When asking the question, “what is your definition of an entrepreneur,” answers will vary wildly. Let’s face it; most communities have not embraced the concept of entrepreneurship and how to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem, primarily because they do not understand nor grasp who entrepreneurs are and the contributions they make to local economies.
Let’s take a stab at just what is an entrepreneur. Simply put, entrepreneurs discover new ways of combining resources that satisfy specific needs within society. Entrepreneurs expand the size of the economic pie for everyone. Entrepreneurs generate output (and income), resulting in a higher standard of living.
We can identify the ultra-entrepreneurs for example Sam Walton, (Wal-Mart); Ted Turner (CNN); Henry Ford (Ford Motors); Ray Kroc (McDonald’s); and Fred Smith (FedEx). Each started out with an idea, a vision and the passion to see their idea become reality. They truly changed the paradigm to meet societal needs/demands.
Taking it one step further, job statistics reflect that over the past seven years entrepreneurs created 7 of 10 jobs in the United States. That is 70 percent of all jobs attributed to business start-ups. They are the life blood of the current job market and the thrusters of today’s economic engine. For all practical purposes, gone are the days of the mega corporations landing in your community.
According to the Kaufmann Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, the entrepreneurial rate in the U.S. is already well above the dot.com bubble of 15 years ago. Figures reflect that over 20 million non-employer businesses are out there today. Why is this?
1) Valuations startups have hit an all-time high with near 40 of them valued at $1 billion or more. Within the next year it is projected to go as high as 100.
2) Initial Public Offerings reflect that a record 156 operating companies went public in the U.S. in 2013, with aggregate proceeds of over $38 billion.
3) Funding for early-stage startups is more available today than ever. Venture capitalists funded about 1,500 startups last year, with Angel investors backing over 50,000 more.
4) Cost of entry for a startup is at an all-time low.
5) Startup incubators and accelerators are populating everywhere.
6) The world is now a single market, both homogeneous and heterogeneous.
7) Social media has changed the dynamic for entrepreneurs and startups. Key social media platforms allow an entrepreneur to tune a product, build a brand, and grow the business with very low cost and a high interactivity.
8) Large corporations have lost their ability to innovate. Conglomerates today routinely buy startups for new technology and products.
9) Women are a growing force as entrepreneurs. Nearly 20 percent of young women now aspire to run their own business.
10) Baby Boomers are joining in the fun at record numbers. In each of the last 15 years, Boomers between the ages of 55 and 64 have had a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than Gen-Ys.
Over the past few years, the Chamber of Commerce has tracked this phenomenon and recently created an entrepreneurial program for those desiring to seize the entrepreneurial spirit and move their ideas to the market place with the intent of fostering home grown businesses and creating jobs. Branded as BOOST Lee’s Summit, the program provides aspiring or existing business owners a 24/7/365 first-point-of-contact access portal, providing step-by-step instructions and connecting them with SBA Certified Business Coaches and institutions to help them start and build businesses. At its core, the BOOST LS access portal provides clients assimilation to the learning pathways visa vie Intel-A-Start and Intel-A-Build.
The BOOST LS platform is designed to be interactive, allowing these coaches the ability to connect with a multitude of business resources (i.e., attorneys, CPA’s web designers, lenders, investors, etc.) that offer their services to BOOST LS clients at reduced or no-cost fees. The BOOST LS platform acts as the connective tissue in real-time 24/7/365.
In its brief existence, BOOST LS has assisted nearly 30 businesses move their ideas ever closer to the marketplace, and in many instances, successfully to the marketplace. The types of business vary, representing technology-based companies, upscale/specialty clothing, health and wellness, medical applications, sports and non-profit organizations.
BOOST Lee’s Summit is beginning to grab some attention from City management and elected officials. Through the Chamber and entrepreneurial stakeholders, the City Council recently adopted a new Economic Development Mission Statement that included entrepreneurship as one of its five pillars.
We invite you to check us out at boostleessummit.com. Become a Community Member and explore the services offered. If you know of someone who is interested in starting a business or is currently in business but wants to take it to the next level, give us a call at 816-524-2424.
Mark Dickey is the vice president of the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, responsible for studying legislative issues as well as developing the small business programs. He coordinates the Business Development Council, the Governmental Relations Committee and the Legislative Committee.