One of the hardest things about working for the state is that I can’t run off and start a business at the drop of a hat. After almost 10 years at the Department of Commerce, I still have this burning desire to be an entrepreneur. I just can’t help myself. It’s in my blood.

I don’t know how many times I’ve turned to my wife over the last few years with a sure-fire business idea. My latest epiphany was the Fair Wagon. It would visit communities on a set schedule, much like the ice cream guy who drives by my house. But in this case, it would be selling all my Washington State Fair favorites: Scones, Krusty Pups, cotton candy, Earthquake Burgers and Elephant Ears.

Imagine a fleet of Fair Wagons rolling through our neighborhoods, bringing us a rotating cavalcade of fair food right to our door. By the way, if anyone from the fair is reading this, feel free to steal the idea. Just make sure it stops in my Lynnwood neighborhood and I’ll consider it an even trade. Oh, and one last thing, no Turkey in the Straw playing on an endless loop.

Even though I can’t start a business right now, I do get to help others start their own in my job here at Commerce. Each November, we celebrate entrepreneurship with 4 1/2 weeks of training, seminars, workshops and interactive sessions. All free, all online and available to anyone with an Internet connection and a burning desire to start a new business or take their existing one to the next level.

This is the perfect time to start a business. Washington has experienced a 24.8% increase in new business licenses in 2021. In raw numbers, that’s 69,301 new businesses this year, 55,539 in 2020 and 52,320 in 2019, pre-COVID. This would be January through October for each fiscal year. The actual number of starts is probably much higher since sole proprietors don’t have to file for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS. (US Census Bureau Business Formations Dashboard).

Starting a new business is exciting stuff. It can be a bit scary, too, especially if terms like cash flow, balance sheets, sales funnels, lead cycles and turns are foreign to you. Running a business day in and day out can be even more challenging. But it’s also one of the most gratifying things you can ever do.

Whether you’re new to business or an old pro, there are always new things to learn, especially now.

Let’s be honest. The roadmap you used in the past to find customers, maximize profits, keep workers engaged and build your nest egg may not take you to where you need to go in the future. The world has changed a lot in the last two years. “Business as usual” is no longer a phrase with any meaning. Business is fundamentally different, as are customers and the marketplace in general. That tried and true map you relied on to guide you in the past is virtually useless. Navigating the future will take a new set of skills and a new mindset.

This is the reason we do Global Entrepreneurship Month – to energize those new to the idea of starting and running a business and to help existing businesses re-engage their inner entrepreneur to map out a strategy for the future, one that is very different than it was just a couple years ago.

The challenges are fairly well known: disrupted supply chains, consumer uncertainty, workforce shortages, increased employee activism, policy stalemates, I could go on.

But there are also new opportunities for the entrepreneur. Age-old competitors may have folded in the pandemic. There is pent-up demand for “normalcy” and lots of available cash to be spent. People are more interested in quality of life than climbing the corporate ladder. Priorities have changed as people faced their own mortality. Shopping online has become the norm, not the exception, opening up new markets domestically and internationally. Remote working has proven its value and exposed some of its pitfalls along the way. The economic pyramid has been flattened a bit in many ways, and newer, more nimble companies with a great idea can shake a century-old monolith to its core.

That’s why Global Entrepreneurship Month is more pertinent than ever. Through more than 50 sessions, you can learn how to strengthen your bottom line, find new revenue streams, identify new customers, strengthen your lead generation funnel, supercharge your website and sell overseas. We’ve lined up a team of experts ready to help you take your idea or business to the next level.

And if that weren’t enough, it’s all FREE! Starting and running a business is expensive enough without having to pay for information you need to start and grow. You have enough to worry about without having to rummage through the cushions.

So, get your popcorn, a pen and plenty of paper to write on as we kick off Global Entrepreneurship Month in Washington State. Look through our list of classes, register for the ones you find important, re-watch some from last year and visit our Entrepreneur Academy while you’re at it. We have some great courses at the academy to help you gain even more mastery of the essential skills for starting and running a business.

And good luck on your journey. An adventure of a lifetime awaits you.

Somewhere north of the Emerald City, battling my inner entrepreneur as always,

  • Robb