Who are entrepreneurs? What do they do? Why are they important? Who gets to be one?

These may be just some of the questions you are asking yourself right now. To get started answering your questions, lets refer back to the basics of your economics class.

Remember your econ teacher telling you that there are 4 resource types? They were:
  • Land
  • Labor
  • Capital
  • Entrepreneurship
The first three you likely easily understood (at least, once you realized that capital has more than a few meanings!). But that fourth type that is sort of hard to pronounce? That's potentially confusing- and extremely important.

An entrepreneur is a person who starts and runs a new business that provides a product or service to customers, in exchange for payment. They are anyone from the kids at a lemonade stand (a very simple type) to the next Silicon Valley geek who is going to make the next "iPhone Killing" cellphone. These people take financial risks and sacrifice huge amounts of time in exchange for the chance at business (and financial!) success.

Lets ask ourselves a few questions about entrepreneurship in America:
  1. Who employs most workers in America- big corporations or small businesses?
  2. Who produces more than 50% of GDP in America each year- big corporations or small businesses?
  3. Who is responsible for over 40% of payroll (your checks as an employee!)-big corporations or small businesses?
  4. Who employees over half of all people not working for government- big corporations or small businesses?
Of course, the answer for all these questions is small businesses (less than 100 employees)- most of which still have direct connections to the entrepreneurs who took a risk and started the company.

Entrepreneurship is risky- over 50% of businesses fail within four years of startup- but it's a traditional route to success in America- one with better odds than winning the lottery.

In the coming weeks you and up to a team of 2 others (no more than 3 to a group!) will brainstorm and outline a business. The project will have 4 major components:
  • Brainstorming and Research: You will need to decide what type of business you want to do, and spend time researching the field.
  • Business Plan: You will write a 10-15 page business plan that outlines exactly how you will get started in your new career
  • Elevator Pitch: You will create a 2 minute pitch to investors about your business.
  • Extended Pitch: You will reformulate your business plan into a 12 slide, 7-9 minute presentation.
Don't be intimidated! We'll break apart each of these steps into manageable chunks that you can, with work, accomplish.

Our intention here is for you to dream up and implement planning for a business that is realistic to your current place in life- mainly, as a high school student or new graduate. Therefore, your plan must be realistic. To ensure this, we will maintain the following guidelines:
  • You can not start a corporation or seek venture capital. This is not appropriate for the vast majority of businesses.
    • Your business type is then limited to sole proprietorship or a partnership.
  • You can not count on bank loans. Banks will only give you a loan if you have collateral (such as a home you own) or a full time job- both of which we are assuming you do not have.
    • Your funding, then, must come from bootstrapping- your money, and friends and family.
See your teacher if you think that your ideas stray into these limits.

The final part of this project will take the form of a business plan competition. Each individual/group
 will make their elevator pitch in front of a panel. The top 10 individuals/groups will be invited to make their extended presentation, and the top 3 from that phase wil have their business plans review in detail by the panel. The winner of that will achieve fame and glory for always- or, at least, have a killer plan for a business.

When you are finished with this project you will:
  • Have an inside view on the beginning steps of entrepreneurship
  • Have researched an industry/field you are interested in
  • Practiced small group and presentation skills
  • Drawn on knowledge you have gained throughout your education
Good luck entrepreneurs! Go for it!

Image credit: Entrepreneur.com
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