When Derek Fagerstrom was growing up, creative young people wanted to do anything but go into business: They wanted to start a band, write a screenplay, or paint murals. But the world has changed. “We’re seeing a totally different approach to business,” says Fagerstrom, who is now 39. “People no longer think of business as the antithesis of art, but as an opportunity to express their vision.”
People no longer think of business as the antithesis of art, but as an opportunity to express their vision.
Over the past two decades, Fagerstrom has started a range of small businesses together with his wife, Lauren Smith, based on their shared passions and hobbies. Among many other ventures, they opened a San Francisco store called The Curiosity Shoppe, where they curated the work of their artist friends; launched a live event series called Pop-Up Magazine; and rehabilitated a quaint movie theater in Russian River, California. Fagerstrom considers these projects his creative contribution to the world.
There was a time when the term small business conjured up images of local hardware stores, family-owned diners, and independent bookshops on Main Streets. But small businesses have been transformed over the last two decades, largely because of the digital revolution. “The Internet has created infinite possibilities,” YouTube star Michelle Phan tells Fast Company. “You can create content and products for a niche market, but niche is no longer small anymore–that word can now mean tens of millions of people on the web. We’re living through a digital revolution where people around the world can build new businesses in ways that were not possible 10 or 20 years ago.”
On Etsy, an artist can make a living selling throw pillows screen-printed with hand-drawn armadillos. With Shopify, a social entrepreneur can turn his store into a national e-commerce phenomenon without knowing a lick of code. On YouTube, a star like Phan can make a living appying her makeup skills to tutorial videos. For Fagerstrom, social media offers a way to locate people who are interested in the experiences he carefully curates according to a particular aesthetic, then drive them to his brick-and-mortar businesses.