The Young Entrepreneur Council today kicked off a national initiative to steer politicians' attention toward policies and programs that YEC and its partners say would encourage and enable more entrepreneurship among young people and tackle "an epidemic of youth unemployment and underemployment."
YEC's ambitious and energetic founder Scott Gerber, a 27-year-old self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur, says his organization's #FixYoungAmerica movement will feature a social media campaign, nationwide events, and the publication of a compilation of essays on entrepreneurship written by the country's "brightest intellectuals, nonprofit founders, philanthropists, educators, politicians, and entrepreneurs."
He says the goal is to create a "positive conversation" about how to build solutions for young entrepreneurs. "Whenever you hear about youth unemployment, it's always in the negative. We're the 'lost generation'," Gerber says. He'd prefer to focus on what's working and legislate from that perspective.
Just what is working? Gerber points to crowdfunding—an increasingly popular method of raising financial support from donors online that YEC is employing to fund its campaign—and entrepreneurship education. He also says ideas such as using unemployment insurance income to start a business and forgiving student loan debt for entrepreneurs who create jobs have potential to spur growth.
To promote the support of those practices through legislation, YEC has partnered with the Washington-based Young Invincibles to lobby for the Youth Entrepreneurship Act. The bill would, among other things, legislate new incentives for entrepreneurship education at the secondary and post-secondary level; create a federal student loan deferment, reduction, and forgiveness program for young people who start businesses; and restructure the Small Business Administration's microloan program to double the capital available to 18 - 34-year-old entrepreneurs and target loan programs to young people without college degrees and in communities of color.
Gerber says the #FixYoungAmerica campaign will pressure politicians—"from the President to Congressional leaders to the current GOP candidates"—to meet with his group. "In the age of the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and the Tea Party, people are frustrated," Gerber says. "This campaign is not the be-all, end-all blueprint, but this is a beginning to answer the questions posed in the protests. If we can take all that anger, frustration, and unity, to show we can further our debates and causes …we really can make this country great again regardless of presidential politics."
Learn more about the campaign on YouTube.