They think of themselves as creators of change. They are passionate, curious, and they deploy creative forces to find innovative solutions to current challenges. They are the Generation Z.
Gen Zs are born between 1997-2012 and while they are at the age to join the workforce, according to numerous studies they are more prone to become entrepreneurs and build their own businesses. In this article, we explore the whys through the eyes of two tech founders from Romania and Bulgaria.
A portrait of a generation
The iGeneration has grown with smartphones and tablets at the reach of their sticky little fingers and most have had internet access everywhere they went growing up. While these digital assets brought in many advantages, studies show they also came with a baggage of vulnerabilities.
An „Insights PulseZ” study, conducted by “Vreau sa fiu Antreprenor” (I want to be an Entrepreneur), a Romanian Business Leaders project targeting the new generations in Romania, presents digital natives as self-aware, persistent, realist, innovative, and self-reliant. Research shows the group is well educated and its representatives are always searching for the truth.
They also have a social heavyweight on their shoulders – the burden of being the last generation that can save the planet. This translates into a much more mature outlook on sustainability issues and affinity towards recycling, avoiding food waste, and personal means of transportation.
When it comes to opening a business, the study shows that almost 40% of respondents want to do it in the next few years. But the major barriers are funds and mentorship. As for verticals, they would like to tackle HoReCa, Real Estate, Communication and Marketing, Art and Culture, and Services – banking and accounting, to name a few.
A survey conducted by Ashoka Romania, a network of social innovators, with the help of IZI data, a local research company, shows that almost 80% of Generation Z’s representatives consider themselves as “creators of change”, with half of them attributing this to their education. The other factors that can change a Gen Zs mind are influencers, close friends, doctors, and employers.
#1 In pursuit of financial freedom and meaning
“I realized in the past years that my happiness comes from doing something with passion and meaning while exploring the world. Being an entrepreneur gave me the means to do this,” Rares Manolache says.
Rares Matei Manolache, is a Romanian-based 22-year old co-founder of various projects. One is 3D Labs, an integrated 3D printing solution, focused on self-sustainable housing. He’s also involved in TeenTank, a community of teenagers developing ideas for brands targeting the Gen Zs.
He has a background in mathematics and computer science and will graduate this year from The Entrepreneurship Academy in Bucharest. He describes himself as “creative, curious, and passionate”, which might be the reason working in a corporation wasn’t a priority for him, although he knows there are benefits there, too.
Rares says that he would like to work in a big company for a short period to learn processes and for financial stability. What inspired him to be an entrepreneur, besides the freedom to explore the world, is an outdated educational system that he believes didn’t prepare him for real life.
With the think-tank for teens project, he wants to help both his generation have a better grasp of what the corporate world entails, as well as support companies in targeting the new generations.
“Our generation has completely different goals than our parents, for example, we are more focused on achieving financial freedom and happiness, compared to our parents which were focused on having kids and having a stable and reliable financial revenue,” Rares believes.
According to him, Gen Zs are more prone to becoming entrepreneurs due to access to technology from an early age. He adds that blockchain and even social media made the business environment easier to reach and every day a new job appears. This comes with more opportunities and less stress over what to do when growing up.
Since he was a teenager he has always wanted to innovate and find new solutions to his and his peers’ challenges. On the one hand, he is thinking about survival solutions due to global warming, pollution, and even the pandemic; on the other hand, he ponders how to tackle mundane problems to create more time to experience life fully.
While exciting, the life of a young entrepreneur does present some new challenges, like mental health issues, such as burnout. And he attributes it to the pressure social media creates of “becoming rich and successful as young as possible”.
Rares has found himself in a position of having to juggle an array of responsibilities while wearing different hats, that of entrepreneur and leader, student, but also a free spirit who wants to have fun, socialize, and travel. He also believes in small or big sustainability actions, from recycling trash to implementing SDGs in the business’ core.
#2 Adapt and grow
“I have always known that I want to establish and develop a company of my own,” Zhana shares.
Snezhana Miteva, or Zhana Mit as she likes to sign her name, is a 24-year old Bulgarian-based co-founder and Head of Communications and Creative Direction at CreativX, a 2020 video productions and creative design outsourcing company. She is also a Data Architect at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners and has had experiences with media projects.
Zhana has a background in fashion marketing, as well as international business management, and describes herself as “disciplined, curious, and creative”. She is juggling both the corporate and the entrepreneurial worlds in her work life.
Born at the beginning of Generation Z, she believes that she has been brought up “traditionally”, but at some point technology opened her eyes and this exposure made her adaptable, which she thinks it’s the greatest entrepreneurial skill. Both worlds allow her to learn and grow, but for now, the corporate one weighs more in the skills department.
“I think we are all looking towards the Metaverse and speaking about NFTs. I have a passion for fashion, so I am really curious to see how brands are responding. I am also interested to see if people will shift their opinion about this non-existing reality, as I refer to it – I hope that it will not make real-life look boring.”
She feels the local ecosystem has started to shift in support of female entrepreneurs, especially young ones, but people need to be more open. She has this feeling when presenting her project that people assume she will fail because of lack of experience or it has been done before and it didn’t work. But she considers herself fearless, she believes everybody has a different path, timing is everything, and “it’s never too early or too late to start”.
When it comes to sustainability Zhana thinks many companies say they are taking steps towards it, but that they aren’t doing it right, they just want to be part of the trend. Making the world a better place shouldn’t rely on entrepreneurs’ shoulders only, but she accepts they do have a responsibility to contribute to finding the right solutions.
Gen Zs crave to be entrepreneurs and embrace technology to explore new opportunities, be it new jobs, less stress over failure, and challenges they can conquer. Being curious, creative, adaptable, and looking for a path to contribute to a more meaningful world are some of the traits that could make Gen Zs the best leaders of tomorrow. What do you think?