By Dan Danner / Guest Editorial
A survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and the National Association of Manufacturers last year revealed a startling statistic: 55 percent of small-business owners said they would not start a business today given the current economic and political environment. Job creators like you are some of the nation’s most optimistic and fearless citizens; when you’re feeling cautious, it gives the rest of us reason for concern about the future of our economy.
But there are at least 100 young American entrepreneurs who refuse to let today’s nasty political and economic environment prevent them from living the American Dream. These gutsy high school students have taken the plunge, and their efforts have earned them NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation Awards, which are tuition-assistance scholarships.
Five of those honored by the foundation have each received $5,000 prizes—one of whom has just been named the 2013 Young Entrepreneur of the Year, a title that bestows an additional award, boosting the total to $10,000. And 95 others are enjoying $1,000 scholarships to assist in college tuition costs. To qualify for the scholarships, applicants must be high school seniors and own and operate a small business.
Among the top five is Adam Cline of Bettendorf, who knows that if his new pet- and house-care business is to survive and thrive, he cannot operate like the federal government, he must balance his books and not spend more than he takes in.
The same goes for Wesley Cossick of Spring, Texas, whose website-development and graphic-design company is humming right along, delivering Internet-design services to large and small firms around the nation.
Andrew Miles of Silver Lake, Ore., has found his niche with a start-up agricultural business that specializes in baling hay for local farmers, while Bennett Queen of Bridgeport, W.V., is building an online digital-photography enterprise, offering images captured during local social, civic and athletic events.
And in Boynton Beach, Fla., Young Entrepreneur of the Year Shea Gouldd is literally rolling in the dough. She’s turning out lots of the gourmet baked goods that have boosted her small bakery’s reputation as a leading confectionery in that city.
These outstanding young people exemplify the mission of the Young Entrepreneur Foundation, established to raise awareness among America’s youth about the critical role private enterprise and entrepreneurship play in the nation’s economy. They were selected from more than 500 student applicants and will use the scholarships to attend educational institutions of their choice.
While Main Street’s lack of optimism about future business conditions chills us, it isn’t freezing out the next generation of risk-takers.
Like true small-business owners who possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit, these confident, courageous young scholarship winners launched their businesses because they believe the American free-enterprise system offers opportunity even during difficult times.
Like you, they have a drive to succeed that has served America well through good days and bad. Let’s congratulate them and welcome them to the community that proudly says, “Yes, I own my own small business.”
Dan Danner is president and CEO, National Federation of Independent Businesses.