What do you do when your longtime marriage ends? Start a small business about divorce. At least, that’s the answer for an ever-increasing number of formerly-weds. An entire cottage industry is growing around divorce. For many people, helping others get through it is the best way to manage divorce. Some of the current companies existed back in 2012, when I began working on (what now looks like) my own bid into the divorce wellness marketplace, Splitopia: Dispatches from Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well. That was before Gwyneth Paltrow’s announcement of her own “conscious uncoupling,” back when the notion of a “good divorce” was still somewhat new, even suspect. Today, I receive a press release or announcement about a new divorce-focused company every month.
For example, back in the early 2000s, I freelanced for a mind/body-building magazine founded by iron-pumping fitness guru Bill Philips. A few months ago, I got an email from my then-editor, who had begun content for untangletheknot.com. This Denver-based startup was launched last year by former corporate exec/business coach Julie Gannon, after her 13-year marriage ended. Gannon said she’d envisioned running an online resource but found that people wanted more personal connection and hand-holding. “So I’ve started coaching and working with people one on one and hosting workshops,” she said.
Part of the reason for all of these apps, online companies and divorce-support services is the rise of entrepreneurship itself.
Entrepreneurship, the new "it" vocation, promises the freedom and creativity of being an artist, without the starving part. Marriage-for-life advocates may point to divorce as an outgrowth of a consumer culture on overdrive, a symptom of our endless quest for some newer, better model.
But I think owning your own business is the real shiny bauble, promising a life of passionate self-expression, if you can handle the risk.
“Anybody can start a company today,” said Brian Mac Mahon, a serial entrepreneur/ entrepreneurship coach, and founder of the start-up incubator Expert DOJO in Santa Monica, CA. “Twenty years ago, you would have needed to spend money on a shop, advertisement, accountants, attorneys. Today, you can build your own website on GoDaddy for $50. Social media is free. You can hire virtual assistants for a couple bucks an hour. There are no barriers to entry. It’s never been easier to start, but never been harder to be successful.”
Many of the new divorce businesses are tech-based. We’re all living more of our lives online, on apps, on DropBox. According a 2014 PEW survey, 87-percent of American adults use the Internet, as compared to only 14-percent in 1995. Nearly three-quarters of adults online use social media.
The market is wide open for new applications to help with divorce.
Or maybe the surge has to do with the nature of entrepreneurs themselves. “They’re creative, mile-a-minute people, pulled in lots of different directions, passionate about their ideas,” said George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Manns, who is overseeing an entrepreneurship initiative at the school. All that passion directed toward the next hot idea can torpedo a marriage. There’s no official stat on entrepreneurship and divorce, but talk to anyone who’s been an entrepreneur, or coached one, and they’ll warn about the strain it can put on relationships.
“A true entrepreneur, when being exposed to a new set of problems, will come up with interesting solutions, so it’s not surprising that they would be innovating in this space,” said Manns.
Not all of the new businesses will last. But is this more than a passing trend? I had the opportunity to further investigate this topic for The New York Observer. Please share with others. And write to let me know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*This post first appeared on Wendy Paris's website, wendyparis.com.
Wendy Paris is the author of Splitopia: Dispatches from Today's Good Divorce and How to Part Well (Simon & Schuster/Atria, 2016). Splitopia and her work on divorce have been covered by The New York Times, Real Simple, The Washington Post, The New York Post, The Globe & Mail, Psychology Today, The Houston Chronicle, Salon.com, Parents.com, Family Law Quarterly, PsychCentral.com and radio and TV shows nationwide. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and is an advocate for family law reform. She is divorced, and lives in Santa Monica, California, a few blocks from her former husband, with whom she has a warm co-parenting relationship.