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Founder of MMR Group Inc., the largest privately-owned merit shop and electrical and instrumentation contractor in the United States.

Encouraging Entrepreneurship Early

baby using a computerI did not start MMR Group until nearly 20 years after graduating college. Yet, once I made the decision to go into business for myself, it was something I did with confidence, passion and experience from years prior. A story like mine is not uncommon, actually. Studies show that the average age of entrepreneurs which launch some of the most successful startups, is around 40. Some are even older. Of course the benefits of such is the diversity of encounters one has had by that time, including a greater number of lessons and recovery from mistakes of having lived. All are invaluable. Experience is one of the greater assets of managing one’s own business, where the rate of success is far less than the rate of failure

The former is important for our country and its economy. The success of small businesses led by innovative and daring entrepreneurs is what drives us, what makes America great. From Rockefeller to Steve Jobs, from Henry Ford to Disney, the pride of our nation has been rooted in our ability to create, to fulfill a need and add something even slightly better to the way of life around the world. By doing so, we’ve inspired the world and developed products and companies that have made history.

However, things have changed from the country’s heyday following the second World War. While the 1970s saw United States transform into an economy of entrepreneurs, between 1978 and 2012, the overall number of new entrepreneurs has declined by an incredible 44 percent. Likewise, businesses are closing at a faster rate than they are opening. As a result, the U.S. doesn’t even rank within the top 10 in terms of startup activity compared to other countries. This decline is due to a number of factors. Kauffman Foundation, in particular, attributes the change to a decrease in population, and growth of “established companies” into larger ones. Additionally, one of the biggest reasons listed is the decline in entrepreneurship from younger groups, such as 20 to 30 year olds.

Those which make up this group, more specifically millennials, are less likely to be entrepreneurial than previous generations. Some pundits have attributed the disparity to laziness, but I think it’s something altogether different–preparation. In schools, children are taught to get good grades to make it into college, and to choose a major in something that will provide them with a foundation to get a good job. That’s important, of course, but there should be efforts to build awareness about entrepreneurship and personal management for young adults.

With a recent article in the Entrepreneur Magazine, Shawn Osborne also talks about the need to teach entrepreneurship early. He mentions that there has been an increase in the number of programs targeting the sector at the college level, but teaching skills as early as middle school could provide a boost in college attendance as well as inspiration to disadvantaged students. As for our great country, it could lead to a future that is bright with possibility and continued inventiveness: the perpetual burning light of the American Dream.