Necessity can make a new career

Mitchell Hartman Mar 22, 2010

Necessity can make a new career

Mitchell Hartman Mar 22, 2010


Bill Radke: With unemployment near 10 percent, a lot of people are going out on their own to make ends meet. Selling their skills as freelancers, starting online retail businesses, dusting off something they invented in the garage. From our Entrepreneurship Desk at Oregon Public Broadcasting, Mitchell Hartman has more.

Mitchell Hartman: Allison Milionis never intended to be an entrepreneur.

Allison Milionis: When I moved here, I was looking for either a staff position someplace or a very regular consulting type of position. But, um, that hasn’t happened.

Milionis left a successful career in Los Angeles as an architectural writer two years ago and came to Portland, where she applied for jobs writing, waiting tables, loading boxes — and got nothing.

Milionis: So I was sort of having to think quick on my feet, and Cameron had this business going so I jumped in.

That’s Cameron Morgan, her musician boyfriend. About a year ago he started an online record store in their basement. It sells vintage vinyl and electric-guitar accessories, including one he helped invent.

Cameron Morgan: So this is pretty much our flagship pedal, the Dark Echo.

Milionis: I didn’t see myself packing boxes and listing albums as a job. But you know, you do what you have to do. And at least this is ours, and we can develop it.

Milionis fits into a category called “necessity entrepreneurs.” A quarter of new businesses in 2009 were launched by people who’d lost a job or income, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. That’s up 50 percent since the recession began.

Vivek Wadhwa: What happens when you’re unemployed? You have nothing to lose. Fear of failure goes away.

Vivek Wadhwa researches entrepreneurship at Duke University. He says many of the companies founded now will stay small. But there will be some will be blockbusters.

Vivek Wadhwa: The most successful companies on the Dow, they were formed within recessions. Everyone is hurting, there’s much less money available, therefore you have less competition. And this is what leads to so much success.

Allison Millionis doesn’t need her business to be the next Amazon — just for it to keep paying the bills. Plus . . .

Milionis: Sometimes it’s fun, because we have all this music.

I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

Radke: Tomorrow from the Entrepreneurship desk: Mitchell meets some folks who have figured out that classic entrepreneur headache of health care — and they did it without congressional action.

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