I've been retired for a few seasons. But, back in my prime, I knew how to field a fantasy football team as good as the rest. Eventually, I lost time and interest, which had nothing to do with Tom Brady's season-ending knee injury in the 2008 opener against the Chiefs.
If you don't know the difference between a field goal and a free throw, let me share a secret. Fantasy football is intoxicating for many reasons, none of which involve pigskin. It's addicting. It's engaging. It lets you trash-talk with your friends and co-workers. And it makes you a part of another person's success.
Success, in the Great Recession, has been hard to come by. Recent graduates are struggling to find work. Any work. Let alone work that pays the student loan bills. Mid-career professionals have watched their opportunities for career advancement evaporate as quickly as their home equity. All of which means that fewer people are willing to take the risk of starting their own business.
According to a new study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, "There were 514,000 new business owners per month last year, down from 543,000 each month in 2011." Much of this decline is attributed to the improving economy. Few people start a business if they can land a stable job. But, the overall trend line has been down. "For roughly 30 years, new businesses have made up a steadily shrinking portion of companies in the United States while generating a declining fraction of new jobs," writes The Atlantic's Jordan Weissmann.
There are plenty of reasons why we're less entrepreneurial: Schools that teach one right answer. Confusing and costly regulations that seem insurmountable to people without lawyers and accountants. And fewer people believing they can do it.
"The cost of setting up a lemonade stand (or whatever metaphorical equivalent you dream up) is almost 100 percent internal," writes Seth Godin, the author of Stop Stealing Dreams, an inspiring, must-read and completely free e-book. "Until you confront the fear and discomfort of being in the world and saying, 'here, I made this,' it's impossible to understand anything at all about what it means to be a entrepreneur. Or an artist."
There's even science to back it up. The Harvard Business Review has the scoop on how practicing a skill during lucid dreaming improves performance in real life. "It has been well established that athletes who mentally rehearse an activity can improve their performance, and it makes sense that dreams can achieve the same effect," dream researcher Dr. Daniel Erlacher said.
Which is why we need a Fantasy Entrepreneurs League. To inspire others, who want to start their business, but can't overcome the internal obstacle. To share tips of what works and what didn't. To support our friends and family that are putting in 12 hour days, every day.
How would it work? What categories would there be? Who would you draft first? Here's who I'd draft with my first three picks.
Restaurant Category: The Pass and Provisions, Houston's Hottest Restaurant
Reason for the Category: The NPD Group, the research company that tracks restaurants, estimates that, as of last year, there are 616,008 restaurants in the US.
My Pick: The only thing better than the food at Pass and Provisions is the story behind the two-in-one restaurant. Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner, two acclaimed chefs, left New York City to cram into a tiny house in Houston. They started with a pop-up restaurant, the Just August project, a clever way to test their ideas, menu and build a loyal fan base. People couldn't get enough of their raclette, short ribs and anchovy pizza. So, they found investors and launched The Pass and Provisions, which combines the fine dining of The Pass with the more casual Provisions. For a better understanding of their long road to success, read Katharine Shilcutt's piece in the Houston Press.
Biggest Obstacle: Free-loading friends like me that eat too much when we come to Houston.
Sole Proprietor: First Impressions Designs, Five Star Service with a Personal Touch
Reason for the Category: The Small Business Administration estimates that more than "70 percent of U.S. businesses are owned and operated by sole proprietors or sole traders."
My Pick: If you're planning an event, you'll get five-star service from First Impressions Designs. That's not an exaggeration, just check out their ratings on Yelp and Wedding Wire. Perfect scores across the board from customers pleased with the invitations, accessories and personalized planning for life's special moments. Over the past 20 months, Reagan Smith Smutny has expanded her one-woman shop to a team of printers and designers. "I put my heart, my soul, my love into my business, into every interaction with every client, into every product I design and create. My business isn't just a way to make money. It isn't what motivates me to put in the 12 hour days."
Biggest Obstacle: "The millions of people who own small businesses don't have armies of lawyers and advisers helping us navigate the changes," Smutny says. "So politicians making clear, straight-forward rules would help."
The Next Big Idea: Rally Point, LinkedIn for the Military
Reason for the Category: Every business wants to be the next Facebook.
My Pick: RallyPoint is the next big idea. Founded by two military veterans at Harvard Business School, RallyPoint lets members of the military chart out their professional network and then use that to take control of their career development. It's LinkedIn for the largest and most complicated hierarchical organization in the history of the world, the Department of Defense. Aaron Kletzing and Yinon Weiss, the co-founders, have already won the 2012 MassChallenge, the world's largest startup competition.
Biggest Obstacle: Government bureaucracy. The Department of Veteran Affairs' bureaucracy has been criminal in its inept handling of veterans' disability claims. The backlog includes 250,000 claims from veterans waiting longer than a year. We need bureaucrats to step aside for innovators like Rally Point.
I'll put my three fantasy entrepreneurs against yours any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Seriously, if you think you can field a better team, post it below.
John Hrabe is one of two teams competing to lead the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Summer Road Trip. The other team is led by the Huffington Post's Small Business Editor, Nate Hindman. To learn more, check out www.freeenterprise.com/tour.
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