I recently made my annual pilgrimage to a utopian place; one where pot smoking trustafarian teenagers, walking Urban Outfitters advertisements and neon-clad frat bros coexist under a shared love of inebriation. This place is known as the American summer music festival.
After depleting my $200 in cash by the end of day two, I had an epiphany: music festivals are carefully curated hipster marketplaces designed to prey on pseudo-hippie sensibilities and vegan leather wallets. Me, my collection of festival wristbands and my bank account have fallen victim to these thrifty entrepreneurs since the tender age of 19. R.I.P. savings account that never was.
A Different Kind of CEO
Music festivals make bank. But inconspicuous small businesses with yoga instructor CEOs snag a significant piece of the cannabis-infused pie. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a closer look at the music festival experience:
- Munchie-suffering concertgoers can choose from a variety of dining options; most of which are start-up food trucks traveling from festival to festival marketing their gluten-free black bean burgers and flax seed fruit smoothies.
- Want to spend even more money on your “down-to-earth” look? Journey through the Artisan Market and browse the one-of-a-kind selection of dip-dyed maxi skirts and handmade sterling silver mood rings.
- Make the responsible choice and quench your thirst with beer instead of water at the Beer Garden, where budding craft breweries woo fresh-faced 21-year-olds with their honey-infused IPA.
- Did your frenemy Molly keep you up until 4am? Take a break in the Hammock Hangout. You’ll be able to catch up on sleep in one of the festival’s pre-hung hammocks — and also buy one for yourself when you wake up.
Keep in mind that each of these small businesses undoubtedly has a professional social media presence. Instagram handles and personalized hashtags are conveniently printed on their environmentally friendly merchandise, urging customers to “follow for a free organic, homegrown carrot!”
Mixing Business with Pleasure
On a more serious note, the music festival culture of commerce is an example of the unique way we intertwine personal and professional success. Just as we tend to spend money with our hearts, many of us aim to make money in a similar fashion. To some, this is best accomplished by starting a business.
For many young entrepreneurs, professional motivation lies in helping others and making a difference. Gen Y is particularly philanthropic, with 64 percent of millennials desiring to make the world a better place through their work. (This may explain the surge in taco food trucks.)
For others, success is marked by creative achievement and recognition. Unlike generations past who viewed benefiting from creative output as “selling out,” creativity is now a lucrative business. Profiting from passion is seen as the ultimate triumph.
Today, there’s no shame in making a living off of your luxury sock line or your successful rock and roll band. Even profiting off of yourself isn’t frowned upon—just look at insta-famous fashion, food and lifestyle bloggers that have successfully monetized the art of self-promotion and branding. Some of us would rather work hard on a passion project for little pay than log hours in a cubicle just to climb the corporate ladder. Today, “selling out” is working a job that sells your soul.
This take on entrepreneurship isn’t unique to Gen Y, nor does it apply to every employed 20-something. But, as the millennial population continues to infiltrate the workplace, it will be interesting to see whether the labor market continues on this particularly innovative trajectory. The sharing economy, tech startups and social entrepreneurship have all individually shifted the traditional business model in such profoundly creative and exciting ways — imagine what the world be like if we all worked from the heart.
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