Empowering young entrepreneurs to increase retention in rural areas

Learn and share best practices to empower our youth to become entrepreneurial in your hometown.

People standing around a table

Imagine a community where youth can explore entrepreneurship as a career option with hands on educational training. A place where youth are encouraged to be curious and test their ideas, ask questions and learn from their mistakes safely and without judgement. Envision a collaboration with business, where youth can network and be mentored by experienced entrepreneurs. Picture a place where adults ask for young people’s opinions on how their community can be improved and engage with them on making positive change. How does your community engage young people in entrepreneurial endeavors?

Building tomorrow’s entrepreneurs is essential to growing the local economy. According to the latest Small Business Administration data, Michigan is home to 873,722 small businesses employing 1.9 million workers equaling 49.1% of Michigan’s workforce and making up 99.6% of all Michigan businesses. In a recent survey from Junior Achievement of Greater Washington, 41% of teens indicated they would consider starting their own business as a career option. This is an audience that needs nurturing from educators, entrepreneurs, community leaders and economic developers.

Building the next generation of entrepreneurs is especially important in rural communities. Currently over 82% of the US population resides in cities and urban areas whereas in 1970 it was 73%. The continued population drain from rural to urban areas can be seen throughout Michigan, especially throughout the Upper Peninsula, the Thumb region and northeastern quadrant of the Lower Peninsula.

Retaining young people to your community needs to be a robust and intentional part of the economic strategy. This is important for demographic renewal, new energy and ideas, connectivity and fueling economic vitality. Knowing why young people are leaving and staying can provide essential insight into developing a plan. Using a youth engagement framework can help guide the discussions.

With youth unemployment rates skyrocketing since the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting youth entrepreneurship can build new opportunities for economic growth and development especially in rural areas. According to research by Seun Azeez Olugbola, young inspiring entrepreneurs benefit from entrepreneurial training in many ways. Entrepreneurship training can strengthen entrepreneurship readiness by increasing motivation, ability to identify viable venture opportunities, resource acquisition knowledge and the development of business skills needed to start and sustain a business.

“Empowering Young Entrepreneurs” is a workshop offered by Michigan State University Extension designed to share best practices and ways to spark the entrepreneurial pipeline in your community. Explore ways to motivate youth, allowing them to dream big and place value on a community where they could live, work and play one day. During the workshop, examples of how young people can explore entrepreneurship as a career option and develop an entrepreneurial mindset are shown. Curriculum, resources and innovative programs involving youth in business creation will be discussed. This workshop is one of many sessions available through the upcoming Connecting Entrepreneurial Community Conference.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development have programs and tools to empower young entrepreneurs. For more information on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or entrepreneurship, contact 4-HCareerPrep@msu.edu.

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