A New Source of Support and Inspiration for Young EntrepreneursHow can the U.S. government encourage entrepreneurship among the young?

That was the question that various government entities along with Small Business Administration and partner organizations posed to a veritable who's who of young entrepreneurs in front of a packed audience at the General Assembly Incubator in New York and online yesterday evening. Although small businesses overall could likely use a hand up from Uncle Sam, the stated purpose of the event was to get feedback and answer questions of young entrepreneurs to better help the Administration support small business growth -- specifically among young entrepreneurs.

SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns painted a stark picture about the state of small business and young people in particular. While national unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent, over 26 percent of the nation's youth remains unemployed. She added that the plight that young people face in America today is simply unsustainable. Her solution? Young people should work for themselves. Not only will successful young entrepreneurs create their own jobs, they’ll create more jobs, and then the cycle we’re caught in can finally slow and perhaps reverse. Johns also took the opportunity to announce the new Young Entrepreneurs section of the SBA’s website, at: sba.gov/youngentrepreneur.

To ponder this question about how to bring more young people into the fold, the Administration called upon, well, young entrepreneurs. The panelists on hand included Alexis Maybank, co-founder of flash-sale fashion site Gilt Groupe; Ntiedo “Nt” Etuk, founder and CEO of educational video-game maker Tabula Digita; Rachael Chong, founder and CEO of volunteer staffing firm Catchafire and Mason Fuller, founder and CEO of medical-equipment seller Atlas Frontiers, who is the SBA’s 2011 Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Here are their best kernels of advice:

  • If you’re going to take VC money, Maybank suggested taking the time to make sure you’re taking it from the right people. Be sure they can further your company and truly be a part of it -- not just throw money at it.
  • When you’re completely stressed and facing daunting obstacles and can still say, “there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing,” you know you’re doing the right thing, says Etuk.
  • No one knows your business better than you, says Chong. It’s important to build an advisory board and have mentors, but remember: At the end of the day, no one knows the details of the business as well as you do, because you live and breathe it every day.
  • The first iteration of your idea is not the one that you’ll build, so the important thing is to just get started, says Fuller. Work 20 hours a day, keep dreaming and don’t get frustrated. This is where following your passion makes all the difference.
     

What do you think would help encourage more young people to take up entrepreneurship? Leave a comment and let us know.

-Adam Toren is co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com and co-author of Kidpreneurs, a book about the basic principles of entrepreneurship for kids.