Most people like sticky notes, and thanks to IDEO they are a nearly universal symbol of innovative thinking. So when you pull them out at a meeting you automatically feel more entrepreneurial. We used sticky notes a few weeks ago at the kickoff meeting for a project we’re working on with the Boys & Girls Club of Tucson.

This fall, with a team of undergraduates, we will be exploring the feasibility and design of an entrepreneurship program for teens at the Boys and Girls Club. It is definitely an exciting project for everyone involved—not just because of the sticky notes.

But because, by the end of the project we will hopefully be able to answer the question: Does the Boys & Girls Club really need an entrepreneurship program?

Right now the answer is a solid…maybe?

Let’s face it, entrepreneurship is trotted out like STEM education—a panacea to cure our economic and educational maladies. But when you look at the odds of actually being a successful entrepreneur, you begin to wonder what’s this obsession with entrepreneurship all about.

Roughly 50% of all new ventures go belly up within five years.[1] And of those that survive, very few (less than 1%), make it big.[2] Clearly, entrepreneurship programs aren’t really going to help that many kids start successful businesses.

The stakes are just too high for most of us. When Gallup asked, 25% of Americans said they have considered starting a business, but it’s too risky to leave the security of steady income (84%) without enough personal savings (68%).

Maybe the hype is to help us pretend that entrepreneurship isn’t a wealthy man’s game. This is the land of opportunity—everyone is invited to join. But really, like polo, it’s for the elite. Offering programs doesn’t change the fact that very wealthy households are much more likely to start a business than the rest of the population.[4]

Maybe it’s about the economy, stupid—job creation for the local community. Train kids to start businesses that create jobs. Some studies roll out numbers showing young firms create new jobs at a faster rate than established firms, yet others show young firms are more likely to eliminate jobs more quickly and more often, too. It all depends on who’s crunching the numbers. Either way, we guess that the Boys and Girls Club isn’t going to make much of a dent in the local job market.

That leaves us with the intangibles…those benefits we can’t quite quantify, but we surely need.

We did a super quick survey of Google search results (about 1 page, 10 hits) for the benefits of entrepreneurship. What we found was that individual freedom and personal fulfillment are at the top of the list. Sadly (yet predictably), all but one of the results failed to provide any research-based evidence—this included the website for the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education, which provided an unsupported and lengthy laundry list that was questionably relevant.

The most intriguing result referenced some research with a little bit of rigor behind it. The basic gist of the argument was this: entrepreneurs have “active” jobs as well as higher levels of job control. These factors appear to be linked to positive health consequences.[1]

Perhaps the allure of entrepreneurship is that it represents the autonomy and self-determination we all seek. After all, self-worth and somebodiness is something everyone can get behind.

In the next couple months as we explore the possibility of entrepreneurial programming for the Boys & Girls Club, we will be sure to keep questioning how the nuts and bolts of such a program align with the Clubs’ mission: To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

We will continue to ask if entrepreneurial learning and opportunities can truly provide a sense of self-worth and empowerment, somebodiness, for everyone–not just those with the means and connections to make it big.

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