Young entrepreneurs start more businesses

Even in this challenging economy, in which some big businesses are closing their doors or just treading water, more young entrepreneurs like Brandon Miller of Wailua are starting and growing new enterprises.

“It’s definitely easier to put in a job application than to start a business,” admitted Miller, 27, owner of the Carpet Cops franchise on Kaua‘i.

“The first year was tough. I definitely had a second job,” he said. “The third year, things are great. I’m booked up for good jobs for six weeks out.”

Miller fits a growing trend of measurable increases in entrepreneurial activity among people in two age groups — 20 to 34 and 45 to 54 — from 2010 to 2011, according to the annual Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity report, which was released this month.

Although the rate of new business creation declined slightly overall during 2011, the approximately 543,000 new businesses created each month during the year “remains among the highest levels of entrepreneurship over the last 16 years,” the nonprofit Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s report states.

“It’s mostly just me,” Miller said about the employee rolls for his carpet, upholstery, tile, stone and grout cleaning business. He call in trained outside technicians when they’re needed for heavy workloads.

That fits another trend in 2011, of entrepreneurs “more likely to fly solo than employ others,” according to the Kauffman report.

“The Great Recession has pushed many individuals into business ownership due to high unemployment rates,” Robert Litan, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, said in the foundation’s report. “However, economic uncertainty likely has made them more cautious, and they prefer to start sole proprietorships rather than more costly employer firms.”

For Miller, it was more a case of learning the business first and then plunging in.

Miller attended high school on Kaua‘i, then “moved to Lake Tahoe to try out the snow for a few years,” he said.

While in California, he began working for the original Carpet Cops.

It was a sweat equity buy-in to start a franchise on Kaua‘i, he said, capitalizing on the owner’s eagerness to start establishing franchises in different locations.

He spent three years working for Carpet Cops and learning the business, including the use of organic cleaning products and the challenge of providing 24/7 emergency water damage service.

When he returned to Kaua‘i, he was undaunted by the number of carpet cleaning operations already in business. “That just means there’s demand,” he said.

Heavy rains and flooding earlier this month havebrought new business, which found him at the Kaua‘i County Chamber of Commerce one weekday afternoon to dry out wet carpets.

Chamber President Randy Francisco was delighted to welcome him.

“New and young entrepreneurs inspire our board of directors and chamber committee members to always do more, because they are the future of our economy and island,” Francisco said later.

Miller, while hoisting equipment inside the Chamber building in Lihu‘e, said he didn’t anticipate there would be so much paperwork involved in operating a business. He said he spends almost half his time on bookkeeping and other duties.

On Kaua‘i, those businesses that perform exceptionally well will have the advantage because it is a small island, he said.

“Word of mouth is so strong here. I pretty much get all my work from word of mouth,” he said.

His advice for other would-be entrepreneurs is: “Whatever’s already working, turn it into a new way of doing it. Promote it in a different way.”

And, he adds, “Don’t get lazy.”

The Kauffman report on entrepreneurial activity states that new business creation rates remained highest in the West and lowest in the Midwest in 2011.

Arizona reported the highest entrepreneurial activity rate (520 per 100,000 adults creating businesses each month during 2011). Rounding out the top five were Texas, California, Colorado and Alaska.

Hawai‘i (180 per 100,000 adults) ranked among the states with the lowest entrepreneurial activity.

Hawai‘i was listed third from the bottom, with only West Virginia and Pennsylvania reporting lower rates in 2011, the Kauffman Foundation reported.

For more information about Carpet Cops, visit www.carpetcopskauai.com.

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