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1.18 The Self-Employed as Entrepreneurs

Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the number of domestically based ventures that are ones with no employees expanded by 23 percent in 10 years to a total of more than 23 million firms. Nationally, these nonemployer businesses have seen their revenue grow to more than $1.05 trillion. It should be obvious at this point that we take a rather broad and inclusive view of entrepreneurship. We think there are advantages in taking this “big tent” approach to who are entrepreneurs. Take, for example, the creative people or artists who sell their art or craft. In many cases there is little new technology involved in those processes, just paint, clay, metal, and clutter. However, as one will discover, the Internet and digital technology are rapidly changing the visual arts as one can see in the use of Photoshop software, or 3D printing. The same can be said for musicians and performance artists who have embraced new technologies in the creation of their art form.

The point is that many self-employed are in fact those who are creating something, not just art, but new technologies like software applications for cell phones. Typically, nonemployer businesses are one-person business, like a freelance graphic designer. We all have people we know who do this on the side as well as friends who blog and sometimes who make an income from on-site advertising. Then there are the YouTube sensations with providing advice on a variety of topics and end up with a huge following. We have seen the same thing happen with Twitter; users who end up making money because of their posts. Sometimes these ventures include family members and friends who aren’t paid. These are examples we can all relate to are firms where the venture is entrepreneur’s primary source of income. Just think of those real estate agents you know, or even your personal medical doctor. In other cases the single entrepreneur may operate their venture as a side job. If you are a parent, you know these people as they provide babysitting and tutoring to your kids.

1.18.1 The Context for Self-Employed Entrepreneurs

Cities are often judged on the viability—not just on technology and firms created—based on the quality of life, which include the arts. Where would New Orleans be without music and the culinary entrepreneurs that have made the city as famous for its food as it is for its music and nightlife? Many of those who are self-employed are often considered by the media and policy makers as not requiring attention. Their value has often been ignored. What brought back New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was the vitality of the art, music, and food scenes. If they had abandoned the city, it would have turned the city into a ghost town with quaint buildings.

However, recently cities like New Orleans and Austin have seen the value in fostering their artists as much as they have their technology firms or oil firms. One only has to look at Austin, Texas billing itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World” and the role music plays in SXSW (South by Southwest) in which technology, music, and film go hand in hand. In Austin alone, for example, one of the fastest growing areas for the self-employed is in the Arts, entertainment and recreation sector. In 2003 there were 5,931 such ventures. By 2013 the number of such firms rose to 11,355, an increase of 91 percent with estimated revenues of $271 million in 2013. This is no small part of the economic life of a city like Austin.

One such nonemployee venture in the arts sector is one operated by an Austin area artist, Danny Babineaux (www.dannybabineaux.com). Currently his paintings are focused on animal subjects. He does commissions of people’s pets, the ubiquitous Texas longhorn cattle, as well as endangered species such as elephants and rhinos (see Figures 1.3 and 1.4). He has sold his paintings not just in Austin but worldwide; thanks to the Internet that allows him to be independent of traveling to art shows and exhibiting in galleries with their associated overhead costs. By using PayPal, he is able to take credit card payments. The following is an example of some of his arts:

Figure 1.3

Figure 1.3 Texas longhorns (Danny Babineaux, artist).

Figure 1.4

Figure 1.4 Endangered elephants (Danny Babineaux, artist).

Historically one need only look at artists like Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, the father of the “selfie,” Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, George F. Handel, Richard Wagner, or the Beatles collectively, or Lennon and McCartney individually to say that all were successful on a number of dimensions including financially. All had huge impacts on society. Warhol’s print runs became immediate production lines. Picasso outsourced his pottery to a family firm to produce. Lennon and McCartney created an entire industry with lasting impact on society and music. One can look at the current success of Taylor Swift. It is clear her current music and business skills only hint at what her entrepreneurial talents will produce in the future.

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