Washington, D.C. — More than half of Millennials today express a desire to start a business, but fewer are creating new businesses than previous generations did at a similar age.
In a series of roundtable discussions, Generation Progress, the youth advocacy arm of the Center for American Progress, brought together groups of young entrepreneurs from three different cities—Oakland, California; New York City, New York; and Columbus, Ohio—and asked them about their experiences, the challenges they have faced, and what policies they would recommend to remove the barriers to starting a business.
A new issue brief by the Center for American Progress and Generation Progress discusses common themes from the roundtables and proposes various recommendations for policymakers, educators, business organizations, and others who want to increase the level of entrepreneurship among Millennials.
“Millennials have the drive and desire to start their own businesses, but would-be entrepreneurs are held back by the slow economy, high student-debt levels, and a complicated legal and regulatory framework,” said Sarah Ayres Steinberg, a Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress and the author of the issue brief. “In addition, many investors and policymakers hold outdated views about who can be an entrepreneur and what constitutes entrepreneurship.”
Participants in the roundtables agreed:
- High levels of student debt are one of the biggest hurdles to starting a business, confirming many experts’ view that today’s record-high student-debt levels are inhibiting entrepreneurship and broader economic growth. “My mom owned her own business for years, and I wanted to follow that path after I graduated,” one participant said. “But after taking on so much student debt, I realized it just wasn’t the right time to take on more debt.”
- Many organizations—from government agencies, to chambers of commerce, to business schools—often lack a strategic plan to support entrepreneurship that is both informed by business owners and effectively advertised to businesses.
- Traditional organizations designed to support entrepreneurs failed to understand mission-driven businesses.
- A strong and diverse entrepreneurial community was an important factor in where Millennial entrepreneurs decided to locate their businesses.
- Licensing and permitting is an issue that causes needless cost and confusion for new business owners. One participant said that he wanted to follow the rules, but that “there’s no resource to ask ‘what are the rules I might be breaking?’”
To increase entrepreneurship among Millennials, the issue brief recommends expanding access to early and fast capital, creating tools to navigate entrepreneurship’s legal and regulatory framework, developing mentorship communities, and allowing student borrowers to refinance their loans to a lower interest rate.
Click here to read the issue brief.
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