In rough economic times, the apparition of class-based angst puts a damper on bling. It’s one thing to show off your wealth when upward mobility is running strong; it’s another to do so when tens of thousands are losing their jobs and sliding into poverty.
That gives us a unique cultural situation. People with money spend less of it during hard times (that’s how they hold on to wealth) and are hesitant to do anything that looks like they’re rubbing it in that they’re wealthy. That’s an entrepreneurial opportunity.
No. 6: Mentoring
Problem: Flashy excess and exclusivity is seen as bad (as well as too expensive)
Asset: Worthy mentees
The word on the street is that membership at Lancaster’s Hamilton Club, which costs a few thousand dollars a year, is tanking. Downtown’s upscale art galleries are complaining that they have lots of viewers but few buyers. Private golf club memberships continue their slow decline.
In so many words, expensive exclusivity is out, and open mentoring is in. The fewer people there are at the Hamilton Club when you go there, the less worthwhile it will be. What was once “exclusive” will appear instead to be dying.
So where are wealthy people supposed to get their kicks? They get it by patronizing young and exciting artists, by mentoring up-and-coming visionaries, and by founding places where fresh ideas come to life.
If you’re an entrepreneur, the challenge in 2009 will not be to get past the velvet rope to hobnob with an exclusive crowd. The challenge instead will be to find the people leaving those scenes and to engage them in your work.
When times are tough, no one wants to rest on their laurels. Seek out the elites who could and pique their interest in your projects. Learn from them, give them a real stake in things, and satisfy their need to be involved in something new and exciting.
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