Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Summer 2003Kellogg School of Management
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  Linda Darraugh
©Evanston Photographic
Linda Darragh, adjunct assistant professor of entrepreneurship
Adapting to the economy

Today's prospective entrepreneurs face an extra challenge: A sluggish economy has made financial backing more difficult to secure and competition for market share fiercer than ever.

In every recession, entrepreneurship typically increases as people lose their jobs, take matters into their own hands and decide to start an independent venture. About 13 percent of those who lose their jobs ultimately decide to become their own boss, Prof. Steve Rogers says.

During this recession, it's been no different.

"We're seeing an influx of people who are looking at entrepreneurship as their next career," says Linda Darragh, adjunct assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Kellogg School and director of the Women's Tech and Venture Program at Chicago's Women's Business Development Center. She adds, "We provide a reality check. For about 65 to 70 percent of them, it's not the way to go."

But for those who've done their homework — who have performed a competitive analysis and are realistic about the amount of money, energy and commitment the venture will take, the timing could be just right, despite the stagnant economy.

"It's an exciting time for women. The opportunities are endless right now. We are seeing businesses in almost every imaginable industry form," Darragh says, adding that time-tested ventures such as restaurants, interior design firms, signage companies and others marketing decidedly low-tech products seem to be some of the most popular.

But as banks, venture capital firms and even individuals become more selective about investing and loaning their money, the challenge for would-be entrepreneurs is finding the funds necessary to get their businesses off the ground. During these tight times, it's more important than ever for entrepreneurs to "have some skin in the game," Darragh says — to be willing to invest personal funds to cover some or even all of the costs of a start-up.

Some of the vehicles for financing companies are also beginning to change, she says, as angel investors step up to cover some funding gaps left by banks and venture capitalists.

Rogers points out that tight capital might even be seen as a positive, since it forces prospective business owners to carefully think through and fine-tune their plans.

"For those who are considering becoming entrepreneurs I believe it's the best of times," he says. "It's the best of times and the worst of times. Capital is readily available for those who have great ideas or great backgrounds in execution."


©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University