Lacking optimism? Think entrepreneurism

Tantalizing prospects of improving economic conditions continue to offer hope to weary business owners and managers, like visions of a cool oasis in the middle of a burning desert. Nonetheless, there’s seldom a shortage of discouraging news, such as the disappointing jobs report or dip in optimism among small business owners. All of a sudden, even a glass that’s at least half full appears half empty.

Fortunately, there’s a tonic that never fails to reinvigorate great expectations for the future of this country: entrepreneurism.

Despite the massive obstacles erected against them, entrepreneurs somehow find ways to invent better products and services. In doing so, they establish businesses that make money, employ people and give back to the community.

It’s invariably refreshing, then, to attend Entrepreneurship Day at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. The annual event offers an unequaled opportunity to seek out advice from successful entrepreneurs, find out more about local ventures and even hear from university students about their ideas for new business concepts.

The latest E-Day was no exception in offering inspiration along a theme: outdoor gear.

Kenneth “Hap” Klopp, the founder and for more than 20 years CEO of the North Face, delivered the keynote address and shared his story of turning a tiny retail operation into one of the largest and most dominant corporations in the outdoor apparel and equipment industry. Klopp also shared a number of practical tips for others who would aspire to climb as high as the North Face.

Interestingly enough, the winners of the Entrepreneurs of the Year award announced at E-Day were Seth Anderson and Jess Rigg — co-owners of Loki, a Grand Junction outerwear company that’s developed a distinctive brand of versatile products. Anderson’s experiences in the great outdoors inspired the development of hats and jackets that shift shapes to accommodate changing weather conditions.

And then there’s Alex Swaynie, one of three CMU students who presented ideas for new business concepts during the Idea Challenge staged as part of E-Day. Swaynie placed third in the competition with his design for snowboard bindings that extend like snowshoes to help riders recover after falling in deep snow.

It’s understandable to worry the world’s going to hell in a hand basket. Instead, think of the prospects of a world in which entrepreneurs like Klopp, Anderson, Rigg and Swaynie grow vibrant businesses that provide needed products. And that’s just in the outdoor sports sector. Ponder the prospects for innovations in communication, transportation and health care. Entrepreneurs don’t just make money, they make a difference in peoples’ lives.

The next time you’re discouraged about business, or life in general, think about entrepreneurism. And for those thinking about becoming entrepreneurs, consider the advice of Hap Klopp.

Quoting the German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Klopp issues a call to action: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”