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Celebrating Entrepreneurs

Yesterday we celebrated one of those “holidays” that doesn’t get a lot of attention, Entrepreneurship Day. The day went along without much fanfare, most of us didn’t even know about the special day. But none of us went through the day without interacting with a good, service, or product that was dreamed up or launched by an entrepreneur.

The word entrepreneur originates from the French word, entreprendre, which means "to undertake." In a business context, it means to start a business.

Think about it, from that time our smart phone or alarm clock wakes us up in the morning, to the time we pick out our shoes and clothes, to that time we grab our breakfast or coffee and throughout each and every moment of the day, we encounter products that were launched by an entrepreneur.

Those entrepreneurs dreamed of a new product that we had not experienced before or better way of providing and existing product.

Those new products have changed each of our lives, in many cases made life easier. Think about where we might be had Henry Ford not found a way to build cars or the Wright Brothers had not figured out how we could fly. Even a Sam Walton of often maligned big box fame, was an entrepreneur seeking a better way and turned that into a successful business model.

Locally, entrepreneurs like the Studebakers, Olivers, Beigers and Eberharts built our economy and a culture that saw hundreds of businesses launch across the region. But over the years as we became more of a company town, fewer people launched new ideas and more went to work at one of our larger employers.

But times are changing, and new businesses are the fastest growing sector of our economy, with about twenty three percent of workers in the South Bend-Mishawaka Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) working for firms that have between one and ten employees. Some are starting in their basements or garages, others in that vacant storefront that we’ve long hoped would be filled.

Great risk is involved in launching a product or venture and as many fail as succeed. But our community is working to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem to support those brave entrepreneurs aiming to take off. The Small Business Development Center, Elevate Ventures, SCORE, and the SPARK Program at St. Mary’s offer great local resources and support services for budding entrepreneurs.

Our local universities also have become an important incubator for entrepreneurs in our region. In fact experts predict that real economic development and business growth will be centered around universities in the future. Efforts like Innovation Park at Notre Dame have served as a real catalyst to students, faculty, researchers and community members to launch business opportunities. A second building will be added in 2017 to further aide this effort.

A few years back, enFocus was launched here locally to foster an innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem for young professionals to support the founding of new companies, and help existing companies grow through data-driven process improvement, technology deployment, and business consulting and analysis.

For students, the St. Joe CEO program was introduced to prepare our youth to become entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial thinkers. In the program, students are immersed in real life learning experiences with the opportunity to take risks, manage the results and learn from the outcomes. A similar program will be launched in Elkhart County in 2017. Junior Achievement also continues to introduce students locally to entrepreneurship.

When you are out today, remember to say thank you to those entrepreneurs you know for taking the risk and for making our community a better place. Happy Entrepreneurship Day!



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