Building on Colorado’s entrepreneurial legacy

As the city basks in the success of another tremendous Denver Startup Week, it is evident that an entrepreneurial spirit is part of our identity as Coloradoans. Our state was built by resilient pioneers who conquered new frontiers to make Colorado a great place to live and do business.

Today, that spirit lives on; Colorado ranks as one of the top five states for innovation and our commitment to building businesses is stronger than ever. Just last week Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper challenged entrepreneurs to make Denver No. 1 for startups. In order for this to happen, we must do more to ensure that our young people are prepared build on Colorado’s entrepreneurial legacy.

It is true that millennials have long admired the entrepreneurial spirit. These young adults look up to their peers who have built success from the ground up. However new entrepreneurs who are millennials – those in the 20 to 34 age range – decreased form 34% in 1996 to 25% in 2014. One of the reasons cited for this trend is that younger workers have had trouble gaining the skills and experience that can be helpful in starting a business. Some doubt their ability and are therefore unwilling to risk everything as entrepreneurs. A 2015 survey by Junior Achievement found that 25% millennials wish they could start their own business but are not willing to take the risk.

The key to reversing this trend is to provide young people with an opportunity to engage with entrepreneurs to help them better understand the challenges and benefits of starting a business. Through JA, students connect with entrepreneurs who share what inspired them to start their own businesses and to open students’ eyes to the opportunities provided by entrepreneurship – and it’s working.

  • Students who participate in JA embody an entrepreneurial spirit and understand how to leverage resources to start a new a business.
  • JA students believe in economic values and exhibit a strong understanding of key entrepreneurial characteristics including personal discipline, self-reliance and persistence.
  • JA students are more optimistic about achieving future success.

For a real world example of this impact, I invite you to read the article titled “Startup Week’s top teen business wins startup capital.” The article highlights three young innovators who are anxious to apply what they’ve learned from their JA volunteers to the business world. These students have the optimism, zeal and enterprise needed to turn their dreams into reality.