By Lauren Linhard
The Evening Sun, Hanover, Pa.
There are 80 million members of the millennial generation across the globe, blazing their own path and changing the world.
Unlike those born before the late-1980s, these young adults have grown up with advanced technology, a natural affinity for social media and constant access to information.
These characteristics, which define the generation born between the early-1990s and early-2000s, have sparked a change in the way young people are approaching higher education and the business world.
While traditional views dictate a path of high school, then college, then career, millennials are showing that personal success is achievable without a modern college education or corporate cubicle.
More than 50 percent of young adults are opting to start a business of their own rather than sit through four years of higher education or climb the corporate ladder, according to a study by the Kauffman Foundation, an organization that promotes education and entrepreneurship.
When free advertising is a click away through Facebook, Twitter or WordPress and a storefront can be replaced with a URL, start-up costs are significantly lower than when members of generation x or the baby boomers graduated school.
Not to mention the amount of customers a well-placed hash tag can drum up.
Comparatively, about 40 percent of baby boomers and generation x-ers do consider themselves to be entrepreneurs, but only later in life, once they graduated college or spent some years working on a company, according to Millennial Branding, a national research and consulting firm.
But when a non-millennial opens a business, only 20 percent adopt social media into the business plan, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
It is the openness to technology that is allowing these 80 million “kids,” the largest generation since the baby boomers, to drastically affect the way the professional world works by opting for career satisfaction over security.
Almost 90 percent of millennials would prefer to choose their own schedules instead of working 9-to-5, compared to the older generations, especially baby boomer, who were dedicated to traditional workplace protocol, according to a study by Millennial Branding.
Furthermore, 45 percent of millennials would choose workplace flexibility over pay, the same study stated.
Some might say such behavior is lazy or that it isn’t how the world works, but a few Hanover millennials are proving the critics wrong.
Moses Family Jerky
Dakotak Moses, owner of Moses Family Jerky on Baltimore Pike, opened his store in November, only six months after graduating from high school.
The idea of creating something successful that was all his own, appealed to him more than working for a stranger at a chain store.
“I went to work at a couple places, but I didn’t want to work at fast food or something like that,” Moses said. “I just thought — not necessarily that my time was worth more than that — but I like the idea of there not being a ceiling, where you can work as hard as you want your money to be worth.”
Moses works every Thursday to Saturday at the store, and runs a booth at the Hanover Market on Saturdays.
He spends the rest of his time making the eight flavors of jerky he developed, as well as reaching out to current and potential customers through social media.
“My customers and social media is the heart of the business,” Moses said. “It allows you to touch people without going across town and handing out samples. It gives us an advantage. Before you had to personally know people, or to get references you had to meet face-to-face, but now someone can hear about Moses Family Jerky from Canada.”
Moses uses Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Vine, YouTube and LinkedIn to advertise and connect with customers. As of March 23, he had more than 1,700 Twitter followers and 357 Facebook likes.
And though he has seen sales more than triple since opening in November, he hasn’t taken a paycheck yet, certainly a disadvantage of not working for someone else, Moses said.
But knowing money is tight at home and the company is his responsibility, he prefers to put revenue into the business to keep it growing.
“If you’re not passionate you couldn’t do what I’m doing right now,” Moses said. “The only breaks I take are to be with my family and eat lunch. It’s early mornings and late nights a lot of the time. So you really have to have passion for it.”
For 23-year-old Trish Motter, that passion is ice cream — even if it is a flavor as crazy as fruitloop, dunkaroo or bacon, all of which are included in the 36-flavor selections at Half-Pint Creamy.
Ice cream makes people happy, she said, and based on her research, dessert sales don’t fluctuate much with the economy.
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“The economy is horrible, but whenever you are talking about dessert or something like that, people feel like they need to have it,” Motter said. “You may not be able to go to an expensive restaurant, but you can go get ice cream and enjoy family time.”
Motter was originally going to college for business management, but dropped out after the first year.
Students have to pay a ton of money, she said, but there is no job guaranteed at the end of it.
“Whenever you are in high school, you are told that if you want to be successful in life, you have to go to college,” Motter said. “That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. You should step back and look at all the things you could do and what it is you actually want to do.”
So instead, Motter took all the money she had saved for college and put it into opening Half-Pint Creamery in Hanover.
Since she signed a lease on the store front last May, Motter has been working more than 70 hours a week.
“If I was working for somebody else, there’s no way I could do this,” Motter said. “All my hard work, they would be getting paid for it. Not everyone agreed with my decisions, but I’d rather look back and be proud that I tried instead of looking back and wondering what would have happened.”
Like Moses, Motter too has become an online phenomenon after a friend posted photos of her ice cream on Reddit, a site where users vote on content, therefore increasing its popularity.
The post held the top spot for a full two weeks, resulting in more than 2,000 Facebook fans before the creamery had even opened.
“People like the inside story and I like to share that with them,” Motter said. “I want them to know what I’m doing, that I’m here, that I’m putting the work into it. I want them to know everything I’m doing so when they walk in they can feel like part of the family.”
Off the Record
Social media can help promote the right kind of environment for a business, said Karen Schatz, owner of Off the Record in Hanover.
Before she opened the vinyl store, Schatz used Facebook and Instagram to promote her business as a family-friendly place to combat possible stereotypes associated with an alternative music store in a small town.
“I was really nervous with the way the town was going to respond, because I didn’t want to have a negative effect,” the 19-year-old said. “I really want it to be a place where the community comes. I’m not competing with anybody; I just want it to be a gathering place. Everybody is welcome.”
Schatz was raised around music and knew she wanted to open a record store even before she graduated from high school last May.
Encouraged by her father who owns his own business and her mother who has her own hair studio, she decided to open Off the Record instead of going to college.
“I have a really old-school mentality when it comes to things like this,” Schatz said. “My grandfather, for example, never graduated high school. He dropped out to earn money for his family and my dad never went to college. If you want to do it, you can work and achieve it. That’s the mentality I grew up with.”
While school can be important for someone becoming a doctor or a lawyer, Schatz said, there is no better way to learn how to start a business than jumping into it. With the right support and direction, anything is possible, she said.
Over the next five years, 62 percent of millennials plan to follow the generational trend like Motter, Moses and Schatz, and become entrepreneurs, according to a poll by the Kauffman Foundation.
By the end of 2014, 11 percent of those surveyed will already own and open a business.
“I think it’s great for the younger generation to really step out of that box and say, ‘Maybe I want to go into business. Maybe I don’t want to go to school,'” Schatz said. “You never know until you try.”