Emily Articulated: Millennial-preneurs

By Emily Erickson
Reader Columnist

At this very moment I am toeing a dangerous edge, nearing that ridiculous place that’s the home of the Millennial cliche. After starting my morning transitioning between Downward Facing Dog and Warrior II, I’ve settled into my favorite chair at the local coffee shop with my laptop and cellphone within fingers’ reach. 

I’m sipping an ethically- sourced, single-origin black coffee, roasted in the little room behind the register by people I know by name. I’m eating a sugar-free, oil-free, gluten-free, vegan blueberry oatmeal bar, and washing it all down from sips out of my reusable, BPA-less water jug (that happens to be bearing a sticker that reads, “Don’t Be a Prick,” above a little green cactus with a mustache.)

Emily Erickson.

But even more than what I’m consuming, even more than what I’m wearing (a Pendleton sweater-jacket, purchased from a thrift shop), is what I’m doing. The most Millennial thing about me today is that I’m filing invoices in my excel profits tracker for the business I started myself. That’s right. 

I’m a Millennial-preneur.

People have a habit of classifying Millennials as lazy job-shifters, simply too unmotivated and too entitled to hold a steady job. They contend we’d rather stay in our parents’ basements and spend our money on frivolous things like “alternative” milk lattes, instead of investing in our futures.

But, if you are one of these people doubting the work-ethic of the Millennial, I encourage you to look a little closer. Many of us may be forgoing the conventional 9-5, but not just to sit idly and complain about rising prices of avocados and long-term rental options. Millennials are simply changing the way our society defines a “career.”

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than 25 percent of Millennials are self-employed, with 30 percent of entrepreneurs in the United States being between the ages of 20 and 34, already more than doubling the number of startups of their Baby Boomer counterparts. 

But more interesting than the number of Millennial-preneurs, are the motivations behind entering the workforce on their own terms.

A study by Bentley University found that 84 percent of Millennials valued making a positive impact on the world over professional recognition, with 64 percent contending that they’d rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 at a job they found uninspiring.

Sandpoint is filled with these Millennial-preneurs, each with their own motivation for taking their income and their livelihood into their own hands. You’ve undoubtedly seen their work in town, consumed their products and witnessed them in action, whether you’ve realized it or not.

Specifically, if you’ve ever cruised around the corner of first street, you’ve likely spotted the little coffee shop tucked underneath charming hanging lights and below the hand-painted sign reading, “Understory Coffee and Tea.”

Millennial owners Johnelle Fifer and Evan Metz of Understory explain their motivation behind pursuing self-employment. “[We] see entrepreneurship as freedom. We have the liberty to be as creative as we would like, and that brings a lot of joy into our lives. Lastly, owning and running our business has given us the opportunity to learn about setting and achieving goals.”

Then, there was the local volunteer firefighter that ran 100 miles in full gear to raise awareness for cancer prevention. Remember that? That was a campaign by Plant Positive Projects, a Millennial-owned nonprofit. Co-founder Katie Adams describes why she chose to forgo the 9-5, saying, “I wanted to live my passions while making my vision come to life. If I was going to spend energy on someone’s dreams, I wanted them to be my own.”

Finally, you’ve surely seen the photographs shared by local businesses like La Chic Boutique, 7B Boardshop, and Matchwood Brewing Company. Many of these beautiful shots are from Millennial freelance photographer Racheal Baker of Racheal Baker Photography. 

Racheal describes her process of discovering freelancing, “(Regarding work), there were way too many avenues I wanted to explore, so I just started doing what I liked to do and wanted to do. From there, it all chaotically fell into place. Now, instead of having to choose one thing to do for the rest of my life, I can love doing a million things instead.”

So now, I’ll raise my micro-brew filled pint in the air, maybe take a picture for my Instagram story of my sushi before I eat it, and say “cheers,” to my fellow Millennial-preneurs, doing their best at paving their own way.


Emily Erickson is a freelance writer and bartender originally from Wisconsin, with a degree in sociology and an affinity for playing in the mountains.

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