A New Artisan Economy

A new generation of artisans will become a powerful force shaping the economy and plying their trades outside the walls of big business, according to a new report.

The third installment of a year-long study forecasting trends for small firms and entrepreneurs conducted by the Institute for the Future and Intuit posits that there are significant parallels between artisans in pre-industrial Europe and Asia and today's entrepreneurs.

"Historically, artisans - valued for both their craftsmanship and knowledge - succeeded with skilled hands and savvy mercantilism. Not only did they assemble finished products but they also knew how to put together suppliers, other craftsmen and ultimately customers...long before outsourcing became popular."

The new era artisans are expected to work differently than their medieval counterparts by "combining brain with brawn as advances in technology and the reaches of globalization give them greater opportunities to succeed," predicts the report.

The study's look at the new entrepreneurial economy also forecasts a growing trend of large corporations partnering with small firms, rather than taking the well-trodden route of acquiring them, said Rick Jensen, Intuit senior vice president and general manager, in a presentation for reporters held in the House Small Business Committee hearing room.

"Small businesses' agility, flexibility and deep customer knowledge will make them ideal partners for big businesses looking to serve niche markets with highly customized products," he cited from the report. Additionally, he noted that large companies have begun to recognize the small business sector as a fundamental supplier, partner and customer base and have a newfound respect for smaller firms.

"Small business is becoming a supplier to big business and it's also reclaiming parts of manufacturing," said Jensen.

The latest piece of the study, released last month, predicts that the next 10 years "will see the most diverse pool of entrepreneurs ever" including baby boomers, Generation Y'ers, mompreneurs, careerpreneurs or professional women, and bilingual immigrants who are "thinking global from day one," said Jensen.

For example, baby boomers bring to the table a small financial nest egg, high expectations and a long lifespan. Additionally, they often believe that after devoting their life to someone else's company, it's time to a build a business of their own, according to the study. Meanwhile, members of Generation Y have been groomed since grade school or at least high school that entrepreneurship is a noble profession, and they generally see contracting as a better alternative to a corporate career.

The first installment of the study found that "by 2017, the white, middle-aged men who traditionally launch small businesses will be outnumbered by Generation Y'ers - those born after 1982 - women, immigrants and 'un-retiring' baby boomers."

Jensen visited Capitol Hill from his offices in Mountain View, Calif., to meet with lawmakers, executives at the Small Business Administration and other members of the small business community, he said in an interview. "We want to let them know that we mean more than just taxes," referring to the popularity of Intuit software programs such as TurboTax, Quicken and QuickBooks. "Entrepreneurship is where this country started and today it's where we're going."

By Sharon McLoone |  March 5, 2008; 3:00 PM ET
Previous: Big Issues for Small Business | Next: Capitol Hill Roundup


Please email us to report offensive comments.

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company