How Can We Activate Entrepreneurs at Any Age?
Entrepreneurship is humming along in the United States, with stable rates of Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) in the last seven years, according to the 2017 Babson-sponsored U.S. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report. Digging in by age group, we see variations. The GEM report indicates that TEA is lowest among people ages 18–24, 55–64, and 65–74. What accounts for these rates?
How Do Entrepreneurs View Opportunities—and Themselves?
Seventy-eight percent of entrepreneurs around the world pursue entrepreneurship because they identify an opportunity, or the “potential to create economic value through something new or innovative.”*
According to the latest GEM report, this number is even higher in the United States, at 86 percent. The problem is not in the perception of opportunity. The problem evidently lies in the quantum leap between recognizing opportunity and actually taking action.
So, do entrepreneurs across all age groups believe they have what it takes?
It turns out that perception of skill level follows a bell curve. It is lowest among the 18–24 age group (32 percent) and the 65–74 age group (49 percent), and it peaks in the 35–44 age group (65 percent).
As noted in the report, young entrepreneurs may experience “lack of suitable employment opportunities because of lack of credentials or experience.” At the same time, older entrepreneurs may experience “a lack of up-to-date skills, particularly because of expanding technology expertise needed across industries.”
Instilling an Entrepreneurial Mindset in Youth
Entrepreneurship itself has stepped up to empower these two bookend age groups and to champion their strengths and aspirations. University-based entrepreneurship programs are embracing the opportunity to develop young entrepreneurs.
“Their beginner’s mind allows them to see all of the opportunities,” said Janai Mungalsingh, manager of program strategy and curriculum design for youth programs at Babson’s Youth Impact Lab, part of The Lewis Institute for Social Innovation at Babson. The Youth Impact Lab activates young changemakers to move from thinking to acting, work through the entrepreneurial process, and arrive at solutions.