Wednesday, February 28, 2007

America 'hearts' entrepreneurs

posted by Seun Olubodun
Three decades ago, there were hundreds of people for every one Bill Gates who had excellent business ideas, but no resources to realize them. Not so anymore, according to CNN Money -- entrepreneurs are seizing the day.

Technology is one environment factor that has significantly lowered entrepreneurs' barriers to entry. Today, with so much commerce happening online, all they need to get a company up and running is a computer and Internet access.

Consider the flood of dorm room entrepreneurs. I was one myself. As a junior attending Temple University, I didn't want to slave away at an unpaid internship from 9 to 5 every day. Instead, I started building Web sites for family and friends -– a much more fun, flexible, and lucrative operation.

Within a year, my little side project grew into a full-fledged design company called Element Web Solutions, employing a team of part-time staffers. Our apartments doubled as offices, because all we needed were computers and the Internet.

Such casual surroundings belied our serious work. We built corporate identities and branding campaigns for over 70 small to mid-sized businesses, including law firms, restaurants, private hospitals, non-profits, construction companies, and real estate developers.

You might find my story unique. But I wasn't the only one with the bright idea to start an online company. Hundreds of other Web design firms popped up all over the place, run by kids just like me.

Now, how many of those shops are still open today? Only a handful. This disappearing act proves one of our most important IncPlace maxims: Flashy ideas are great, but they need strong business models for support.

Still, my personal experience shows how online capabilities have helped ambitious, creative entrepreneurs hit the ground running. The question now becomes, how do they keep from tripping in a risky, rocky marketplace?

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