Why The Government Should Help Young Entrepreneurs Start Businesses

Young people make up a huge group of potential job creators, but they need your help.
December 12, 2011

Any discussion of job creation in the U.S. often includes talk of the role small business startups play in creating new jobs. A recent survey conducted by Young Invincibles, Lake Research Partners, Bellwether Research and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has both good and bad news about one group of potential job creators: young people.

First, the good news: The survey of young people aged 18 to 34 found plenty of interest in entrepreneurship. More than half (54 percent) say they want to start a business. Among minority young people, interest was even higher, with 64 percent of Latinos and 63 percent of African-Americans wanting to start a business.

But now the bad news: Despite the strong interest in entrepreneurship, just 8 percent of respondents say they already own a business, and only 11 percent plan to start one in the coming year.

Why the delay? One big reason, of course, is the recession: 38 percent claim they have delayed starting a business due to economic uncertainty. But other barriers include lack of access to capital and credit, lack of knowledge about entrepreneurship and how to run a business, and conerns about existing debt (specifically college loans).

Survey respondents overwhelmingly want the government to take steps to reduce these obstacles. Sixty-five percent say Congress should make it easier to start a business, 83 percent want Congress to increase the availability of startup loans, and 81 percent think young people who start businesses should be eligible for college debt relief.

If there’s one thing entrepreneurs know, it’s that waiting for Congress to act will get you nowhere. Entrepreneurs don’t wait around for help—they take action. And while we entrepreneurs can’t do anything about forgiving college debt or increasing the availability of startup capital, one obstacle we can help young people overcome is “lack of knowledge.”

Young people in the survey felt there wasn’t enough help available to them to learn the ropes of business ownership, and felt there was a lack of role models to show them the way. Minority respondents, in particular, felt this way.

What can you do about it? Easy. Get involved!

  • Do you know a young person who’s interested in entrepreneurship? Be a mentor.
  • Let young people in your life (nieces, nephews, friends’ children) know about the benefits and thrills of being your own boss.
  • Check out internship programs at your local college or university and hire some student interns.
  • If you’ve got kids of your own, involve them in your business at an early age, and show them that entrepreneurship is a viable option for them, too.

Don’t know any young people? That’s no excuse. There are plenty of organizations looking for entrepreneurs to help young people learn about business ownership. Among those that I’ve been involved with are the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Junior Achievement, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE). I can’t say enough about the good work these groups do. Check out their websites and see how you can help.

Unemployment is high nationwide, but it’s especially high among young people. Encouraging them to start businesses is a great way to encourage job creation. Bonus for you: Being around young people is inspiring and energizing—so you’ll be encouraged, too.

Image credit: Photos.com