Inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs

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Countries and municipalities around the world are competing to be the next hotbed of entrepreneurship and with good reason. All organizations and businesses go through a natural lifecycle, and while established businesses may struggle to maintain the status quo and keep earning and employing over the long term, never mind achieve continuous growth, new ventures have the most potential for explosive growth. They solve problems, provide needed and desired goods and services, create new jobs, and contribute to a tax base.

For an entrepreneur, potential earnings as a founder usually far exceed earnings in any professional role. Whether or not a venture succeeds, it provides intensive learning opportunities that contribute to more opportunities down the road. And for many, the motivation to launch something new is more about solving a problem, exercising creativity, and contributing to a better world, than it is about achieving billionaire status.

A region or municipality with strong entrepreneurialism is an appealing place to be, a place that’s full of bright, talented, and extremely hardworking people. But not all places or people are strong start-up cultivators. Stagnant areas tend to discourage ventures with conditions that make it harder to launch something new, financial disincentives, or limitations on creative problem-solving potential. Some of that can be due to policy and planning departments, but entrepreneurs are often cultivated by mentors and other influencers who help them grasp and pursue the idea of striking out on their own. Conversely, a lack of exposure to other entrepreneurs or a discouraging setting can limit potential.

For the good of your region, as well as the budding founder-makers in your life, it’s worthwhile to ask what you can do to contribute to creating a world in which entrepreneurs can thrive.

Share real stories

Help young people discover and develop their potential by broadening their worldview with the stories of a wide variety of entrepreneurs. Seeing that someone else has overcome challenges, blazed a new trail, and launched something amazing can be genuinely inspiring and help kids dream big and work with more devotion when it comes to their futures.

This can be even more effective when the stories strike a chord with something familiar. Seeing that someone who looks like them, or who has similar challenges or interests, has overcome challenges and created a business, developed a product, or solved a problem can be motivating and inspirational. A personal connection is great, but if that’s out of reach, finding and sharing articles and books on successful, relatable entrepreneurs is a good start.

Engage their drive to solve problems

There’s something powerful about unspoiled motivation. Help young people tap into the powerful well of internal motivation by brainstorming things they see around them or have experienced and want to solve or change. There’s nothing like the joy of creatively solving a problem and making the world better.

It could be a small solution, or an enormous one, commercial or altruistic, immediate or distant. It’s great to dream big, but to help a young person awaken to the opportunities of entrepreneurialism, it’s often wise to start with something accessible enough that they can begin and see results quickly, then scale up accordingly. Ask about problems they see and support brainstorming for solutions. In the early stages, you can model this yourself at home or in a community context.

Give them hands-on opportunity

Entrepreneurs make things happen. They’re active – driven, even. They don’t sit back and critique the world; they dive in and change things. Give kids a chance to explore their entrepreneurial potential with accessible, hands-on opportunities. They’ll get a taste of whether entrepreneurship is a good fit with their personality and interests.

More often than not, successful entrepreneurs fall in love, start when young with small ventures, and scale up as they mature. Look for small project opportunities with local businesses, extra-credit classroom projects, clubs, or focused summer programs.

Facilitate connections

Working in a vacuum is limiting. Help young people learn about the real experience of working entrepreneurs and business leaders and expose them to connections that start to form the basis of a meaningful network as they mature and launch ventures. If you are active in the business community, you may have personal connections you can make. Schools and regional or community organizations may also offer opportunities.

Stamford’s Hong Kong based international school offers a Global Mentor Program that teaches students about entrepreneurship while creating meaningful associations. A great connection provides the opportunity to hear stories, talk through problem solving, and even get some hands-on experience.

Recognize their potential

Sometimes, creating the entrepreneurs of the next generation is as simple as recognizing and affirming them as such. Call out entrepreneurial qualities when you seem them. Point out when young people see and propose solutions to problems. Encourage them when they seek out opportunity and connections. Resource them whenever possible.

The next generation of entrepreneurs could change the face of industry, spur advances in medicine, restore the environment, end poverty, and they most certainly could turn your city or region into the next hotbed of success and solutions. Help inspire them to take action with practical, active support.

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