In the current Wild West days of start-ups and micro-entrepreneurs anything is possible, and there is no place more practicing of that ideology than Austin, Texas.
Having lived in Los Angeles for a number of years, I got used to people saying, "Well, I have this idea I've been playing around with..." or "One day, I'd like to build/create/grow..." but most of those people never got around to fulfilling their goals or dreams. In cities like New York or Los Angeles, unless you come from money, most people are more preoccupied with trying to survive over finding the time and money to actualize their passion project.
When I moved to Austin I began meeting individuals who were coming up with ideas and following through on them. Young people, old people, men, women and children. I discovered that in a town like Austin, one can focus on their goals more easily because not only is the cost of living affordable, there is also no personal or corporate income tax and state franchise business tax is low.
In cities like New York or Los Angeles, unless you come from money, most people are more preoccupied with trying to survive over finding the time and money to actualize their passion project.
In addition, The City Council recently announced plans to create a small business incentive program that will offer "tax credits, fee waivers and free or reduced business skills and job training" for businesses under 20 employees. Throw in the fact that people love helping one another here in good ol' ATX and fulfilling a dream is suddenly very possible.
I'm continually awe-inspired by friends and acquaintances and the ideas they're coming up with. Tonight I had drinks with a friend who is one half of the beloved local frozen pop company, Goodpop. If you're not familiar with the brand, you're truly missing out. These all-natural pops, which come in inventive flavors such as Coldbrew Coffee, Banana Cinnamon, Watermelon Agave and Hibiscus Mint, will blow your mind. (P.S. Try swirling a Hibiscus Mint pop in your vodka. You're welcome.)
In less than three years, Goodpop has gone from being a UT grad's homemade invention to a polished product distributed in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. You can find Goodpop in your favorite Whole Foods, Central Market or HEB. All of this was achieved by the hard work of two twenty-something men, Daniel Goetz and Andrew Kurland.
Not only are the boys kicking ass and taking names, they're also giving back. Goodpop is very active in the non-profit world. In my mind they're doing everything right and adhering to the Austin creed. Hearing the updates of their growth and success remind me that any of us can achieve anything we want.
Similarly, my friends Mike Groener and Charles Cheung are in the final stages of debuting their gin company, Genius. Having been fans of the creative spirit growing in Austin's restaurant and beverage scene, the two wanted to take their love for gin and reintroduce the liquor as a more accessible and innovative option to the masses.
I discovered that in a town like Austin, one can focus on their goals more easily because not only is the cost of living affordable, there is also no personal or corporate income tax and state franchise business tax is low.
In the spirit of the locally sourced movement in Austin, the two have have been extremely active in every part of the developing process and have made as many local choices as possible in production. The successful accomplishments they've described throughout the process — TABC approval, the first ferment completing properly, first spirit produced off the still — were explained with such pride that can only come from entrepreneurship.
Genius was born from an idea created by two friends talking. They took that idea and ran with it. Now Mike and Charles will proudly see their gin on the shelves this coming September.
I'm not a small business owner, but I made the leap to working freelance last year and I've never looked back. Though I often fear if I'll be able to put food on the table or pay all my bills, I always end up on top because for the first time in my life I have the drive and ambition for something that I care about. There is no greater feeling that creating something of your own!
Following your dreams is not an easy task. It's scary, it's challenging and often frustrating. Questions of, "Can I actually do this?" or "Will I fail?" fill your head. We only life once and why not give it a shot, right? You might end up regretting it otherwise. Take advantage of the terrific opportunities this city has to offer and bring that dream to life.