If you weren’t able to tune in to President Obama’s speech on emerging global entrepreneurship this past Monday, you really missed out on a beneficial bit of television. I know C-SPAN isn’t exactly known for their awe-inspiring content, but this was worth the watch.
While his speech only lasted about 15 minutes, there were more takeaways than most of the lectures I attended at school. On top of learning that the president thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Bob Marley’s house in Jamaica—further cementing his “bro” status into the analogs of this country—he set the stage for an entrepreneurial initiative that could bring prosperity to hundreds of millions of people around the world.
That Single Spark
“To all the young entrepreneurs out here: you are the face of change. You have the power to drive creative solutions to our pressing challenges.”
This closing remark by the president pretty much says it all. From the time that he stepped into office, President Obama has made it very clear that fostering and inspiring entrepreneurship is a major goal for himself and his administration. His newest initiative is the Spark Global Entrepreneurship coalition. Launched last November, SPARK aims to create common goals across public, private and non-profit sector efforts to advance entrepreneurship around the world. It is part of the government’s goal of generating $1 billion of new investment for emerging entrepreneurs worldwide by 2017.
SPARK is a platform that brings together the world’s leading entrepreneurship organizations, programs and marketing professionals to collaborate and maximize their impact on a global scale.
As the President put it, “At a time when we’re still working to sustain the global economic recovery and put people back to work, helping folks to start new business can spur broad base growth here at home and around the world.”
The Focus: Women and Youth
The empowerment of women and young entrepreneurs has become a primary objective of the United States’ entrepreneurial efforts. Programs like the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, Women Entrepreneurship in the Americas and the President’s young leader initiatives in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas, have hammered down the focus of this campaign.
After addressing that more than half the world’s population is under the age of 30, the President added that, “When so many young people don’t see a future for themselves, if they don’t see a path to success, it holds the entire nation back. It’s a recipe for instability, and conflict, and violence.”
I think we can agree that this is something we’re already beginning to see both at home and abroad. Think of how things would be different if the youth population still saw an opportunity for success at the end of the tunnel. Imagine if all that energy could be directed at something more constructive in those communities around the world.
Take Jimena Flórez of Bogota, Colombia, one of the young entrepreneurs who participated in the event. Jimena founded her company, Crispy Fruits, in 2012. The purpose of Crispy Fruits is to work with Colombian farmers to design and develop new healthy products to provide consumers with a nutritious and balanced diet.
Crispy Fruits, whose mission is to produce higher quality crops that can compete in the global market, was formed entirely by women entrepreneurs. It was through the President’s programs that Jimena was able to receive mentorship and access to the necessary capital to make her endeavor possible.
As part of his speech, President Obama issued a call to action to companies, organizations and individuals across the globe: make a commitment to the cause, whether it’s in the form of a financial investment, mentorship, educational efforts or networking opportunities. This major push is already being realized in the practices of some of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE).
One ambassador, Brian Chesky, Co-Founder & CEO of Airbnb, will use his skills to help the people of Cuba “navigate new business opportunities as their economy opens up to greater Internet connectivity and modern payment systems.”
Another, Julie Hanna, Executive Chair of the Board at Kiva, will begin a project that “commits to delivering $100 million in crowd-funded loans to 200,000 women and young entrepreneurs across 86 different countries.”
When it comes to entrepreneurship, I’ve found that people lie on two opposite ends of the spectrum: There are those who are very entrepreneurially-minded and others who have never once considered starting their own business.
Regardless of which side you fall on, the spirit and power of entrepreneurship is something that is centric to success in not only this country, but in countries around the world.
The idea of “entrepreneurship” has evolved. It no longer means having to be a Mark Cuban (which would still be cool). However, it does mean that innovative thinking is the only fuel for progress. We need to embark on daunting missions and think of businesses and programs that will not only increase our revenue stream, but will better our way of life.
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