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America’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Is in Jeopardy


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There’s no better place than the United States to start a business. We’re a nation that prides itself for its entrepreneurialism and independence. And if we want to maintain our competitive edge, we need an environment that allows entrepreneurs to flourish and do what they do best: help stimulate the economy and create prosperity.

The slow economic recovery has created challenges for many new businesses and may have even deterred potential entrepreneurs.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, self-employment began trending down in 2008, and is struggling to recover. The number of self-employed business owners dropped by 660,000 from 2008 to 2011.

Despite this economic climate, a study commissioned by Amway found that the spirit of entrepreneurship in the world is alive and well.

Amway’s Global Entrepreneurship Report (AGER), looked at attitudes toward entrepreneurship among 26,000 people in 24 countries and revealed three positive and important outcomes. First, Americans still see the U.S. as “friendly” toward entrepreneurship — more so than the other 23 countries in the study. Second, of all the countries studied, Americans identify “more independence” as a top reason they wish to start an enterprise. And third, Americans do not cite a fear of failure as a chief concern that would prevent them from doing so.

But surprisingly, only 36 percent of Americans can envision actually starting their own business. The research also revealed that Americans under the age of 30 have less interest in pursuing entrepreneurship than do those of older generations, citing loss of reputation, bankruptcy, and financial ruin as concerns that stifle their ambitions.

These obstacles must be overcome, and the responsibility lies with us. The U.S. is uniquely entrepreneurial. We started our country on the basis of entrepreneurial freedom and we must keep that entrepreneurial spirit alive and growing. Entrepreneurs provide great economic stimulus and growth to the global marketplace. They tend to be adventurous, hardworking, and unafraid of failure. They’re innovative, have good ideas and are willing to try new things. And they work best in an environment that allows them to flourish.

Business leaders, policy makers, academics and experts share the important responsibility of eliminating unnecessary regulations, taxes and other barriers in order to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit and allow individuals to flourish and prosper.

In addition, we must make business training and entrepreneurship education resources available to help those with the entrepreneurial mindset. Today, entrepreneurship coursework has moved into the mainstream and is offered at more higher education institutions across the country than ever before. Organizations like the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship are bringing this education to middle and high schools.

Finally, organizations like the Small Business Administration have established the Office of Entrepreneurship Education, and the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce recently teamed up with the White House on “Startup America,” a national initiative to promote entrepreneurship.

It’s a good start, but we must all get involved. There is more we can and should do, and we must do it better.

If we all work harder to provide access to better training, education and make time for mentorship, we can invigorate entrepreneurship in America.

Reprinted by permission.

Image Credit: CC by Antti T. Nissinen

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About the author: Steve Van Andel

Steve Van Andel is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of Amway.

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