Even with venture capital, Untitled Partners was not able to overcome a more significant problem: The recession was wiping out demand in the art market. Early this year, Lawrence began to fear he couldn't find enough clients. "The target customer no longer existed," he says. Lawrence realized that Untitled Partners wouldn't make money in the next few years, so he and Cooper are returning half of the capital they acquired and shutting down the business. "Given how hard fund-raising is, there was more opportunity to do what I'm good at—leading a team—at an existing operation," Lawrence says.
While this recession presents unique challenges to entrepreneurs like Lawrence, history might suggest that the current economy won't have a large effect on small-business and start-up ownership overall. Starting a business is a big gamble even in good economic times. "Forty percent of businesses don't make it through their first two years," says Evers. "That number has been remarkably constant for a very long period of time. It might go up a little higher now." But judging by the remarkable stability of the number of Americans who work for themselves, for many, that gamble is still worth taking.