With 14.7 million unemployed Americans, along with the millions of underemployed and people giving up on finding work altogether, there is one positive outcome for a lucky few -- becoming an entrepreneur without really setting out to be one.
Losing a job and being unable to find a new one leads some people, myself included, into freelancing, consulting or maybe even turning a hobby into a way to make money.
We've become unintentional entrepreneurs, which is the name of a new Web site -- unintentionalentrepreneur.com -- that is kicking off a small nationwide tour on Wednesday night in San Francisco to help unemployed people start their own business.
"There are a lot of people out there who are hanging out their shingle for the first time," said Kevin Reeth, co-founder and CEO of Outright.com, a free online bookkeeping site that co-sponsors the program with Network Solutions, which helps small businesses with Web solutions.
The free event at 6 p.m. Wednesday in San Francisco will have free beer and pizza, and will feature topics such as advice on managing financial transactions, bookkeeping basics and small business tax tips, building your Web site, and marketing.
The five-city summer road trip will continue at 6 p.m. July 23 in Los Angeles, near West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. The tour will continue to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, although dates, times and locations for those stops haven't been set yet. The site's blog provides updates on tour stops.
Beyond getting tips on how to set up a new business, probably the biggest tip entrepreneurs can get is to get out and network, Reeth told me in a telephone interview from his office in Campbell, Calif. Money is made through networking, not advertising and marketing, although those will eventually have their place, he said.
"Self-employment can be very lonely," making networking extremely important to the business and to the owner's personal well-being, he said.
Perseverance is another key trait among people starting a business, Reeth said.
"You've really got to want to stick with it," he said. "Because nothing ever goes as smoothly as you want."
One of the best things about becoming an entrepreneur now, instead of only five years ago, is that it takes less money to get started, Reeth said.
"Technology is making it much less expensive to take a swing at starting your own business," he said.
Starting a Web site is cheap or almost free.
"You can try a few different business ideas and they can all fail, and you don't have to sink a lot of money into it," Reeth said.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach him at www.AaronCrowe.net
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