SBA reaching out to innovation generation

Matt Varilek
Matt Varilek

Millennials, the cohort of Americans born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, constitute the largest generation in the United States and represent about a third of the total population.

Members of this generation tend to be more technologically savvy, connected and diverse in their thinking. Their unprecedented enthusiasm for technology has the potential to spark change in traditional economic institutions and the labor market. These millennials place a priority on creativity and innovation, making them an important force for change in the years to come.

Many millennials were born with an innate entrepreneurial spirit. The  U.S. Small Business Administration recognizes it must find ways to more effectively address this generation’s unique ways of learning and doing business. The federal agency has transformed its traditional business training methods to be more interactive, dynamic and online.

This year the SBA will roll out a new online tool called LINC, for Leveraging Information and Networks to access Capital. It starts with an online form for borrowers, containing the information that matters most for lenders. The form takes less than five minutes to fill out. A borrower’s answers will be forwarded to selected community based lenders in the borrower’s county. Once lenders have reviewed the information that matters most to them, they’ll respond if they’re interested — usually within 48 hours. LINC is one example of how the SBA is transforming its programs to respond to the way business is now conducted online.

Despite their promise, unemployment remains high among some millennials. One in four millennials  experiences unemployment. Millennials who grow up in underserved communities face even higher rates of poverty and unemployment. Young blacks and Latinos under the age of 25 are twice as likely to be unemployed.

For many young millennials of color, entrepreneurship isn’t about monetizing a hobby for some extra cash. It’s about finding a way to support themselves and their families. Research shows that more than half of millennials are interested in starting their own businesses, especially black and Hispanic males. That’s why SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet recently announced the My Brother’s Keeper initiative for millennial entrepreneurs. It’s a new federal outreach and education campaign to help millennials become what we call “enterprise-ready.”

President Barack Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by young people of color and ensure all young people can overcome challenges and achieve their potential. The president’s new economic opportunity agenda for millennials creates up-to-date policies to support this generation.

At the SBA, our message to millennials is loud and clear. It’s a message of inclusion and possibility to help jump-start their small business potential wherever their talents and interests might lie. Entrepreneurship could be the answer if your question is “What’s next for me?”

If you’re a potential millennial entrepreneur or know someone who is, log on to  www.sba.gov/young to learn more or visit the SBA Region VIII Web page located at www.sba.gov/viii.