Young entrepreneurs offer hope for the future

American small businesses aren’t growing, hiring, borrowing or expanding as they should be. Their owners have almost no confidence Washington can stop runaway federal spending or balance the government’s budget.

Worried and uncertain over what the future might hold, these usually optimistic entrepreneurs grow more cautious by the day. Their fears and uncertainty when it comes to higher taxes and more costly regulation are well founded as Washington blitzes them with costly red tape and paperwork, ignoring the impact on the nation’s unemployment rate, still above 7 percent.

Research conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business confirms that an overwhelming majority — 75 percent — of Main Streeters expect business conditions to be no better and potentially worse in six months.

Yet, the entrepreneurial spirit lives on. It can be seen in young people, in entrepreneurial teen-agers who find plenty of excitement and financial opportunity, whether starting a traditional, bedrock type of small business or a more innovative endeavor. The top five winners of this year’s NFIB Young Entrepreneur Awards, for example, have faith their ventures will succeed even though they aren’t flashy ones: a hay baler, bakery, online photography shop, combination pet-sitting and house care operation and a website designer.

Established to raise awareness among high school students about the vital role entrepreneurship plays the nation’s economy, the awards program recognizes young men and women eager to pursue their American dreams. To qualify for the program, students must own and operate small firms and present their endeavors and goals in written essays.

Dan Danner
Dan Danner

The leading five each earned $5,000 scholarships to the educational institutions of their choice. The Young Entrepreneur of the Year will be selected among them and awarded an additional prize, bringing total tuition assistance to $10,000. Ninety-five others were honored with $1,000 scholarships. More than 500 students applied for the awards.

It takes a lot of confidence and courage to fire up a small business any day, especially when the global economy is wobbly and the daily chorus of media chatter is filled with negative news. But these young people not only have the drive and energy to reach for their dreams, they do so while handling all the stressful distractions of completing their high school educations.

Starting and running a small business is always a risky proposition. And today’s toxic political atmosphere makes that proposition even more hazardous and insecure. That’s why it’s more important than ever to encourage and inspire young people to step forward and engage in free enterprise. They are the future of our country.