Encourage young entrepreneurs, small business owners

By Dan Danner / Guest Editorial

Today, American small businesses are not growing, hiring, borrowing or expanding as they should be. Their owners have almost no confidence that Washington can stop runaway federal spending or balance the government’s budget.

Worried and uncertain over what the future may hold, these usually optimistic entrepreneurs grow more cautious by the day. Their fears and uncertainty when it comes to higher taxes and more costly regulation are well-founded as Washington blitzes them with costly red tape and paperwork, ignoring the impact on the nation’s unemployment rate, now hovering near 8 percent.

Recent research by the National Federation of Independent Business confirms that an overwhelming majority, 75 percent, of Main Streeters expect business conditions to be no better, and potentially worse, in six months.

Yet the entrepreneurial spirit lives on. We see it in young people, in entrepreneurial teenagers who are finding plenty of excitement and financial opportunity, whether starting a traditional, bedrock type of small business or a more innovative endeavor. The top five winners of this year’s NFIB Young Entrepreneur Awards, for example, have faith that their ventures will succeed, even though they aren’t flashy ones: a hay baler, a bakery, an online photography shop, a combination pet-sitting and house care operation and a website designer.

Established to raise awareness among high school students about the vital role entrepreneurship plays the nation’s economy, the foundation annually recognizes young men and women who are eager to pursue their American Dream. To qualify for the program, students must own and operate a small firm and present their endeavors and goals in a written essay.

The leading five each earned $5,000 scholarships to the educational institution of their choice. The Young Entrepreneur of the Year will be selected among them and awarded an additional prize, bringing the total tuition assistance to $10,000. Ninety-five others were honored with $1,000 scholarships; more than 500 students applied for the honors.

It takes a lot of confidence and courage to fire up a small business any day, especially when the global economy is wobbly and the daily chorus of media chatter is filled with negative news. But these young people not only have the drive and energy to reach for their dreams, they did it while handling all the stressful distractions of completing their high school educations.

Starting and running a small business is always a risky proposition. And today’s toxic political atmosphere makes that proposition even more hazardous and insecure.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to encourage and inspire young people to step forward and engage in free enterprise. They are the future of our country.

To learn more about ways to get involved and encourage entrepreneurial growth, visit www.nfib.com/yef.


Dan Danner is the president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s largest and oldest small-business advocacy group.