From Wall Street to Pet Street? The Leap to Entrepreneurship

There was a time when young, ambitious college grads ran to Wall Street or corporate jobs in hopes of clawing their way to the top. Now they're running away from Wall Street for a better life on Main Street.
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During the last year or so, I've become intrigued by how many people are leaving the 9 to 5 grind for entrepreneurial pastures. There was a time when young, ambitious college grads ran to Wall Street or corporate jobs in hopes of clawing their way to the top. Now they're running away from Wall Street for a better life on Main Street.

Not every entrepreneur needs an MBA or corporate experience to succeed. But many find that the corporate world is a perfect incubator for their business dreams. For example:

  • Courtney Reum, former Goldman Sachs Analyst is now Co-founder of VeeV, maker of an açaí berry liqueur. Her angel investors came through working at Goldman.
  • Kyle Hency, Lazard Analyst, became a Co-founder of online retailer Chubbies Shorts, working for a few years' experience but feeling young enough to take risks and start his own company.
  • Lee Lin, former Quantitative Analyst at D.E. Shaw is now CEO of RentHop, an online apartment rental service. The hedge-fund world trained her to keep her eyes on finances and grow in a way that's profitable.

Is this trend solely compromised of people running from Wall Street? The answer is a resounding NO.

"I Quit!"

Despite a climate of business and job uncertainty, many seem to be leaving their jobs in search of autonomy. I came across some enlightening facts:

  • More than 2 million Americans were voluntarily leaving their jobs each month.
  • Also according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the percentage of overall turnover has remained relatively steady (approx. 1.69 percent per month over the past decade). The number of voluntary "quits" continues to grow with no foreseeable decrease.
  • Research compiled by Grow America revealed that the majority of people are currently unhappy in their corporate jobs.
  • A recent study by Accenture reports the reasons for people's unhappiness:
  1. 31 percent claimed a dislike of their boss
  2. 31 percent sited a lack of empowerment
  3. 35 percent chose internal politics
  4. A whopping 43 percent sited lack of recognition
  • A Business Insider survey of 225 executives reports 22 percent wanting to launch their own companies.
  • Nearly 40 percent of men and 25 percent of women want to become their own boss (54 percent of Millenials, 46 percent of GenY, 35 percent of Gen X-ers and 21 percent of Baby Boomers). (Source: Career Outcomes Matter).

In her book, Escape From Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur, author and blogger Pamela Slim made some well-reasoned observations that "hating your job intensely is not a business plan." She's right -- it isn't.

There are ways for those with corporate jobs to break free in order to start their own business, but as Slim cautions, while it's a "tremendous idea" to become your own boss, it's not possible to become "an overnight sensation with a few magic techniques." What is needed, she implies, is something much more...

Doggie Dating and Pet Parents For Business

Last year when a friend of mine sent me a link to this video on Bloomberg TV about a company called (believe it or not) Hi, Pancake! I nearly fell off my chair. Yes, the name made me chuckle...until I watched the video. I was intrigued. After a dozen years in the financial sector (including 8 years at Bear Stearns), Michael Maione had a brain wave -- an app for "pet parents" who wanted to set up play dates for their dogs.

This may sound silly to those who don't get it when people like me refer to my cats as my kids or to myself as a pet parent. Allow me to enlighten you:

  • In 2013, the pet industry yielded an estimated $53.57 billion
  • According to the 2013-2014 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 82.5 million homes (as compared to 1988 when 56 percent of U.S. households owned a pet.).
  • According to the same survey, there are 46.2 million pet parents and over 78 million dogs in America.

As with most people in the pet industry, Maione loves animals; dogs in particular. Having become namelessly acquainted with a knowledgeable woman who sometimes walked her dog (Pancake) in the same park that Maione walked his dog Moses, he became frustrated when he was unable to trace this woman and her dog using standard internet search. And how could he? No one sets up a Facebook account for their pets!

"Linking up on Facebook can and often is very intrusive," said Maione in a phone interview last month. "I wanted to create a hybrid between Facebook,, Meet-up and as a way for pet parents to stay in touch with other pet parents without overstepping boundaries. This way, parents can link up in order to arrange pet play dates. I also wanted a fulfilling way to live the American Dream of being your own boss."

As Maione suggests, pet parents can and sometimes do become friends beyond those times they happen to meet while walking their dogs. But people often prefer not to share personal information with someone they hardly know.

I also found it interesting that Maione chose to set up his business using an app as opposed to a website. Many companies are moving away from websites toward app based businesses for abundantly clear reasons -- marketing trends show that apps for phones and Ipads are increasing in their use and website use is decreasing. It makes sense.

Six Tips From Wall Street to Pet Street

I asked Maione to share some advice for those who have a desire to switch from Wall Street to Main Street.

  1. If you can, use your own money to fund your dream. This alleviates any potential issues you might have with a bank loan or an investor who might be troubled with your choices or occasional over-spend of budget.
  2. Make certain you incorporate worldwide, getting a tax ID as well as trademarking the name.
  3. Consider exactly what you want to offer the public through your business. I call this a business laundry list.
  4. Invest plenty of time in research and development. Spend most of your time and money designing and testing your app or product. Make sure you hire the best people you can afford.
  5. If your budget is small for PR and Marketing, create a presence for your brand on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrist and Instagram. And the old systems of distributing things like flyers, t-shirts and business cards still have their place. Use them.
  6. Make sure you're in step with (or better yet, ahead of) the marketing and business curve. If you come out of the gate stuck behind the curve, it'll take you ages to catch up.

I can sum up most of this with two questions: have you done your homework before jumping into the ever-growing sea of entrepreneurs? Are you set to get it right from the start as opposed to finding time to fix things later?

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