his staff to deliver high-level service.

“I don’t know if it’s a millennial thing,” he said. “I think it’s just the next progression of how we do business in a more efficient and effective manner.”

As a boss, he lets his employees set their own hours and use their phones, as long as there are certain parameters.
Cellphone use “is definitely encouraged” in his business, he said.

“We are a community-facing business and it’s important to maintain our connectivity, whether it’s sharing the information that we have or engaging with people,” Funk said.

He also values his employees’ opinions and their ability to adapt to change.

“It’s providing a work environment that’s a little less rigid,” he said. “There’s a better way and a progressed way of doing things to do business and keep the people that are a part of your team happy.”

In his role he sees himself more of a facilitator, not a dictator, and on an equal playing field as his team.

Braeden Bumpers, 29, co-owner of McClintock Distilling, also keeps a more relaxed working environment. He’s also transparent with his employees in that all sales numbers and metrics are shared with them.

“We’re not quite as strict on keeping a timetable and reporting your hours,” he said. “We really just tell everybody that your results speak for yourself. We’re also pretty lenient with vacation times. We try to make it an attractive workplace so we can get the highest-quality individuals.”

Misconceptions about millennials
or Bumpers and his business partner, Tyler Hegamyer, securing a loan was the hardest part about starting their business.

“It was very hard to get fundraising and our loan secured,” he said. “Even though we had more history and background in this industry than a lot of other people who are able to get loans, our lack of general experience worked against us. Eventually we were able to find the right partners who could look past our age.”

But to secure a loan took about three years, he added.

Alexandria Pallat, owner of Ink and Parchment, a writing and editing business, said the biggest misconception about millennials she hears is that they aren’t dedicated to a specific company or that they don’t want to stay somewhere for too long.

“I would argue that while that can be true, I think we want to feel valued, we want to feel like we’re making a difference,” the 27-year-old said.

Millennials have more control when working for themselves than they might have had when working for someone else, Pallat said.

Brown said more millennials are reinventing themselves and taking on entrepreneurial roles.

Misconceptions she hears are that millennials are lazy, they don’t a have a strong work ethic and they don’t respect older people.

“I think there’s this idea that millennials want to take the easy way out, that they don’t want to work from the ground up,” she said. “All of my employees are extremely hardworking and want to do something outside of the box instead of just getting a job that will make them a lot of money.”

How millennials do business
For Pallat, she doesn’t see millennials registering their own businesses as much, but instead starting their own blogs, podcasts and hosting art shows.

They are also more frugal.

“I didn’t go out and buy all new stuff for Hippy Chick,” Brown said. “I went to Goodwill, I went on Craigslist. It just made me tread with caution because I always knew that there wasn’t a guarantee that it would work out.”

When it comes to business, Rick Weldon, president and CEO of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, believes millennials are better planners, open to more risk and better understand how to manage and mitigate that risk.

“The power in what they do comes from how they communicate,” he said. “When these folks find that path to collaborate, it’s always mutually beneficial because everybody walks away excited about the opportunity.”

And with this age group, it’s all about networking in a fun atmosphere. The less structured, the better. And they get right to the point.

“Folks over 45 are used to handshakes, face-to-face, eye-to-eye discussions about business,” he said. “Millennials are a lot more comfortable in having those discussions in some method other than sitting around a conference table.

And the way they talk is totally different. A millennial isn’t going to waste a lot of time getting to know what your golf score is. They’re not as interested in what kind of car you drive. The conversation is going to be more focused, more narrow.”

And they’re always looking for more ways to do business. They don’t want a cookie-cutter job. They want something that excites them, that lets them think outside the box and then lets them have a voice.

“I think that a lot of other generations look at millennials not wanting to work in traditional industries,” Bumpers said. “I think that’s different than being lazy, it’s that they want to work for something that connects to them. Just because they’re not taking a job as a mortgage broker doesn’t mean they’re lazy. It means they want to do something that is more meaningful to them.”

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