A Case for Cultivating Entrepreneurship From a Young Age

By: Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center

As I previously blogged, I have concluded there are four pillars for entrepreneurial success, and periodically, I am sharing my thoughts in each of these four areas: capital, talent, placemaking and connectivity. Today, I want to focus on the importance of talent.

The worlds of higher education and entrepreneurship continue to converge to make entrepreneurship more relevant and impactful. For example, Harvard opened a start-up lab in 2011. Last year, New York University founded a campus entrepreneurs’ lab. This year Northwestern University debuted the Garage, a student start-up center. And in November of 2015, the Ivy League Princeton marked the opening of a 10,000-square-foot entrepreneurial hub near campus.

Colleges are smart to offer such programs that might appeal to more enterprising and often motivated students. While these are worthy endeavors, critics argue that this investment and focus should happen much earlier– like middle school. Research shows that the foundations of entrepreneurship can be learned during these formative years.

Think of the potential if these programs zeroed in on schools with high populations of low-income students. These students would be exposed to the opportunities entrepreneurship can present, as well as the benefits of college. As a result, colleges and startups alike may also find that these students and future founders are better prepared and more successful.

Such programs are on an upward trajectory, because more and more people see the benefits they provide. Still, more resources and greater collaboration would be a difference maker. Entrepreneurial thinking and related skills will be imperative in an ever-changing and fluid economy. That’s why investing in young entrepreneurs happens is smart policy and a great long-term investment.

For the last eight years, The NIIC has had a student entrepreneurship initiative to foster the entrepreneurial mindset and inspire next generation students to acquire or account for the Gallup entrepreneurial talents necessary for enabling successful ventures. The entrepreneurial talent skills identified by Gallup’s EP-10 mirror, in many respects, the same skills employers and start-ups demand. These 10 talents include, among other things, determination, selling, relationships, confidence, risk, independent and knowledge. Having these talents increases one’s odds of business success. As Gallup found, highly talented entrepreneurs, compared with their less talented peers, are: three times more likely to build large businesses and to grow them significantly, four times more likely to create jobs, four times more likely to exceed profit goals, and five times more likely to exceed sales goals. Having all 10 entrepreneurial talents is rare: .5%, but entrepreneurial teams that account for all of 10 talents are more likely to create successful ventures who create big businesses in their community. Interestingly enough, Gallup found the same level of rare entrepreneurial talent regardless of gender and socio-economic status.

Thanks to the financial support of our long-term partners: Lincoln Financial Foundation, Wilson Foundation, and IAB Financial Bank, the NIIC is able to encourage, nurture, inspire, and build next generation entrepreneurs. What would happen if we made even more of an investment in exposing young people to entrepreneurship?

NIIC will be launching soon its Discovering Entrepreneurship Workshop (improving on our successful Youth Entrepreneurship Symposium) to build our youth talent pipeline. Look soon on our website for the first Discovering Entrepreneurship Workshop to be held with one of our major partners – University of Saint Francis.


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