The next generation of American entrepreneurs is rising

The number of student entrepreneurs at Belmont University tripled this year – a good sign for America's next generation.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters/File
Google cofounder Sergey Brin participated in a panel discussion in Mountain View, Calif., earlier this month. With a sour economy, the next generation of American entrepreneurs could be even more motivated to start their own businesses.

"So are you seeing more students interested in entrepreneurship given the depths of this recession?"

I get this question a lot. And it is a good question because historically we saw a small upswing in student interest in entrepreneurship when the economy and job market softens.

But this is a much deeper recession and more worrisome long-term economic climate.

How are student reacting this time?

When the bottom fell out of the economy the initial reaction among my students was shock. This generation is one that has been protected from failure and insulating from risk. I tend to have graduating seniors in the class I teach, so those not already in business did not know what to do next.

But over the coming months, I saw a transformation. My students began to accept the new state of the world and adjusted their expectations. I began to think that this generation is ready to show their entrepreneurial spirit is for real. Maybe they are willing to step forward and help rebuild our economy one business at a time.

Then, as interest in business majors began to decline overall -- some theorized due in part to disillusion with corporate America -- the number of students in our major held steady.

Finally, the other day I received a piece of data about our program that affirmed my theory.

Each year we usually see about 15-20 new businesses started by our undergraduate students. Mind you, they do this in the midst of taking classes and often while also working part-time.

This year we have seen a tripling of new practicing student entrepreneurs. We went from 18 last year to 54 this year. Keep in mind that these students are not just our majors. They are coming from all across our campus from many different majors.

So it seems at least among the young people I work with, the entrepreneurial generation is willing. This news has certainly raised my spirits about our economic future.

I am also confident that our students will be able -- the success rates among alumni are solid.

Now it is time to turn them loose. It is time for policy makers to give them the capital they need by cutting income taxes and the freedom they need by cutting regulations so they can help build a better future for all of us.

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