October 1st, 2008 was a day that began 8 consecutive days of market dives. The market plummeted to such depths, that most of us dreaded the next day's terrifying news. Together, we experienced an economic tsunami of such gigantic proportions that, within months, millions of people were out of work. Many more millions joined the throngs of the unemployed over the course of the next three years and became either unemployed or underemployed (those who experience significant reductions in their respective paychecks) and lost their savings and pensions, and, in many cases, their homes. For many, life since 2008 has been a struggle.
Enter Change and Hope. Last week, President Obama issued a proclamation making it the second straight year that the White House has supported The Kauffman Foundation's Global Entrepreneurship Week, which begins November 14th and runs through November 20th (centered in Washington, D.C., but in full effect all around the world).
As the World economic markets suffered alongside our own, a greater awareness has emerged on the importance of entrepreneurs to our economic eco-system. Global Entrepreneurship Week is cause for optimism as 115 countries and 24,000+ partner organizations will create the world's largest celebration of innovators and job creators, whose credo is to "bring ideas to life, drive economic growth, and expand human welfare." Let's all collectively agree: "This is a very good thing." I will be attending the Washington DC celebrations such as the Future of Entrepreneurship Education Summit to hear such leading entrepreneurs as Ted Leonsis, former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Naveen Jain, Founder and CEO of Intelius, recommend solutions for job creation through entrepreneurship. This kind of global support for entrepreneurs cannot be underestimated... not only do we need it, but our country needs it.
I'm an entrepreneur, who was hit by the economic tidal wave. I lost a large chunk of my 20-plus year business over a spiraling four-month period, as even major league clients bailed to protect themselves from being swept away from the crushing waves that destroyed lives and livelihoods. I, however, had the good fortune to be raised by a resourceful entrepreneur. My Dad taught my siblings and me that during the Great Depression: "To survive, each guy had to figure a way to climb out of the hole to take a bite out of the donut." He believed there was always a way to the donut. Even though he had been financially challenged during the depression, he convinced Senator Knowlton of California to invest in his business and be his mentor. Thus began his successful entrepreneur career and political service under two governors of California.
So, remembering my Dad's chutzpah, I started my climb. Like many of the rest of you, I called friends, relatives, colleagues and clients for recommendations and mentoring, and little by little, I rebuilt a successful business thanks to the support from some amazing people like Silicon Valley legend, the wonderful Heidi Roizen.
If we want to get out of this economic mess, we have to be willing to eat a little crow and ask for advice so that the next, critical few years, we make the right moves and decisions. To do this, we have to remember that we did not get in this mess alone, and we will not get out of it alone, either. We are all culpable to some degree for where we are right now. Now we need to look ahead and up.
The solution? To climb out of our Great Recession, it is time for entrepreneurs to "EntrepreneurStepUp" and help another entrepreneur in their field to get ahead by giving them a hand up.
It does not matter if the entrepreneur is Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook or the Cupcake baker at the mall. To me, to a certain degree, they are all the same...everyone can be a social entrepreneur by helping another in their area of expertise whether that would be an entrepreneur in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, or 60+.
We need to make global entrepreneurship relevant, attainable, and sexy to a range of people from social media mavens to those willing to look in the mirror and reinvent themselves. We can all do it if entrepreneurs step up now.
Okay, so it sounds like a nice idea but why do you care? According to the New York Times, about one-third of the people who start their own business actually make it. Each new successful entrepreneur hires approximately 5 new people. So what happened to the other two-thirds? They did not get the advice they needed and for good reason. Many entrepreneur organizations are a little exclusive, and they are interested in age, nationality or gender. Other entrepreneur organizations' applicants needs to make over a million dollars in revenues before they can say boo to another entrepreneur. For the baker only to give advice to another baker who may take home a solid 150K, this may not be the right model. Keeping that in mind, let's forget about the successful entrepreneurs' bank statements and the would-be enterpreneurs' age, gender, or ethnic background. We need to just plain and simple help each other out and pay it forward to try to increase all of our odds for success. It's called "karma." Together, if we all pitch in, I believe that we can make a dent in the 9.1% unemployment and help the estimated 25% who are under employed.
It may sound easy to say but hard to do. Not really. I'm about to walk the walk. I am asking budding entrepreneurs who need help, to write a one-page story about what happened to them during the crash and what is now their entrepreneurial concept ? I will feature one story per blog with a call-to-action for experienced entrepreneurs in that particular space to help out where they can. If we don't get a response, I am picking up the phone myself to hook that person up with someone who can help them. So, YES, I am Self-Made in America (with some guidance from key people in my life), and I am ready to pay it forward. Are you ?
Follow Mikey on Twitter at @upentrepreneur.
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more