The Rebirth of an Entrepreneurial Nation

by Sherri Mahoney-Battles

Do you dream?

Americans have always been dreamers. Immigrants who made their way through the gates at Ellis Island were dreamers. They dreamed of a land where opportunities existed for those willing to work hard. A place where a man could work hard, earn a fair day's wage and build a life for his family.

These people came to America with dreams in their pockets and passion in their hearts, and America, she opened her arms to these dreamers. Indeed, she proclaimed, "Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

Immigrants who found their way to her shores found a difficult life, but it was the tenacity and perseverance of these people that made America into something great. These poor broken dreamers brought their ideas, their dreams and their backs and America, a nation of industry, was born. America's factories and corporations flourished, and their employees were rewarded with secure futures.

My own father was a telephone company worker; my mother a postal worker. The mantra that they preached to us, their children, was to find good company jobs where our futures would be secure. They came from a generation where corporate jobs had provided retirement, health insurance and security.

The landscape of our country has changed. Huge numbers of factories have left our shores for countries where labor is cheaper and regulations less stringent. The large corporations that were once the sugar-daddies of our culture have pulled the rug out from underneath many lifetime employees, leaving them stranded without jobs, futures, or health insurance. Our unemployment lines are filled with people both young and middle-aged, and we cannot afford to wait for "big business" to bail us out.

Out of darkness comes light, and out of the direst situations comes great room for opportunity. Is this not a time of opportunity?

As the economic climate has begun to change, a younger segment of entrepreneurs is appearing. Young people are finding it harder to find employment. Many of them have parents that have been displaced after careers with large corporations.

They are reluctant to trust their futures to these large corporations knowing that a lifetime of commitment could lead to the unemployment line. Some of these young people prefer the option of self-reliance where they can feel more in control of their own futures.

The mantra that every good worker should go to college and find a job has changed. Thousands of college graduates are finding themselves burdened with huge amounts of student loan debt and unable to find employment.

In January, the University of Rhode Island disclosed that approximately 300 of its senior class had dropped out and would not be completing their senior year. This number is at least double the number that typically dropout.

An article recently posted on Yahoo Finance states that about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years.

Erin Bartolome held several office administrative positions before a photography job inspired her enough to pursue an education in digital arts and design. Since she had waited until age twenty-four to start college, she felt pretty confident in her ability to choose a career.

The financial aid office where she attended school assured her that positions would be available with a salary range of $60,000 - $80,000 once she obtained her degree.

She graduated with a bachelor's degree in 2009 with over $80,000 in student loan debt, and spent the next two years trying to find employment in her field to no avail.

Currently, her government loans are in an income based repayment program, so she is not required to make payments on them, but the interest continues to grow and she owes more now than when she graduated from school. Her credit rating has been destroyed due to her student loans, and she compares the financial aid officers that encouraged her to amass this debt to used car salesmen.

She says, "They encouraged me to continue taking out loans with no emphasis on the amount of debt I would have upon graduation, and they continued to mislead me about the type of employment opportunities that existed in my field."

After two years of unsuccessful job searches, she finally accepted part-time employment in an office administrative position performing the same type of duties that she did prior to obtaining her bachelor's degree in digital arts and design.

She continues to pursue her photography and design, however, and each weekend travels to arts and crafts shows where she sells her photographs and hand-crafted jewelry. As an entrepreneur she has managed to create an outlet for her products that she could not find through employment.

Entrepreneur is the new buzzword. Headlines everywhere feature articles about entrepreneurs. The April 15th issue of the Providence Journal featured an article about John Carter, a wealthy retired CEO, who has promised to give over $1,000,000 to entrepreneurs through a series of fellowships managed by The Rhode Island Foundation.

He believes that the key to improving Rhode Island's economy is through its entrepreneurs. Colleges like Brown University and Bristol Community College offer entrepreneurship programs, and this year the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition received over 103 applications considerably more than any other year.

At only eighteen, Kendra Orr, already has a plan for starting a floral retail business. She graduated from the Floriculture Program at Bristol County Agricultural High School, and originally looked at colleges offering programs in areas like plant science and floral design.

She had some concerns, though, about her ability to make a living in a floral career, and knew that a degree that focused just in that area would leave her pigeon-holed without many options. She elected instead to attend Bristol Community College and is working towards a degree in business administration.

Although she has a passion for floriculture, Kendra knows that an education in business administration will afford her the ability to manage any kind of business.

She has had a few jobs working in large retail stores, and knows that through this on-the-job training she is learning valuable customer service skills that she will utilize when she does make the decision to open her own establishment.

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In today's economy many young people are looking at their employment options and making the decision to build their own businesses. An entrepreneur is a person that creates opportunities where none exist, and we need these young people brave enough to open businesses and factories again for these are the places that will provide our unemployed with jobs.

We need shops, bakeries, and craftsmen that can provide and create things made with pride and quality products. We need places to go where we can get food and goods that we trust enough to give to our families, and we need the farmers that can grow this food.

We need builders and tradesman that are licensed and insured and we all, each and every one of us, need to be contributing to our economic climate.

America needs entrepreneurs.

Publisher's Note: This article was previously published and is reprinted here courtesy of The South Coast Insider (or Prime Times)

Sherri Mahoney-Battles, of Taxing Matters, specializes in income tax preparation for small businesses and individuals.

As an Enrolled Agent, licensed by the IRS, Sherri has been representing clients for over twenty-five years in cases of audit, collections, and appeals and does extensive work with non-filers.

Visit her website at email or call her at 508-636-9829.