Small Business

Millennials Key to Rebuilding U.S. Economy

Dr. Jeffrey R. Cornwall, Christian Science Monitor

Based on the history of previous economic downturns, America's entrepreneurs will need to play a key role in helping to rebuild our economy.

Young Employees

So, just what is the current mindset and makeup of those in the entrepreneurial sector of the U.S. economy?

Even in a weak economy, or quite possibly because of it, there continues to be a strong interest among the millennial generation in pursuing an entrepreneurial career.

A recent survey of young Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 conducted by the Kauffman Foundation found that 54 percent of those surveyed have entrepreneurial aspirations, and about half of these have already launched a business.

An even higher percentage of young people of color — 64 percent of Latinos and 63 percent of African-Americans — expressed a desire to start their own companies. Although some previous studies have found an increased interest in business ownership among women, the Kauffman study found that women still lag in entrepreneurial intent (44 percent compared to 57 percent among men).

Beyond Money

Given that there are an estimated 50 million millennials in the U.S., their interest in launching new businesses bodes well for the long-term health of the economy. What we are finding is that not all of them are in it simply for the money.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2010 National Entrepreneurial Assessment for the USA, conducted by Babson College and Baruch College, found that startup entrepreneurs are increasingly focused on both social and economic goals for their businesses.

Entrepreneurs no longer just want to do well financially with their ventures, but also want to use business as a means to support their commitment to their favorite social causes.

This shift in how small business owners measure their success is also evident in the results of The Hartford's recent Small Business Success Study. This survey found that only 18 percent say that profitability is the most important factor in defining success. In fact, 82 percent say they place great importance on doing something they feel passionate about and enjoy.

A growing number of entrepreneurs are interested in keeping balance in their lives. The Hartford survey reported that for 79 percent of the entrepreneurs they surveyed, achieving a comfortable lifestyle from their business is most important to them.

There is a growing chorus of experts who are worried that entrepreneurs do not seem ready or willing to step forward and provide the economic push we need to begin a real economic recovery.

However, the good news is that the generation now coming into the workforce has a strong entrepreneurial spirit. That should help to eventually create long-term, sustainable growth for America.