Ever since the Federal Reserve began to adjust interest rates, the prognosticators have been predicting the chances of the economy falling into a recession. As word of an economic slowdown has made headlines, the younger generations continue to weigh out their options as they begin their career journeys. For some, it entails controlling their own destinies with self-directed experience by starting their own business.
The application process for new businesses shows an interesting trend exacerbated by the pandemic. Between 2017 and 2019, the average number of new business applications was roughly 3.5 million yearly. In 2020 and 2021, the figure increased to 4.38 million and 5.4 million, respectively. Also, more people searched online for “how to start a business” than “how to get a job.”
Receiving a business degree is expensive and starting a business is easier said than done. It’s a challenging journey for anyone just starting out or with experience. The choice has added uncertainties when made in response to a recession or other economic and societal stressors.
According to Daniel Javor, there isn’t anything wrong with starting a business in a recession. “There’s never a wrong time to start the right business. Many successful businesses today were born out of recession and chaos. It’s about whether your business idea is right for the current market and whether you know what to do to run a business. And you can learn everything you need without a formal business education.”
Javor is a serial entrepreneur. He’s the CEO of a digital media holding company, Deep Blue Ventures. He also currently runs Step By Step Business, an entrepreneurial education platform that provides in-depth education on starting an LLC, and operating, running, and scaling a business, among other helpful tips for entrepreneurs.
This reporter sat down with Javor to talk about his time as an entrepreneur and his lessons learned, challenges, successes, and failures along the way. In addition, Javor examines the reasons behind his decision to develop an entrepreneurship education model and his advice for budding business owners.
Rod Berger: Why entrepreneurship in the first place? Was it something you always wanted or was it more circumstantial?
Daniel Javor: It was hereditary, if anything. My dad was a passionate entrepreneur himself, so that carried over seamlessly. I’m essentially a product of my parents. My dad was an entrepreneur, and my mom was a globe-trotting artist. So my perspectives and personality is a fusion of what I learned from them. And I started to implement early, too, starting my first hustle when I was just 13 years old.
Berger: What was that first business or entry into entrepreneurship?
Javor: Back then, we lived in Austria, and I was reselling trading cards on eBay. I did dabble in a few other ventures in my teenage years and beyond. Whether successful or not, they’ve all led me to this point.
Berger: You appear to have moved around a great deal for your business ventures. Expand on those globe-trotting tendencies if you would.
Javor: [Laughs] Perhaps I got that from my mom. I’ve never been shy about moving for business opportunities. I was only 17 when I moved to Israel and opened a retail store. I eventually started an affiliate business selling financial and insurance products.
A few years later, in 2015, I shifted the focus of my affiliate business to the solar energy sector, providing U.S. solar companies with residential leads on an affiliate model. My main ventures at the moment are Deep Blue Ventures and Step By Step Business.
Deep Blue Ventures works with a portfolio of acquired online publications we manage in terms of operation and scaling. Step By Step Business is the education hub for current and intending entrepreneurs.
Forming an Education Venture
Berger: Let’s talk about your education venture. Why did you decide to start an entrepreneurship platform? How successful has it been, especially when compared to going out and getting a formal business education?
Javor: I felt it was something I needed to do, looking back on my journey as an entrepreneur. You can never underestimate the importance of guidance. It would have been beneficial if I had the kind of guidance that Step By Step Business now provides. Ultimately, it’s a robust education opportunity for anyone who wants to start a business in any niche.
The website covers everything from averaging startup costs to writing a business plan and state-by-state industry trends. There are detailed blocks of knowledge that help create a brand name, incorporate an LLC, get bank accounts and insurance, apply for the right licenses, and other services. I see it as my way of lending a hand to help others that are behind me to climb up the entrepreneurial ladder.
It’s never meant as a slight on getting a degree from an accredited institution. That will always have its place, but the amount of knowledge available today creates a powerful alternative to getting a formal degree. I think it is possible to learn almost everything you need without paying tuition.
Mistakes and Lessons Learned
Berger: You imply that your mistakes and lessons learned challenged you to establish an entrepreneurship education platform. What are some of the most critical lessons you’ve learned on your journey that every aspiring entrepreneur should know?
Javor: One of the best lessons I learned is that failure is a guarantee. It’ll happen at some point in your journey. One of my biggest failures was with my Near-Field Communications (NFC) startup in 2009. NFCs are a multibillion-dollar industry today, representing about two billion phones and devices globally. But back in 2009, the market wasn’t ready for it. I kept pouring my resources into it for two years before rightly getting out of the business. Many things can be taught, but some things you can only learn by failing at them.
My experience in the NFC space also taught me always to follow the market’s conditions and timing. I stuck with the business because I loved the product’s promise while completely disregarding my target audience and what the market conditions demanded. A successful business responds to the market needs, not the business owner’s likes. You wouldn’t launch a new car dealership when purchasing power is down in a recession, but a used car dealership might make sense.
Following trends and entering an already booming market is not a guarantee for success. If you don’t have your business fundamentals in place, trying just to ride the wave of a popular trend or business when you can’t surf is a recipe for disaster. Ultimately, we all need more education to do something we have never done before, whether formal schooling or customized education platforms.
Never the Wrong Time
Berger: Many young entrepreneurs are waiting for the right time. How does timing play into the conversation of starting a business?
Javor: Perhaps one of the best pieces of wisdom I can impart to young entrepreneurs is that there’s never a wrong time to start a right business, even during a recession. Look at giant companies like Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Netflix, Square, Airbnb, and many others. These businesses rose from the ashes of the dot-com bubble and the 2008 recession.
Startups often do well in recessions because they can be nimble in their finances and operations, which helps them eliminate high overhead costs and offer consumers cheaper products or service alternatives.
It’s not about the recession but rather leadership choices. Good leadership makes good cash flow decisions. It keeps the business flexible in pivoting and can often find deals on capital asset acquisition that outsources some of their growth responsibilities to external sources while other firms are trying to trim down. Also, during a recession, most companies lay off staff, which means it’s when the talent pool is at its fullest.
For the younger generations, flexibility is the name of the game. As they carve out their career paths, environments that provide work-life balance and sustainable goals are part of the picture. Facing an uncertain economy in the marketplace propels a growing number to consider starting businesses themselves. Javor sums up the process of a derived educational experience. As he puts it, “Business education is the first step to job security. So if you want job security, start a business.”
Education remains the essential ingredient, but not everyone can afford the training offered by formal institutions, nor does everyone need it, according to Daniel Javor. As a serial entrepreneur, he believes the business school route for certain startups isn’t always necessary and can be redundant. A well-directed entrepreneurship education platform can provide a streamlined and detailed alternative to business education along the entrepreneurial journey.
Even Javor believes formal education shapes the learning effort even if entrepreneurship can be honed with external platforms. So the question becomes, how can the education and human capital management industries support the approaches of the Daniel Javors of the world? Perhaps integrating project-based learning with professionals that include on and off-ramps for those with experience offers a melding of the two worlds.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.