The first ever Entrepreneurship Week in the United States just ended.
It’s certainly nice to see entrepreneurship getting attention, although I’m with Professor Cornwall in that I would have liked to see an entire month devoted to entrepreneurship, not just a week.
A couple of people have asked me what I thought about Entrepreneurship Week. I think Entrepreneurship Week is great for what it is and I am pleased to see it. It just did not seem relevant to the majority of small businesses.
Entrepreneurship Week seemed to be targeted toward (1) students and education programs for entrepreneurship, and (2) high growth startups.
Now, when it comes to entrepreneurship education of young people, I am all for it. We learn other subjects — why shouldn’t students learn how to start and run businesses? Armed with knowledge, we have a much better chance of being successful in our businesses. Getting young people interested in running their own businesses, and giving them the knowledge to do it well, is a worthy goal.
However, let’s remember what Entrepreneurship Week was not. It did not appear positioned as a celebration, for instance, of the 26 million small businesses in the United States today — the small businesses that everybody and his or her uncle keeps reminding us are the backbone of the U.S. economy.
The Kauffman Foundation, one of the founding sponsors of Entrepreneurship Week, has done a tremendous amount to support the study of entrepreneurship, through its excellent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) reports and other initiatives. But in the end we have to remember that the Kauffman Foundation’s mission is to focus on high-growth businesses — the kind of business that might qualify for venture capital. The vast majority of small businesses are not high growth businesses and have no hope (or desire, for that matter) of ever attracting venture capital.
A select few high-growth startups have the potential to become the next Microsoft or the next Google and change our world and our lives. Yet, Dawn Rivers Baker, Editor of the Microenterprise Journal, points out the inconsistency in the thinking that it is somehow better for one high-growth business to “create 10 new jobs than it is to have 100 little microbusinesses create one job each.”
Here’s my view: both groups of businesses should be celebrated for what they bring to the table — the high growth startups and the millions of small business owners supporting themselves and their families and providing employment for millions of others. Each group is contributing to the economy and to employment in their own way. Let’s recognize both groups for their respective contributions.
What I would like to see, in addition to Entrepreneurship Week, is more private sector support of Small Business Week (usually in April or May). Small Business Week is an event with the potential to be more inclusive of the 26 million mainstream (translation: non-high-growth) small businesses in the United States and the 57 million people employed by them.
And perhaps in 2008 both can be elevated to an entire month, and we’ll have Entrepreneurship Month AND Small Business Month.