November is National Entrepreneurship month, in which we celebrate entrepreneurs everywhere who boldly sever ties with a steady paycheck and forge their own path to greatness through determination, street smarts and instinct.
We herald entrepreneurs on television with shows like Shark Tank and The Profit. We celebrate their victories when they go public after starting in a Harvard dorm room. We pay homage to their legacies of changing the ways we consume music or use our phones, even despite their reputations of being tyrannical.
That's probably why a whopping 88 percent of today's parents are "extremely likely" to support their teen's interest in becoming an entrepreneur, according to a recent study conducted by ORC International, EY and the financial literacy nonprofit, Junior Achievement. The problem? Only 30 percent of teens would even consider starting a business, stating that it's "too risky" and that there's "not enough money in it."
Of course, you can try telling that to founders like Mr. Wonderful and Mark Zuckerberg!
The new data is alarming, considering that new business creation is down nationwide.
These findings are seriously alarming to the serial entrepreneur inside me.
Aren't teens supposed to be the riskiest of all of us?
Shouldn't they be wowed by the fame and fortune of moguls like Barbara Corcoran, and encouraged by the scores of people who have proudly appeared before her over the past several years on national television?
Every time I encounter a nontrepreneur (working title, so forgive me), they typically have high praise for their riskier counterparts in the workforce who strike out on their own. But I don't let them get too far down the "entrepreneurs are cool" road before I remind them that it's apparently not cool enough to encourage people everywhere to start a business.
So, as soon as this study crossed my desk, I called Junior Achievement's president, Jack Kosakowski, to get his take on what the study means for young people and even the future of our nation as a whole.
Jack reiterated my own frequent warning that new business creation in the United States is at a shocking 40-year low, according to U.S. Census data. He also pointed out that Millennials grew up feeling firsthand the effects of the financial crisis, "which may explain their risk-aversion when it comes to the entrepreneurial leap."
The way to boost entrepreneurship is to give kids a role model.
Financial crisis or not, and no matter what the real reasons are, we all have a responsibility to do something about what I consider to be an epidemic.
To combat the lack of new entrepreneurs, I myself joined a local Junior Achievement board a few years ago, and was able to introduce some of the kids in my territory to Warren Buffett at an event in Connecticut. Not surprisingly, those kids walked away with tactile proof of what it can be like to start a business, and that experiential learning experience highlighted one of the most important things we can do for our youth if we want them to go out and start the next Apple or Facebook.
As Kosakowski put it, "the secret sauce of Junior Achievement isn't the great content of our programs; it's the inspiration that comes from people out there in the business community actually doing things that change kids' lives."
We all need to help encourage young people to start a business.
Over the past few years I've volunteered in classrooms and personally seen kids go from having no understanding of business to actively wanting to pursue an entrepreneurial career. Recently, Junior Achievement started Launch Lesson with the support of EY, with the entire mission dedicated to getting entrepreneurs into the classroom to mentor young students and give them a taste of what it's like to be a business owner.
According to the recent Junior Achievement alumni study, 20 percent of kids end up in the same career field as their mentor (a stat which includes Junior Achievement's own president, who was the first in his family to even attend college thanks to his Junior Achievement mentor). Last year, 400 entrepreneurs reached 50,000 students, which means those business leaders created 10,000 new entrepreneurs who will go out and change the world.
Let's all pitch in to make sure that this year we inspire even more.