For about a third of Americans, the idea of starting their own company is more frightening than skydiving — even as they dream of quitting their jobs and pursuing their passions.

At least that’s according to a survey released Friday that I was given exclusive access to, exploring the many factors that keep people from pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams.

Web-hosting service Weebly sponsored the survey of 1,001 U.S. adults chosen to be a representative sample; Wakefield Research conducted the interviews March 26 to April 1 via e-mail invitation and an online form. The margin of error was ±3.1 percentage points.

By understanding what potential entrepreneurs perceive as obstacles, you could find it easier to pursue your own dreams of owning a small business.

“Americans think about quitting their jobs twice a week,” said David Rusenko, Weebly’s 28-year-old chief executive and co-founder. “A lot of people have business ideas. … They don’t recognize that many of the barriers are no longer there.”

While a majority of Americans, 57%, have had at least one idea for a new business or product, only about 2 in 5 ever have taken steps to pursue that idea.

What holds people back?

  • Lack of money: 66%
  • Lack of knowledge on what to do first: 49%
  • Perception that their idea wasn’t good enough: 21%
  • Not enough time: 21%
  • Fear of failure: 20%

“I didn’t know where to start,” said April Lovett, 31, owner of Unfold Yoga in Brea, Calif. “My husband is an entrepreneur, so he helped me navigate the steps of finding a location, permits.”

But having two entrepreneurs in the same family certainly brought up the fear factor.

“That was one of the main reasons I held back,” Lovett said. “I had the stable job, a paycheck. I was extremely nervous giving that up.”

The fear factor is a significant obstacle for potential entrepreneurs.

“Everyone’s afraid of failure. That’s the big one,” Weebly’s Rusenko said. In fact, almost three quarters of respondents are afraid of failure — 25% very afraid — when they think of starting a business.

“The big difference is what the consequences of failure are now,” Rusenko said. “There aren’t as many consequences because they can start something without investing a lot up front.”

He’s right.

I’ve been following start-ups for more than 20 years, and the cost of launching a business has never been lower. Companies like Weebly, which provides high-quality free or low-cost websites, substantially reduce the amount of money necessary to pursue an idea and lessen financial risks.

So, who are those most likely to act on their idea for a new business or product?

Taking the top demographic slices from the survey as a composite, it’s a Hispanic single male, age 25 to 34, living in the West, making $75,000 to $100,000 a year.

One of the interesting findings of the Weebly survey is that Hispanics and blacks both are more likely to have a business or product idea than whites — 64% of Hispanics, 60% of blacks, 53% of whites — and to have taken a step to start a business — 55% of Hispanics, 42% of blacks and 38% of whites.

Who are least likely? Women.

While women are more likely than men to describe themselves as creative and motivated, they are less likely to consider themselves entrepreneurs or risk takers. And when asked specifically if they’re afraid to fail, almost 4 in 5 say yes vs. two-thirds of men.

Women often follow Lovett’s start-up process.

Before giving up her day job, she rented space in other people’s yoga studios. She gained a following before she made the leap. And she was thoughtful.

“It’s really important to have a business plan,” she said. “You want to be organized, be prepared. … You want to find your footing and your vision.”

If you want to be an entrepreneur, forget the advice to drop out of college to pursue your dreams. College graduates are both more likely, by 8 to 10 percentage points, to have business ideas and act on those ideas than non-grads.

Finally, go West.

More than half those living in the West had acted on their business ideas, versus only a third in the Midwest and about 2 in 5 in the South and Northeast. So if you’re sitting in Wisconsin or South Dakota, pack up all your great ideas and head toward the Pacific.

Source: USA Today