Major trends are emerging on the entrepreneurship front, some good and some bad. “Entrepreneurship rates are half of what they were a generation ago,” said Wendy Guiles, president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, in her portion of the 2018 State of Entrepreneurship address.
She explained how America is growing in population and diversity while entrepreneurship lags behind. Entrepreneurship, she says, “is increasingly an urban phenomenon, although it is also growing outside of the largest cities – spreading to mid-sized metro areas.”
Guiles’s remarks punctuate the recent findings contained in a survey of 2,165 business owners conducted by the Kauffman Foundation. One particularly interesting finding from these reports is that younger entrepreneurs are much more optimistic than their older counterparts. Only 59% of entrepreneurs 45 and older believe their business did well last year, compared to 70% of younger owners.
“These findings are consistent with previous research we conducted, where older entrepreneurs tended to cite practical concerns around making money and meeting family obligations,” said Larry Jacobs, vice president of public affairs for the Kauffman Foundation. “They are likely harsher critics of themselves and their business if they aren’t meeting or exceeding those expectations.”
Even with a little gloom coming from older generations, entrepreneurs are staying positive overall. Majorities of entrepreneurs—65% of startups, 69% of older businesses—rate the current business climate as excellent or good. Because of this, most entrepreneurs—88% of startups, 81% of older businesses—are optimistic about how they will perform this year.
Not so optimistic, however, is their view of government. 79% of startup entrepreneurs say the government provided them no support in starting their business, with 60% believing that government doesn’t care about their type of business. According to the survey, many businesses don’t actually use the resources made available by the government. “Loan programs and incentive programs may be useful,” says Victor Hwang, Kauffman’s vice president of entrepreneurship, “But what entrepreneurs really need is help with the basic nuts and bolts of getting a business started.”
In fact, entrepreneurs report difficulty with setting up benefits for employees (35%), obtaining licenses (24-29%), paying their business taxes (27-32%), and insuring their business (22-25%). Most don’t think the process has gotten easier either – they believe it has actually become more difficult to accomplish these tasks.
“This is not the future of entrepreneurship,” says Wendy Guiles. She believes in building a society that helps entrepreneurs succeed instead of hindering them. “It begins with creating entrepreneurial ecosystems—local cultures of entrepreneurship in communities across the country—and it can only succeed if we remove barriers in the way.”