If you doubt that GenY has entrepreneurship on its collective brain, all you need to do is look at the exploding number of entrepreneurship programs at U.S. colleges and universities: there are now over 400 endowed chairs for professors of entrepreneurship
and more than 2,100 classes. Forget the perennial "can entrepreneurship be taught" argument. Fact is, it is being taught, and it's actually being taught differently now than, say, five years ago. I particularly like what's going on at Belmont University, which just won an award from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship for having a "National Model Undergraduate Program" in entrepreneurship.
The school has three "hatcheries" or incubators, where 65 students operate businesses with access to mentors and business center services. Belmont has also invested several hundred thousand dollars in six on-campus student-run businesses, five of which are in the black. There's a dorm store, a public relations firm, an audio production company, a graphic design shop, and a clothing store that serve not only the university but the greater Nashville community.
All of this, of course, is wildly different from the way entrepreneurship was taught even as recently 5-10 years ago. Far fewer undergrads studied entrepreneurship and those who did were typically bogged down in theory and core requirements until junior year. Now, says Jeff Cornwall, who runs the program at Belmont, "it's a whole new world." Fully 40% of undergrads come to Belmont with businesses already started — an astounding number. "So we try to make learning so relevant to their businesses that they don't want to leave," he says. "A lot of what drives them is impatience. They want fulfillment and success and they're not willing to wait 10-15 years. They want it today." It's a trait that may make GenY difficult to employ, but that could bode well for their future entrepreneurial success. What do you think? Is impatience an entrepreneurial virtue?
DONNA FENN is the author of Upstarts! How Gen-Y Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, an exploration of the ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.
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