axeYou can add “necessity entrepreneur” to the list of new terms that have seeped into our vernacular over the last year. A necessity entrepreneur is someone who, rather than starting a new business as the result of methodical strategic planning, does so in reaction to a career jolt (like unexpectedly being laid off from their design job, for instance). I know, here in Minneapolis, the last few months have been particularly harsh—after hanging on through the first quarter of ‘09, many firms have finally been forced to cut staff in order to survive—hence, the ranks of potential necessity entrepreneurs is swelling. I’m guessing Minneapolis is not unique in this regard, so I’ve been searching for resources that address this circumstance.

The temptation for most designers when they are laid off in a harsh job market is to start their own design practice. After all, this is the business they know best and where, most likely, they have developed a solid network. The problem in today’s market is that we’ve already reached (and probably surpassed) the saturation point for small start-up design practices. Regardless of your past accomplishments as a designer, if you are just starting out on your own right now, you are joining an outrageously crowded field.

This article from Wall Street Journal, via MSN, does a good job of profiling necessity entrepreneurs who have chosen a field based on a hobby or personal interest, which is an excellent way of approaching this process. Blogger Steve King points out some good news in this post from Small Business Labs, “the cost of starting a small business, and especially a small business based at home, is lower than ever before. Technology has become inexpensive and in many cases even free.”

As I’ve written many times in Merge, a down economy provides a ripe opportunity for entrepreneurs, and the chorus of believers in this idea continues to grow. Innovation and small business growth will be as important as any other factor in our eventual recovery.