Can Occupy Wall Street Spark Entrepreneurship?


The Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York City in mid-September have spread their message nationwide, speaking out in cities across the country against big banks and corporations. The "99 %" are calling for health care, food, shelter and a government that won't be influenced by these big players. And in their quest to fight for the American Dream, these protestors are declaring their right to jobs.

Matt Cheuvront, a 25-year-old entrepreneur based in Nashville, Tenn., was all too familiar with the frustrations the Occupy Wall Street protesters are expressing. After being laid off from an online marketing firm soon after graduating college, Cheuvront witnessed firsthand the difficulty of trying to secure a job in a tight market, with little experience.

"The days of climbing the corporate ladder have fallen by the wayside," Cheuvront said.

He began freelancing and making good money on the side, when he began to consider starting up his own business. Over drinks one night with a friend, Sam Davidson, in summer of 2009, they decided to create Proof Branding. Today, the company has five additional employees that work on a contractual basis.

"One thing that separates those who are, and those who want to be, entrepreneurs is action," he said. "I realized the leap into entrepreneurship wasn't as terrifying as I thought it would be. You need to take calculated leaps of faith."

You also have to be willing to make it work, no matter what, Cheuvront, a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council, said. Consider your worst-case scenario, and how you can survive.

"It may be less than stellar for the long-term, like having to move home or taking a job at Best Buy to get the rent paid," he said. "People usually think their worst-case scenario is much worse than it actually is."

Here are Cheuvront's tips for young entrepreneurs looking to venture out on their own.

No. 1: Put yourself out there. Reaching out to others in the industry you are in, or want to be in, is a great way to get yourself started, Cheuvront said. He attributes much of his success to his blog, Life Without Pants, where he talks about his work and life.

"I started the blog as a creative outlet, and wrote about things that interested me in online marketing, design and entrepreneurship," he said. "It's getting online and active in communities out there—chatting with folks in the industry."

No. 2: Figure out what you need. When starting your own business, you have to decide what you need to live, per month. Putting the numbers down on paper will be a reality check, and help you determine what you need to live, Cheuvront said.

"It's very freeing realizing you don't need $10,000 a month to survive," he said. "It's easier to justify what you need to make. Your mind always tells you that you need more."

No. 3: Find something tangible to offer. Whether you are selling a product or offering a service, people will want something to back your company up, Cheuvront said. He learned this lesson trying to market himself as a consultant, when he had little experience in the field.

"The tangible product was my Website," he said. "It helped me get my foot in the door, to be doing what I want to be doing. Find that tangible something that you can market or sell."

No. 4: Realize you can't do it all. It's tempting to try to do everything yourself, but this isn't a reality and realizing that will make your business all the better, Cheuvront said.

"I was doing everything, including things that I was bad at, to get clients and make money. I didn’t know how to say, 'No,'" he said. "The only way you can grow a business is admitting you can't do it all, and finding people who complement your skill sets."

No. 5: Take action. A great business plan means nothing if you can't get it in motion.

"You can't be afraid to dream big," Cheuvront said. "It's about taking those first steps and being proactive. The action piece is so obvious, but it's what holds everybody back."