You don't have to have a Harvard MBA to know that the economy hasn't climbed out of its slump entirely just yet. Household debt has grown, unemployment remains relatively high, and Americans aren't spending the way they once did. With all these obstacles, you'd think it would be the worst time to start your own business. But a struggling economy presents opportunities for ambitious entrepreneurs -- you just have to know where to find them.
1. Real Estate Is Cheap
With so many businesses failing in recent years, commercial real estate is widely available. Do your research -- find a space that's conveniently located and reasonably priced. Once you narrow the field to a few candidates, play hardball with your prospective landlord. If you can't get a reduced monthly rent, try to get other concessions, such as paid utilities, free renovations, or lease termination flexibility.
2. Staffing Will Be a Breeze
With the national unemployment rate hovering just under 8 percent, there are a lot of qualified workers out there looking for a good opportunity. Dig deep during the interview process to find folks who share your vision and passion. You should get a lot of resume submissions, so be discerning. When you interview candidates, try to get a sense of who's in it for the long haul. Overqualified applicants may intend to coast through a job until the one they really want comes along.
3. You Have Protection Against Unemployment
When layoffs and cutbacks are rampant, the best way to avoid being fired is to be your own boss. You may not be able to control how successful your business is, but you can control every decision, work every hour of every day, and if your business fails, it won't be because some faraway board decided to cut 10,000 jobs. Success or failure lie primarily in your hands when you run the show.
4. The Economy Doesn't Matter
When Steve Jobs dropped out of college to found Apple Computer in 1976, the United States was coming out one of its worst recessions in recent memory. Do you think his parents thought that was a good idea? Ambition, intelligence, and drive are three entrepreneurial essentials that cannot be stopped, even by the weakest economy. If you surround yourself with the right people, create a work-friendly environment, and keep customer service at a high level, you can succeed in any economic climate.
5. History Is on Your Side
Not only Apple, but CNN, Microsoft, and Burger King were all launched during recessions. Add to that MTV, Hyatt, FedEx, and General Electric and you've got an all-star roster of American success stories. The founders of these companies didn't let a challenging economy stop them from pursuing their dreams. If the entrepreneurial bug has bitten you, waiting around for three years won't increase your chances of success. Work hard, market yourself aggressively, and don't take no for an answer.
When you do pull the trigger on that startup, make sure you save on costs wherever you can. Market your business for free through social media, hire free labor from students looking to bolster their resume with internships, and negotiate with every contractor and vendor. Remember, they're more likely to give you a discount in today's economy. Success is out there waiting for you, so don't let it wait any longer.
If you have a business idea in mind, what are you waiting for?
Andrew Schrage is co-owner of the MoneyCrashers.com Personal Finance website. The site strives to educate readers on a wide variety of topics, including how to budget for retirement, tips to increase your income, and the best small business credit cards. Schrage hopes to make a meaningful difference in people's lives as they work to gain and maintain financial freedom.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.