It’s been said that the strength of America is its entrepreneurs. But, the statistics of those starting new businesses is downright disappointing. Have we lost our entrepreneurial spirit?  Are we not paying enough attention to our young people and helping them develop the skills they need?

According to Gallup, there are “nearly 30 million students in the U.S. middle and high schools right now. Early Gallup research reports that about one in five in 1,000 working-age adults in the U.S. possess the rare talents of entrepreneurship, so that means there are about 150,000 future blue-chip entrepreneurs in fifth through 12th grade now, more in college and tens of thousands more adult potential business builders out there.”

I’m glad they did the math because that is not my strong suit.  What I do know is that we need to identify and nurture young people… and we need to start early. That’s why I was so encouraged when I saw two young people at NSBA’s recent Washington Presentation. The two boys, Peter (age 10) and Erwin (age 9), came to DC with their parents Erwin and Diana Mendoza. They are owners of a family business in Riverside, California.

The boys are home-schooled, or as the Mendoza’s prefer to say “world- schooled.”  They had been studying American History so when the parents decided to attend the Washington Presentation they took them along.

The boys have been encouraged to learn about everything, including business and try their hand at it early on. They researched a few ideas and then landed on one. They took a loan from their piggy banks and with a few extra dollars from their parents went on craigslist and bought a vending machine. This was the beginning of their education about the world of business. They have done pretty well running the enterprise. They found a location for the machine, have kept it stocked and even managed the books. They also understand the concept of growth because they took some of the profits and bought a second vending machine.  The second vending machine was installed at another location but sales were not as good. The boys removed it.

At a White House briefing the youngest boldly stood up to ask the SBA Administrator Maria Contreras- Sweet a question. He wondered if they might be able to get a contract to supply the White House with snacks. After all, they did have that extra vending machine.

I started to think about the talents these young boys exhibited. They were determined to be successful. They had confidence in their ability to make a profit. They were seeking knowledge. The youngest took a risk getting up in front of a group of small business owners to ask a question. That takes guts. These are in fact, some of the very talents that are outlined in Entrepreneurial StrengthFinder  by Chairman of Gallup, Jim Clifton along with Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal, Ph.D.

According to the book there are ten talents that are critical to success. People who possess these innate talents are a rare breed. They are people who can build sustainable businesses- sometimes they do it more than once.. The truth is we need more entrepreneurs. In fact the book goes so far as to say that “only entrepreneurs can save America and the World.”

Of course, they probably were not thinking about the Mendoza brothers but I like the idea that these boys have parents who are nurturing the idea that they can do more than just get a job…they can own a company.

Do you have that entrepreneurial spirit? 
If you started your company a while ago do you still have it?

I have to admit I was curious so I read the book, Entrepreneurial StrengthFinder and I took the online test. Yes, I am entrepreneurial but I also learned a few new things about myself. That’s good. It means I am still a knowledge seeker (one of the ten talents).


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