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It’s time entrepreneurs took center stage in the job market

Published on: May 6, 2015


Penny Fletcher

Penny Fletcher

The days when big companies hired people by the hundreds are over. Let’s face it, the Industrial Age has come to an end. Unless you live in North Dakota or Nebraska, where the March 2015 unemployment figures were 3.1 and 2.6 percent, respectively, there’s a good chance you won’t get another job very easily if you ever find yourself suddenly out of work.

Hundreds of young people fresh out of college try for the same two or three job slots while retirees by the thousands supplement their Social Security checks and still barely have enough to pay their bills.

As of March, Florida’s reported unemployment rate was 5.7 percent, but that figure doesn’t include people who have run out of unemployment benefits and are now without any source of income.

Many areas of the country have a “real” unemployment rate of around 25 percent, according to Jim Rickards, an advisor to both the Fed and the CIA, who recently spoke on the Money Morning television talk-show, promoting his book The Death of Money.

It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and since it’s Small Business Week, I felt it was time I tell part of the story of my gradual entry into my own small business. For a while, I also held down a full-time job, then did freelance work along with this home-based business, until finally I was able to try and make the business go full time.

I think it’s time for entrepreneurs to make their own jobs. Learn something you’d like to do; go back to school if necessary. There aren’t any more assembly lines; robotics and digital devices have taken their place.

Plenty of people still working are doing the job of three or four people because of tight budgets and large layoffs, so any service can be a tremendous help, from cleaning houses to detailing cars.

There was a time when anyone who held employment was in business for himself (or herself) — remember the old rhyme that started with “the butcher, the baker, and candlestick maker”? Well, I think that time has come again.

Government websites predict that 10,000 baby boomers will reach retirement age every day for the next 19 years. What the government websites don’t say, though, is that most of these people won’t be able to live on their Social Security benefits — if those benefits even continue for the next 19 years — like the generation before.

You see, costs have risen so that the average Social Security benefit won’t even cover someone’s rent, let alone any other bills they may have. Many turn to food stamps and other government programs, further inflating the government’s payouts, which leaves even less in the “retirement” pot.

A freelance writer for many years while in other businesses before I became a reporter full time in the late 1980s, my aim was to forge a freelance writing, editing and coaching business that would enable me to pay my bills. Since I started, I’ve even entered the realm of small-publishing some of my editing clients and a few others good enough to be out there but who can’t get agents and publishers.

A widow of more than 12 years raising a grandchild who is now just 17, I opted to take Social Security at age 62 in 2007, even though it cut $300 a month off it for life.

Why? Because I knew it would be easier for me to start a new business at 62 than 65, and if I made it work, the benefits would far outweigh $300 a month in the long run.

Scary? Yes. Especially since two health conditions exempted me from health insurance for more than three years. There have been months I didn’t know if the month would be longer than the funding to pay for it. You’ve probably heard the joke that says my “take home pay won’t take me home.”

But still, I think entrepreneurial foresight is going to be the only way out for many who are now — or soon to be — jobless. The young can’t find jobs, and those supposedly “retired” without a hefty pension often can’t, either. But all is not lost!

In honor of Small Business Week, Florida Small Business Development Center of Hillsborough County hosted a free speed-consulting session to provide small-business owners with information to assist them in growing their businesses. A panel of professionals presented expert advice to small businesses, from start-ups to established businesses.

Although the special event is over, the Small Business Development Center is always a resource to those just starting, or who have just started a small business, with services that are free of charge. The center is at 2101 E. Palm Avenue in Tampa, or call 813-204-9267.

It’s never too soon to start thinking about what will be the next stage of life. Or the next way to make a living. Or even to have a “back-up plan” if you think your job is secure.

So high-five to the butchers, the bakers, and candlestick makers of the future. The business environment may be changing, but as long as people inhabit the Earth, they will have needs. Who will fill those needs depends upon new ways of thinking — often completely out of the box!