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.