Once upon a time, every successful entrepreneur was a child. Some of those kids were instinctively entrepreneurial. They started lemonade stands, sold the most Girl Scout cookies and wrote computer applets before they were 18.
Here's some exciting news: With a bit more exposure to the idea of entrepreneurship, even more kids may see the possibility and feel the spark.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Survey 2010, a Harris Interactive online poll conducted on behalf of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and released in conjunction with the start of Global Entrepreneurship Week, reveals that 40 percent of youth ages 8 to 24 would like to start a business at some point or already have done so.
The survey of more than 5,000 young people shows a consistent level of interest across tweens, teens and young adults (39, 39 and 41 percent, respectively).
• A majority of youths â€” especially tweens (75 percent) â€” believes hard work can make them successful in an entrepreneurial or nonprofit venture.
• Among young people who know an entrepreneur, almost half would like to start or have already started a business, compared with only one-third of the young people who don't know a business owner.
• Youths who want to start a business, or know someone who has, are more likely than other youths to see education as stimulating their interest in entrepreneurship and in preparing them to run a business of their own.
These findings support what we in Oklahoma have long believed is true in education: Contact with business owners and entrepreneurs, and a strong work ethic, can fan the spark of entrepreneurship that seems to exist in so many of our young people.
Earlier this month, out of more than 300 participants at the â€œWho Wants to Be an Entrepreneur?â€ workshop, 193 were Oklahoma college students and instructors from Ada to Olustee to Yukon. They learned how to write and present a business plan, the best ways to locate local resources for startup, technology-based businesses and expanded their contacts with entrepreneurs, investors and community leaders.
Dozens of these students will go on to compete in the Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup collegiate business plan competition.
Whatever it takes, as a state, a nation or a world economy, we cannot do too much to encourage and stimulate entrepreneurship in the young. This is how jobs are created, economies are strengthened and innovation is born.
Tom Walker is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that mentors many of the state's technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Walker at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
DID YOU KNOW?
The desire to start a business over other careers has risen slightly for young adults, from 19 percent in 2007 to 25 percent in 2010. Young adults most often cited building something for their future or using their skills and abilities as reasons for starting their own businesses, with 16 percent of 18- to 21-year-olds today and in 2007 seeing starting a nonprofit as a much more desirable career option than other career opportunities. However, tweens and teens overwhelmingly said that earning lots of money would be the main impetus for business ownership.
Source: The Youth Entrepreneurship Survey 2010