In preparation for meeting my Senator I’m brainstorming economic development ideas this week. I’d love your thoughts.
I’m passionate about entrepreneurship. The emerging economy necessitates that most of us become entrepreneurs. The era of “a job” — certainly in the multi-year, benefit-laden sense — is OVER.
We’re moving toward shorter work engagements and we have to start thinking strategically, long term, for ourselves. In other words: more like entrepreneurs. That takes risk. It also demands personal growth.
How can our educational system and communities best nurture the growth of entrepreneurs and encourage them to stay and grow their businesses in the Commonwealth?
1. Setting Entrepreneurial Expectations (for Everyone)
This is a major social shift. It won’t happen overnight. But it is happening faster than most people realize.
2. Education and Social Integration (starting very early and including all ages!)
Clay Forsberg gives one example: Farm to School to Market as a model.
Project Grows is an excellent example at the local level.
3. Entrepreneurship as Public School Curriculum, TAG (“Talented and Gifted”)
All public school kids participate in science classes and the science fair. We need more integration of business development. Entrepreneurship fits into and extends a variety of existing curriculum. Active exploration can produce something tangible to sell at a school or district-wide business fair.
My first business class was in 7th grade, in public school. I made “Locker Stockers” with a sewing machine (a pencil case, calculator, and mirror combo decorated with puffy paint — with a magnet on the back to hang it). I sold these at a school-wide fair. I learned: product conceptualization, cost analysis, production issues, marketing, and the thrill of earning money. Oh: and more vocabulary, math skills, social skills, etc.
4. Community Representation, Recognition, & Celebration
“Start-ups” are not just “white boys under 30 working on apps”. Or white boys over 60, for that matter.
More people believe they can start businesses if they see others doing so. Showcasing community entrepreneurial activity on a regular basis is mandatory. This is especially true in populations that don’t have a lot of public role models on the local level (youth, seniors, low-income, minority, differently-abled, etc.).
5. Community Technical Assistance
A lot of people have good business ideas but don’t know where to start.
State programs help. However, this doesn’t have to be a government intervention. It’s a place where interested citizens can and should share their expertise…
6. Unemployment Benefits Could Include Retraining Classes (with Entrepreneurial Bent)
This goes with idea #1: Setting expectations for everyone.
7. Industry Specific & Practical Online Training
These classes are a joke but the intent is serious. Many people can get a start selling online (or extend a brick-and-mortar there). If they knew where to start.
8. Rethink Student Loans
People cannot start or grow businesses straddled with debt. A loan-reduction/deduction-for-business-built exchange could be created. Similar to Teach for America but for business building.
9. Incentivize B-Corps
They are an awesome mix of doing well and doing good.
10. …& Money Where Your Mouth Is
Everyone has the capacity to give. Give a portion of personal disposable income and/or investment dollars to businesses that enrich your city or neighborhood.