Empact and the Future of Entrepreneurism
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With the presidential elections just weeks away, the public debate over jobs and growth is intensifying. The global economy – marred by the Eurozone crisis and falling consumer demand – continues to oscillate perilously between growth and recession, underscoring the need for U.S. businesses to grow, innovate, hire and lead the country’s economy back to prosperity. While seasoned business leaders navigate their companies through treacherous economic waters, America’s young entrepreneurs are aggressively building a new generation of businesses, products and services.
Take Empact’s 2012 "Top 100 Companies Started by Young Entrepreneurs," which lists the 100 entrepreneurs under 30 in the United States with more $100,000 in annual revenue. The businesses that made the list span a range of industries, from junk removal to healthcare. These young entrepreneurs represent the future of American business. The lessons, challenges and successes they experience today will echo for decades, elevating the U.S. private sector long term. With the economy seeing only sluggish growth, the Empact100 entrepreneurs help supply the country with what it needs most – jobs. Indeed, the businessmen and women on the Empact100 list employ nearly 8,000 people, earning more than $1 billion in revenue.
The 2012 Empact100 winners were honored by the White House on September 28, receiving an award and participating in a panel discussion. This is an important recognition, not only to honor hard-working business leaders but to show all citizens that the United States values entrepreneurship. In this, the country can nurture potential businesses and enjoy the jobs they create.
Yet, honoring entrepreneurship is about more than encouraging job growth. It is about supporting new generations of American business leaders and cultivating a national respect for entrepreneurs. This is one of the country’s foundational ideas, that hard work and initiative in the free market can yield business success.
Looking ahead, the Empact100 entrepreneurs (as well as the thousands of startups and small businesses that fuel the American economy) offer a glimpse into the future of U.S. entrepreneurship. What do these young business leaders value, and how will they drive another era of U.S. business growth and competitiveness? At the White House-sponsored event, the Empact100 honorees made commitments to fostering entrepreneurship in their communities.
The co-founders of ContextMedia, which uses technology to help doctors educate their patients, pledged more than 1000 hours a year to mentoring young entrepreneurs, as well as a $5 million investment in the company’s home city, Chicago. The founder of Fundable.com, a crowdfunding platform, pledged to support Opportunities International, which helps low-income folks start new businesses. Fundable’s 22 team members will also each devote 5 hours a month to helping local entrepreneurs.
These and other commitments reveal something important about America’s generations of young business leaders. They not only strive to succeed as entrepreneurs; they understand the importance of encouraging entrepreneurship in the generations to come.
A very interesting finding for me during a wide-ranging discussion about the obstacles for entrepreneurs is that they face many of the same challenges that large, established businesses face. These include:
- Immigration – the inability to access and retain talented foreign workers after they graduate from college
- Healthcare – the costs of insurance and the restrictions placed on new businesses trying to hire beyond a certain number of employees
- Unemployment benefits – those who are unemployed opting to stay out of the workforce rather than enter it at what may be at best only a marginally higher income (but perhaps gaining meaningful employment)
- Patents – the corrosive power of frivolous lawsuits based on patent infringements, which could limit the exploration of new and creative ideas
- Funding – access to capital continues to be a challenge for entrepreneurs at all stages in the curve of company development
The hard work of entrepreneurs like those found in the Empact100 is creating jobs and revenue today. They in turn will support a steady supply of other budding business leaders. No matter the outcome of the elections, it will be today’s entrepreneurs who help drive the U.S. economy into the future. The challenges they face are real though. Time and hard work will also be needed to overcome these obstacles for entrepreneurs—both young and old.