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Down times spark start-ups

Americans dealt pink slips chase new dreams, either by choice or default.

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Action photographer: After 15-year corporate career, Don Bender is using his severance to start a photography business.

courtesy of don bender

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Last August, after a 15-year career in Internet software, Don Bender was laid off. Tired of the corporate world, he decided to use his three-month severance package to start a photography business, fulfilling a long-standing dream.

"This is something I've been contemplating for a few years, and this was the perfect opportunity," says Mr. Bender of Austin, Texas.

With that decision, he joined an intrepid band of pink-slipped workers who are trading 9-to-5 jobs with steady paychecks for independent business ventures. For some, like Bender, the switch to self-employment involves a deliberate choice. For others who are unable to find another job in recessionary times, it represents a default position. Either way, the move requires hard work and often a steep learning curve.

"Many people want to start their own businesses, but few understand the dynamics and challenges," says David Reeves, who launched a public relations firm in Boca Raton, Fla., 15 years ago.

"Some will say they want the 'freedom' of coming and going as they please. Wrong. You'll put in more time than ever," he says. "And if you've come from a salaried position, you're accustomed to getting that paycheck every week or so, like clockwork. That's not the case when you have your own business. It does require a different mind-set – the difference between having an employee mentality and an entrepreneurial mind-set."

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