Editor’s note: Randy Mitchell is part of The Entrepreneur’s Source, an international network of self-employment coaches who work with individuals and companies looking for successful opportunities for business ownership and expansion.
_______________________________________________________________________________________Imagine the exhilaration a surfer feels catching a powerful wave and riding it all the way into shore as the water curls overhead creating a private water tunnel. Whether or not surfing is your thing, if you have any interest in starting your own business, now is the time to get your feet wet and to ride the wave of entrepreneurship.

The benefits of entrepreneurship are two-fold. It allows you to be your own boss and enjoy the exhilaration and satisfaction of independence. It’s also central to the economy by fueling innovation, productivity and growth. By owning their own business, people are taking control of their careers and strengthening the local economy with the products, services and good jobs they provide.

In fact, there is a swell in self-employment, which is being driven by demographics and economic factors. As a result, there is optimism that the overall economy will continue to grow in 2005. It’s refreshing to know that there are some positive things happening in our economy especially since the jobless rate has been high for so long.

Growth Cross Gender, Racial Lines

According to a recent study sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), for the first time in 10 years, self-employment rates are on the rise across the country and are at 9.9 percent in the South. The report indicates that tech start-ups, minorities, women and baby boomers are driving the surge.

These findings are also evidence that opportunities to be self-employed are open to a more diverse population than ever before. In fact, minority-owned enterprises are the fastest-growing business segment and have brought a much-needed economic boost both locally and nationally.

According to the SBA, Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians all made gains in self-employment in the past two years. Recent Census data confirms that new minority-owned businesses are growing at more than six times the national rate. In fact, the Secretary of Commerce reported that minorities own 15 percent of the nation’s businesses, employ 4.5 million people and generate $591.3 billion in gross receipts.

In addition, women and baby boomers are taking advantage of the opportunities to own their own business. Women now make up 32 percent of the country’s 12.2 million business owners, up from 25 percent in 1983, according to the SBA. Studies show that the number of self-employed people over the age of 50 has jumped 23 percent since 1990 to 5.6 million workers. This is due in large part to the fact that baby boomers are looking for more security later in life as large corporations continue to downsize and buy out senior staff members.

Not only are more workers following the lead of successful minority business owners, the business world is noticing as well. Franchise businesses recognize the growing ranks of minority business owners and are focusing on reaching out to them. The broad-based nature of franchising gives minority entrepreneurs even more possibilities and options. With education and coaching to match goals, needs and expectations with appropriate self-employment opportunities, minorities are discovering options that they had not considered before.

Beware the Risks

While the outlook for owning your own business is good, there are still inherent risks in self-employment. One of the biggest mistakes people make when venturing out on their own is that they limit their options to those things they’ve done before. Unfortunately, many therefore end up becoming immersed as technicians in the business rather than working on the business as managers. This is why it’s important to keep your options open and spend time doing thorough research. Working with a mentor or a self-employment coach is beneficial and can help make your search for the perfect opportunity more manageable, less overwhelming and less daunting.

If you’re considering starting your own business, think about it like learning how to surf. With lessons, practice, the right conditions and the right equipment, you’ll be riding waves in no time. Just remember to start small and before you know it you’ll be riding the big rip curls.

The Entrepreneur’s Source is part of an international network of self-employment coaches who work with individuals and companies looking for successful opportunities for business ownership and expansion. The Entrepreneur’s Source is also an active Member of the International Franchise Association’s Minorities in Franchising (MIF) Committee. With its Support Center located in Southbury, Connecticut, The Entrepreneur’s Source is the leading independent business ownership consulting company with more than 290 offices in the United States and Canada offering a full range of services to individuals interested in self-employment and companies searching for methods of expansion. For more information, visit www.theEsource.com/RMitchell