The “Yolo Economy”: a fleeting fad or driving force?

In business and society there are micro and macro trends that define and underpin how we live and work. Macro trends are longer-term – like the digital transformation surge that is only intensifying – while micro trends are shorter-term and either fizzle out or, eventually, become a more established trend.

It’s not always easy to identify which are fleeting and those that are here to stay. Take, for example, the “Yolo Economy”, a hot-topic term garnering much interest in 2021. Coined by The New York Times, the so-called Yolo Economy is a phenomenon in which people – predominantly Millennials – are reconsidering their career paths and priorities in the wake of the pandemic and the impact it caused. For many of them, the notion and appeal of a traditional career or “job for life” are dwindling, replaced instead by the pull of starting a business pursuing a passion.

Just as”gig economy” and “digital nomad” – sections of our broad, dynamic small-business community – were once new, relatively unknown phrases, they’re now legitimate and popular ways in which people define work. Whether the Yolo Economy phrase sticks and becomes a macro trend is yet to be seen, but the traits it represents – courage and determination, innovation and passion – are deep-rooted in Australia and are only increasing, according to data.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) data, analysed by The Australian, revealed that business registrations are up 25 per cent compared to the seven-year average, supporting the theory that we are about to ride the next wave of an entrepreneurial surge.

Certainly, that’s what our research is telling us too. In January, GoDaddy’s Project Resolution research found that almost half of surveyed 25-34-year-olds (47 per cent) and 35-44-year-olds (49 per cent) were considering starting a business pursuing their passion this year, higher than any other age bracket. Considering that younger Australians were disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s impact on the jobs market, it’s little surprise that they’re feeling entrepreneurial.

Not only does the research suggest that Millennials are more entrepreneurially inclined than older demographics, they’re also bigger believers in the importance of following their passions and dreams. This theory of chasing dreams is a key component in the Yolo Economy. Following the pandemic, we found that 78 per cent of 25–34-year-olds and 77 per cent of 35-44-year-olds say it’s now more important than ever to pursue a passion. Due to the strain and uncertainty many encountered during the pandemic, passions and dreams have never been more important to this group.

Just as they’re today pursuing a passion and dream, they’re demonstrating the same entrepreneurial mindset that many readers of Inside Small Business had when starting their own business. As a small-business community, we’re here to inspire and support the next generation – whether they identify with the “Yolo Economy” or not – to consider a leap of faith in the pursuit of a passion.

Canva and Atlassian, two of Australia’s most successful technology businesses, started as a dream that their founders made a leap of faith to pursue. Our long-term economic prosperity is dependent on the next generations following suit.

Whether the Yolo Economy phrase is a fad or not, the entrepreneurs it represents are not. They’re ushering in a new era of entrepreneurialism and adding to our already-vibrant, inspiring small-business community. Their spirit, drive and dreams should be encouraged. Many pop-culture trends come and go. The Yolo Economy phrase could be a fleeting micro trend, but the spirit it represents; entrepreneurialism and the notion of pursuing a dream is a macro trend that is here to stay.