As the U.S. economy solidifies and optimism climbs among small business owners, more would-be entrepreneurs are taking the plunge and launching start-ups. New, affordable technology platforms are also lowering the barrier of entry for upstarts.
In los Angeles this week, hundreds of entrepreneurs gathered for the second CNBC, Inc. Magazine iCONIC Tour. Guests got tips from famous entrepreneurs, including Marcus Lemonis of CNBC's "TheProfit," Go Daddy founder Bob Parsons and Bert Jacobs, chief executive and co-founder of the Life is Good brand.
If anyone knows the ups and downs of launching a business, it's Jacobs. He and his brother John started their Life is Good T-shirt company with $78 and no business experience. They've since grown into a $100 million company.
"Life is not easy … life is not perfect," Jacobs told the crowd. "We didn't have any experience, and we didn't have any money. But we wanted to start a business. Courage is a super power."
More entrepreneurs are taking a chance at launching businesses. Brandy Montague, founder of Los Angeles-based Trendy Little Sweethearts, left a gig at Walt Disney and started her company about six months ago.
The business sells clothes and books together through a subscription service. The idea is to give parents and kids the opportunity to spend quality time together while getting ready for the day. The line is available only for girl's clothing, but a boy's line is in the works.
Networking with other business owners through social media has been part of her success.
"I came up with this idea, but with social media being so interactive, I've been able to find other groups of moms or business dads," Montague said. "Every single day, I continue to find motivation."
"We can partner together to help each other, which I absolutely love," she added.
Of course, the U.S. economy is a recovery in progress. Some recent Kauffman Foundation data shows fewer women and millennials are becoming new business creators, while pockets of older workers—unable to re-enter the traditional workforce—are launching businesses. Data, meanwhile, only tells part of the story.
Helping to boost start-up activity is technology that's easing barriers to entry, says consultant and iCONIC attendee Tony Ubertaccio. He helps companies with branding through his agency, Semper Avanti, in New York City.
"There are almost no barriers to entry," says Ubertaccio, citing platforms like Kickstarter and now even Etsy help entrepreneurs and creators raise small amounts of money from multiple sources.
"There are ways to monetize now that just didn't exist in years past," he said. "So if you're a musician, an artist, someone who is driven, there's nothing stopping you from creating the life that you dream about, other than yourself."
One tech start-up, Naritiv, also based in Los Angeles, is using messaging app Snapchat to create branding campaigns for big companies like Marriott and Procter & Gamble. "Brands that are usually marketing to an older generation are now looking to Snapchat and other platforms as a way to reach a next generation consumer, before they make those decisions," Naritiv CEO Daniel Altmann said.