Say someone gives you $500 toward your new business. What would you do? What if you were given $50,000 instead? What about $5 million?
When Wayne Williams gives this challenge to participants in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program at the Community College of Philadelphia, “they often get less creative the more money you offer them.”
Constraint makes us more innovative, which is exactly what you need to be when you’re starting a small business, he said, but too many people use constraint as an excuse to never try to build a business around that idea they had. The Philadelphia region, like much of the country, is silly with post-recession startup fever, but the gold rush is benefiting residents unevenly.
As part of a national pilot program from the philanthropic arm of Goldman Sachs, CCP and Williams are trying to make it easier for Philadelphians not yet bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, including mid-career professionals and those under-employed or in low-income or lesser educated communities.
Williams spoke about early progress of the program on a panel about entrepreneurship’s impact on the region’s future as part of the annual Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange program from the Economy League held Friday at WHYY in Old City. Full disclosure, this reporter moderated the panel.
To widen the net of those positively impacted by the region’s innovation entrepreneurship boom, we need to embrace that path and the failure that can come with it, added Lucinda Duncalfe, the serial entrepreneur currently working on Real Food Works.
“If your high school kid wants to work for a startup, right now you’d probably say, ‘no way,” she said to a crowd of more than 120. “We need to change your mind to want to say ‘yes.”
This is vital because the pathway to go from school to career is gone, said SeventySix Capital’s Wayne Kimmel. Entrepreneurship should be a bedrock of education to help young people find their future work, and he’s launching a venture to do just that, though he said the idea wasn’t ready for wider discussion.
Some of this is already happening, said Campus Philly Executive Director Deborah Diamond from the audience, during a Q&A period. She pointed to a recent College Entrepreneurs event that she said did two big things for the 100 or so young people in attendance: showed the accessibility to leadership in Philadelphia and conveyed that there is an off-campus community worth being a part of.
But let’s not convince everyone to start their own thing, as entrepreneurship takes a special kind of person, said Duncalfe: passion, drive, commitment, responsibility and an understanding that, as a boss, the work day never ends.
“You don’t make any money at this unless you’re really lucky at end,” she said. “But with more good businesses, there are more jobs, more opportunities. Everyone can benefit from more creativity, but not everyone should be doing this.”
The exchange was a two-day event that featured discussions and speakers on the future of the region’s economy, including a keynote by Drexel president John Fry.