Is entrepreneurship for the young?

March 28, 2012
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Anyone who has ever attended a Verge startup pitch could be forgiven for assuming that entrepreneurship is a young man’s game. Literally.

But over the past 15 years, the percentage of entrepreneurs in the 20- to 34-year-old age group actually has dropped, according to a study released this month by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

In 1996, nearly 35 percent of entrepreneurs were young guns with little to lose. Last year, they represented fewer than 30 percent of business owners, according to the annual Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.

Those in the 55-64 age group, meanwhile, picked up the slack. The share of entrepreneurs in the oldest age bracket increased from 14 percent to almost 21 percent.

Indeed, entrepreneurship rates have increased as traditional employment opportunities have declined, the Kauffman report said.

All of which goes a long way toward explaining why the U.S. Small Business Administration is hosting a series of seminars across the country—including one in Indianapolis today—to promote entrepreneurship as a career path.

Region V Administrator Marianne Markowitz will lead today’s session, which includes a panel of successful young entrepreneurs and information about resources available through the federal agency.

“SBA recognizes a need to promote and better support the efforts of young people looking to create jobs,” the agency said in a news release.

And it’s never too early to start. This spring, more than 10,000 central Indiana youth are expected to learn how to start, own and operate their own business as part of the national Lemonade Day initiative.

The local effort, launched by Indianapolis tech entrepreneur Scott Jones in 2010, last year had 10,000 participants who opened lemonade stands and generated more than $1.3 million in revenue on a single day.

The 2012 event is scheduled for May 19. This year’s goal: 15,000 kids and $2 million in sales.

What do you make of the focus on young entrepreneurs? Is it easier to strike out on your own early in your professional life, or does experience help?

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  • Kudos to SBA
    Interesting trends! I think the SBA is wise in their focus on young entrepreneurs. Of course, I'm a bit biased being one myself. However, I believe some of the best lessons are learned in the face of defeat. Starting young gives one the opportunity to bounce back should their first attempt at running a business fail. I also believe that the focus on a younger generation will help build the next generation of community leaders.
  • Don't Believe Everything!
    First - I seldom believe what I read from the "Kauffman Foundation" - most of their "studies" are horribly biased, have very short samples, and are self-serving. Second - if this is true - wouldn't it be due to other, outside factors right now - kind of "It's the economy, stupid" type of thing? Isn't entrepreneurship in general down, rather than just looking at the percentage shifts? However, for the sake of argument, why wouldn't young people shy away from starting new companies, anyway? Banks are horribly tight with money right now, and capital is hard to come by - it still takes money to get started - who's investing in our youth, especially in Indiana?
  • Nurture Skills While Young
    I think it's important to educate the young on entrepreneurship. That is why most colleges now have classes on the subject, which wasn't the case 15 or 20 years ago. This gives young people valuable skills that they can use in the workforce or out on their own someday. I think there is some wisdom that comes from entrepreneurship after experiencing the working world, but many have been successful without this (Facebook, for example). I can also understand the rise in entrepreneurship among the 55-64 class, who have left the corporate world and aren't ready to retire. The more the merrier, in my opinion.

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