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What motivates Utahns to become entrepreneurs more than any other state?

‘We’re very passionate, driven people and we kind of look at life as if you have this one life to live, you should do so meaningfully and you should put your time into things that matter and people who matter,’ Tosh Swain, co-owner of Exploring Not Boring, said

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Michelle Budge, Deseret News

Adventure jars began as a simple way for two women to find a work-life balance but ended up being so much more than that.

Working as two corporate employees for a tech company in California, Kaysie Nielson and Tosh Swain found it hard living in a new place and separating their work from their free time, especially during the pandemic.

“Kaysie made this adventure jar that had a whole bunch of ideas for us to explore Orange County because we were new to the area and wanted to try new things,” Swain told the Deseret News. “When we first started thinking about how we could balance our time with work in a more meaningful way, we contemplated making adventure jars for different cities for people to get out of their own comfort zone.”

As Nielson and Swain realized how this idea helped them achieve a work-life balance, they eventually decided to quit their corporate jobs and turn their adventure jars into the Utah business and marketplace called Exploring Not Boring, where creators and adventurers can collaborate and explore the world around them.

“Crazy doesn’t even begin to describe the journey that we’ve been on but now it feels genuinely rewarding to be where we are and it’s exciting to be building this marketplace,” Swain said.

But Nielson and Swain aren’t the only Utah entrepreneurs that started their business seeking this balance in their lives.

What motivates Utah entrepreneurs?

In fact, most Utah entrepreneurs have started their businesses because they desire a better work-life balance, according to recent findings.

OnDeck analyzed recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest Annual Business Survey on why people across the U.S. start their own businesses and found Utah to be the leading state for entrepreneurs who start businesses to find a better balance between “work and family” and also for those seeking “flexible hours.”


An infographic from OnDeck that shows which states rank in the top 5 for each category of why entrepreneurs start their businesses across America.


James Barnes, creative and research team lead of NeoMam Studios, told the Deseret News, “A method similar to the location quotient was used in the study to determine which reason for starting a business was deemed much more important in a particular state or metro compared to the country’s overall average.”

Barnes continued, “For example, 65.4% of business owners in Utah said ‘balance work and family’ was very important to them as a reason for starting their business. This was 1.13 times higher than 57.6% of business owners who said it was very important to them in the United States overall. This means its location quotient was 1.13, and it was the highest of all reasons in Utah, which is why it was deemed Utah’s most distinct reason for starting a business.”

The Deseret News previously reported that many tech workers have come back to Utah to enjoy the outdoors in their off time from working.

“Now we have real evidence that ... this has been an important piece of the growth we’ve had here,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said. “I was especially amazed at some of the numbers, including that 85% of tech sector workers who chose to stay in Utah despite a higher salary offer elsewhere, said that outdoor recreation was the reason they chose to stay here.”

The difference between East Coast and West Coast motivations

Jim Granat, co-president of OnDeck, told the Deseret News, “The regional differences likely come down to a range of factors. Culture, business environment and a family history of small business ownership can all play a role.”

The Deseret News reported that especially after the pandemic, some people in Utah wanted to be home with their families and working more flexibly to enjoy a balance between their responsibilities and living a present life.

Nielson told the Deseret News, “We were just working a ton and weren’t able to explore much at the time, especially with the pandemic stopping the world.”

For many during quarantine, the days would repeat themselves: wake up, work remotely, stay inside and find a way to not be bored till you woke up the next day.

“We weren’t happy giving all of our time to this company. ... We’re very passionate, driven people and we kind of look at life as if you have this one life to live, you should do so meaningfully and you should put your time into things that matter and people who matter,” Nielson said.

While Utah seems to be home for entrepreneurs like Nielson and Swain, who want to create a better work-life balance, the state didn’t rank as high in other categories, according to OnDeck.

When asked why Utah isn’t one of the top states for the “best avenue for ideas” category, Granat said, “A potential reason is that employers in Utah are creating space for their employees to explore their ideas so they don’t feel the need to go solo to do it.”

Where Utah ranked low in some areas, different states would fill the top spots. OnDeck reported that:

  • East Coast entrepreneurs were motivated by “family connections such as a family business or role model.”
  • West Coast entrepreneurs were more motivated by “family responsibilities” and “freedom to work.”
  • New York and Delaware were the only two states that had “couldn’t find a job” as a main reason for owning a business.
  • Analysts found that people were “reluctant to take a new job on a lower rung” after losing their positions prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bigger implications of entrepreneurs in the U.S.

Entrepreneurs throughout the U.S. have started businesses for different reasons and come out with different effects on the country as a whole.

For some companies in the West, entrepreneurs have been able to take their company from a one shop wonder to a national chain.

The Deseret News reported that one of the most popular Utah-based cookie companies, Crumbl, has expanded all across the nation, saying, “Fans of the brand may not realize that before Crumbl could take over suburban strip malls nationwide, it first had to conquer the cookie landscape of its home state, Utah.”

Crumbl expanded as a business from one shop to 786 shops across the U.S. in less than six years.

Other companies such as the popular outdoor brand Patagonia began in California but have expanded to Utah and other parts of the nation as it has trended in outdoor fashion.

For Exploring Not Boring, Swain and Nielson have visions to take their Utah-based business and expand to the rest of the globe.

“The goal is to be global, but of course we’ve got to start smaller and build our reputation up, because we are both from Utah and we already had a lot of connections here,” Swain said. “We already have partners throughout the world from Japan, Australia, India, Peru, Columbia and even partners in different parts of the U.S. like Florida and Orlando.”

The importance of knowing what motivates entrepreneurs

The Commerce Institute reported that on average, there are 4.4 million businesses that are started every year. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that 5,044,748 new businesses began in 2022.

“Finding the reasons why people start businesses and the location where they do are useful statistics in learning the characteristics of business owners,” Barnes said.

Barnes continued, “Along with the other data included in the Census Bureau’s survey, these can be used by different government and private sectors for various purposes such as assessing business assistance needs, determining programs that could help promote activities of disadvantaged groups, and allocating program resources.”

Granat also said that these findings could be useful for future entrepreneurs to see what areas may align with their vision for business goals.

“Small business owners are some of the most passionate people you’ll meet. We wanted to better understand the drive that got them started and keeps them going,” Granat said.