Young Guns

Guiding Forces

There is a host of reasons entrepreneurs are getting younger and younger. For one thing, downsizing and widespread layoffs have created a job market that's low on security, to put it mildly. For young people, many of whom have seen their parents and other relatives become casualties of changing economic times, the options upon graduation aren't quite what they used to be.

For savvy students, however, that isn't necessarily bad. Kushell, for one, believes "the opportunities for younger people are now more [plentiful] than ever before. These people can start their own businesses and graduate as the president of a company."

Administrators at universities that offer entrepreneurship programs say they've witnessed a change in college students in the last few years. Bill Bygrave, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, says the change in students' attitudes is "profound."

"Young people are recognizing that they've got to be more responsible for their own destiny," Bygrave says. "For many of them, that means starting their own company."

Young people also have more entrepreneurial role models than their parents did. America's ideas of success have changed as much as the economy has. Fifty years ago, judges, lawyers, doctors and the like were held up as our highest role models. These days, though, if you were to ask a bunch of 11-year-olds who their hero is, they'd likely say Bill Gates.

Finally, another reason more young people are striking out on their own is that some of the nation's most noted universities are offering entrepreneurship programs that prepare students for the rigors of the lifestyle. Now, instead of simply learning by trial and error, young entrepreneurs can immerse themselves in practical classes that put them ahead of the game in running small businesses.

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This article was originally published in the October 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Young Guns.

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