Guest Blogger David Kee: Dispelling the Myth of the Young Entrepreneur

Dispelling the myth of the young entrepreneur
Dr. David Kee is assistant professor of business and director of the MBA program. He writes for us from Australia, where he is resident faculty for the HUA program this semester.

One would think entrepreneurship is common among young people these days. After all, Harding now has the Waldron Center for Entrepreneurship and Family Business, a management concentration in entrepreneurship, a minor in entrepreneurship and a Christian Entrepreneur Organization (CEO) student club. We hold high the successes of young people who start businesses out of their dorm rooms. We celebrate the 30 under 30 top entrepreneurs. The vigor of youth and the creativity of our newest venture-starters fills us with excitement for what the future holds.

The average age of successful entrepreneurs, however, is 45 years. The reason we hear so much about successful young entrepreneurs is because they are rare. In fact, recent statistics point to fewer startups among 24-to-35-year-olds in 2018 than in 1970, 1990 or even 2010. Entrepreneurship among young people may not be common, but is it truly a myth?

The success rate of young entrepreneurs is not high, but neither is it high for 45-year-olds. And that’s okay. These failures allow resources to be redistributed for more effective uses. One thing young entrepreneurs often don’t have is financing. They simply haven’t had time to build up the capital from personal savings that 77% of successful entrepreneurs use to launch their businesses. Add to that the urgency to pay off student debt, and you can see how it’s counterintuitive to think that young entrepreneurs are likely to successfully launch a venture.

Here is the good news: 

  • The internet and app world have made it cheaper than ever to start a business. 
  • Globalization has increased the availability of and the market for many products and services.
  • The consuming youth market is growing as millennials and GenZs are getting their first paychecks — and who understands their needs better than young entrepreneurs?
  • The retiring of successful baby boomer entrepreneurs has made available the largest number of potential mentors ever.
  • Entrepreneurial education is now prolific, and knowledge that past entrepreneurs wish they’d had is now being taught before someone takes the leap.

What is the ideal setup, then, for young entrepreneurs to squelch the myth? I say it can be summarized as “learning as much as possible to prevent mistakes while taking advantage of opportunities.”

It seems the solution for aspiring young entrepreneurs is to get an entrepreneurial education, discover what globalization has to offer, and team up with an experienced mentor. This is what Harding’s entrepreneurship program and the Waldron Center aim to help students do. Come and see us. We’ll work with you to dispel the myth and help smooth your path to success.

If you’re a student interested in the study of entrepreneurship, we’d like to answer your questions. The Waldron Center is located in Mabee 202.

What if? Alan Howell Recommends Connecting Calling and Career

Alan Howell is visiting professor of missions in the College of Bible and Ministry at Harding University. 

Alan Howell
Alan Howell, visiting professor of missions

As a student at Harding University, I double majored in Bible and marketing. Near the end of my time as an undergraduate in Searcy, I joined a mission team that eventually went to Mozambique, Africa, where my family served from 2003-2018. It was there that I saw how those two disciplines that seemed to compete for my attention as a student had actually served me well and prepared me to serve well.  Our team’s mission in Mozambique was to encourage a church planting movement among the Makua-Metto people – this goal was holistic. We were committed to ministering in a way that integrated both the spiritual and physical aspects of life. 

Mozambique Road
27 million people live in Mozambique, a sparsely populated country where 45% of the people are below age 15.

When we first moved to Mozambique in 2003, it was one of the poorest countries in the world, and although in recent years our host country has made some advancements, the vast majority of our friends there live in abject or absolute poverty. In 2018, Mozambique ranked 180 out of 189 in the UN’s Human Development Index (Haiti and Afghanistan are tied for 168 – ranking 12 spots higher). Over 70% of the population live in “Multidimensional Poverty” and over 60% live on less than $2 a day. Statistics like these are both mind boggling and misleading — because the situation in Cabo Delgado, the province where the Makua-Metto people are most concentrated, is even worse. It is the furthest from the national capital (where much of the economic advancement has been concentrated) and the rare person with a job earning more than $2 a day is supporting his or her family on that income as well as a large group of extended relatives. 

Pedestrian Bridge in Moz
Because foot travel during the rainy season was limited, Howell’s team partnered with a Peace Corp volunteer to design and build a bridge.

Trying to make a difference in such a religiously, socially and economically complicated place meant bringing all of our skills and training to the table. Over the years, we tried a number of different projects – from Lorena stoves to a nonprofit chicken business, a sustainable agriculture program, a small peanut butter business, building a pedestrian bridge and eventually getting a school off the ground. My business training was a huge asset on many different levels. As the network of churches we worked with grew, learning how to “scale up” our ministry to encourage and empower the growing numbers was crucial. All of these experiences in Mozambique have given me a greater appreciation for the way the entrepreneurial skill set is extremely important in the kingdom of God. 

When I get the chance to talk to people with entrepreneurial gifts and skills (creative, innovative, risk-takers, people who think big and are willing to experiment and work hard), the question I hope to get the chance to ask them is this: What if your gifts for business were given to you to also do something else?

Sustainable Agriculture
Howell’s team had real success at teaching sustainable agricultural practices in Mozambique.

Ephesians 4:11-13, says, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Often in churches, we highlight those with pastoral skills and teaching gifts. But, Frost and Hirsch in their important book, The Shaping of Things to Come, ask us to consider Ephesians 4 from a different angle. What if…What if the labels of pioneer, strategist, innovator, visionary, or entrepreneur — words we often use in a business setting — are part of the apostolic skill set that God gives to the church today? 

Howell family
Howell and wife, Rachel, and daughters Abby, Katie and Ellie

As one who was sent to serve in Mozambique, I know from experience that being able to think and act strategically like an entrepreneur, using skills developed in my business training, was crucially important. 

What if? What if you thought of your entrepreneurial gift set as an important part of the kingdom of God? What if you found your place in Business-as-Mission (BAM) or full-time church planting or service in the local church?

In Let Your Life Speak, author Parker Palmer states, “vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear.” As followers of Christ we believe God can and does speak into our lives, equipping and calling us to live a good life of meaning and purpose.

What if? What if your calling or career connected your skills alongside your passion for service with the church in the world? What if God is calling you to do something like that?

I would like to encourage you to stop and listen – ask God if that is something you may be called to do. 

And if it is – come and see me – let’s talk about it.  

To continue this discussion of business as mission, you may reach Alan Howell at

Guest Blogger: Phil Waldron of Mission UpReach Says Business as Mission Makes Sense for Honduras

Guest blogger Phil Waldron is CEO and co-founder of Mission UpReach, a nonprofit affiliated with the churches of Christ, operating in Western Honduras.

“Business as missions” (BAM) encompasses a number of concepts that join an aspect of business with a missional approach to kingdom work. In his book God is at Work, Ken Eldred defines business as mission as “for-profit business ventures designed to facilitate God’s transformation of people, cultures, and nations.”

phiil waldron

Mission UpReach Co-founders Phil and Donna Waldron

At Mission UpReach, our adventure into the world of BAM began when Phil Davidson’s Canadian nonprofit, APRACOLA, donated a 60-acre farm known as the Moses Project. The project’s goal was to help young men from poor families finish their formal high school education while learning agricultural entrepreneurial skills. For years Davidson and his brothers were the primary source of funding through profits from their development and construction business. Over time, it became increasingly difficult for them to both manage and fund the program, so they determined to find someone to take it over. They chose Mission UpReach, and we have striven to be faithful to their original mission while adding a fresh approach to achieving the goal.

Since its founding, Mission UpReach has used the kingdom business perspective in stewarding donated resources. Too often in missions there are soft expectations for productivity or efficiency, and sound business principles have been dismissed with the justification that “it’s the Lord’s work,” as if working in the spiritual world isn’t subject to the same principles of stewardship that are indispensable in secular business.


From the outset, Mission UpReach has had goals and milestones by which we have measured our efforts. If a particular ministry or program wasn’t producing the desired results after a significant amount of time, we conducted prayerful analysis. Sometimes, we decided to cut the program and move on to something that showed more promise. Part of our biblical justification for this is Jesus’ instructions when he sent his disciples out two by two. He told them to “shake the dust out of their clothing” and to move on to a more receptive audience (Matthew 10:14). 


It isn’t always clear whether God wants us to persist in the face of overwhelming obstacles or to move to greener pastures. It requires a tremendous amount of prayer to have confidence in such decisions. In this sense, business has a great deal to teach us about how to better steward our kingdom efforts. No one in business would advocate continuing to sell a product or service with no hope of making a profit. In the same way, we sometimes need to move on, always with an eye on returning if the community where we have been working shows an openness.

In recent years Mission UpReach’s business component has grown to include three agricultural businesses: tilapia, broiler chickens, and coffee. Our brands are Tilapia Moisés, Pollo Moisés and Subida — providing real-world, commercial business experience for those in the Moses Project program and employment for the local community. 


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Our goal is for these businesses to cover our overhead by 2021, so we can dedicate 100% of donations to ministry programs. Ultimately, we believe some of our young men will return home to their villages and support their families with similar businesses. Our fondest hope is that these men, trained and discipled with us in the program, will go home as self-supporting, missionary church-planters.

Here in Honduras, unemployment is at 27%. Fifty percent of Hondurans are under-employed. The majority of people cannot earn enough money to support their families. The massive exodus of men and women headed to the United States illegally believe that if they can just get to the States, they will earn enough money to solve all their problems. 

We believe our holistic approach to missions, based on the encouragement from the book of James about a practical, works-oriented faith, is a useful model. This faith isn’t about earning salvation, but rather is an outflowing of gratitude to God for having saved us and brought us into His kingdom. There is no compartmentalization between secular and spiritual in Jesus’ kingdom. This worldview should cause all of us who are U.S. citizens to do some soul searching. Did you know that:

  • 20% of the world lives on $1 a day
  • 20% of U.S. citizens live on more than $70 per day
  • U.S. citizens make up just 5% of the world’s population but consume 50% of the world’s resources 

Think about it: We consume half of all of the resources

 consumed in the entire world.

It’s naïve to think Americans can consume half of the resources consumed by the world, yet we are not responsible to help our neighbors to the south improve their economies. The U.S. immigration issue must be resolved. We recognize that it’s complicated and that there is little agreement as to what the solution should be. However, we should all be able to agree that a holistic approach of investing in people — in their home country — is a positive and effective strategy. 

At Mission UpReach we believe a business as mission approach is the best path forward. We preach the gospel and at the same time work to help people earn a living that allows them to support their families. This lowers the immense pressure to go to the U.S. to pursue the “American dream” illegally. We don’t believe in giveaway programs, and in our opinion, business as mission is the solution. The Bible says, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done” (Proverbs 19:17). 


Estela Taylor takes the cake

IMG_2745Estela Taylor is a management major with an entrepreneurship concentration and a sweet side hustle:  Momo’s Pastries. The beautiful, soft-spoken Taylor has always loved baking, as evidenced by family photos of her at work in the kitchen when she was four years old.


Her interest became more earnest when she was about thirteen, and her father was stationed in Florida. Their military community hosted a birthday party for everyone who had a birthday in each month. They began paying Estela to bake the cakes, and a business was born.  

Is it still a joy to bake when you are doing it for money?  “Yes! People explain what they want, or they say ‘just make it pretty,’ and I love seeing their reactions when they first see it. I’ve always been creative and artsy and have dabbled in so many hobbies that expressed that side of me. But what appealed to me most was cooking and baking. I’m a major foodie so the combination of being able create something delicious and beautiful is definitely my calling.”
estela cake

What kinds of orders thrill her?  “Cakes, especially wedding cakes. But while I absolutely love cake decorating, I also love making desserts from other cultures such as French, Italian and especially Latin American pastries. I love expressing my heritage through making different pastries that I enjoy when I visit my family in Mexico. My brothers are my guinea pigs, though.  For them, I’ve done fun things like Spiderman and Star Wars.”  

Any baking disasters she’ll share? “I’ve had my share of heart-breaking disasters. The worst was a beautiful graduation cake for a student from UCA. It was really hot the day when we had to drive an hour to deliver it. By the time we arrived, the fondant had melted and was dripping. I was crushed, and I learned a valuable lesson that I needed to invest in a refrigerated truck for transportation. 

estela cake7

What does she envision as the endgame? “I really want to open up a full-time bakery that also does catering. I want my bakery to be known for wedding cakes and big event cakes. I definitely live by ‘go big or go home.’ I watched Buddy Valastro a lot on Cake Boss, so a lot of my inspiration is drawn from him as well as Duff Goldman.  I’m looking to hire people who not only have an inclination to baking but who are artistically talented. I’d be hiring sculptors, painters, and so forth.”

estela cake3

For the time being, until she finishes her education, everything is contract work. Estela’s long-term goal is to open a shop in Cabot. She’s realistic about the challenges, however: Financing a startup is the biggest hurdle. “It’s a long-term goal. I plan to get a job after graduation and work in industry until I can save the money to launch without huge loans.”

Many people look at starting a business as a purely passion-driven endeavor.  Does she feel the academic study of entrepreneurship has also had value? “I have baking and decorating knowledge, so I wanted to major in something that would help me learn to be a successful business owner—so I chose management with a focus in entrepreneurship. The more classes I take, the more I realize how much of a fit I am as an entrepreneur, and it just excites me even more.”


“Entrepreneurship coursework has definitely made me think carefully about how to finance my own business. It’s made me a little more cautious and taught me to plan. Fortunately, I don’t have student loans, so I can save for what I want my future to look like as I more toward starting my own business.”

Her family is very supportive. “I taught myself how to pipe and roll fondant and everything else I know from reading a lot of Wilton magazines and watching YouTube. I would eventually like to go to catering school to perfect my skills. My family, especially my mom, is very helpful and supportive in what I do. Mom even went back to school to earn her BBA to help me when I open up shop someday. My parents have the doors wide open, but you never know what will happen.”  For now, the brick and mortar location remains a sweet dream. 

In the meanwhile, you can call Estela for all your birthday needs. 

Follow Momo’s Pastries on Facebook and Instagram @momospastries.