Are you more likely to start a small business if you know other entrepreneurs? According to a recent Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation survey, the answer is yes—and that’s good news for our nation’s economy. The study, Getting the Bug: Is (Growth) Entrepreneurship Contagious?, polled 2,000 Americans nationwide to ask whether they knew any business owners (and, more specifically, “growth” entrepreneurs) and whether they were also business owners.
The study found that more than one-third (36.7 percent) of respondents knew an entrepreneur, but just 15.4 percent knew a growth entrepreneur. Men were more likely than women to know growth entrepreneurs (24.8 percent vs. 12.1 percent). People with lower incomes (below $24,999 annually) were more likely to know entrepreneurs in general (48.1 percent) but less likely to know growth entrepreneurs (13.8 percent). In contrast, 26.7 percent of higher-income respondents knew a growth entrepreneur.
Overall, the study found, those who know entrepreneurs are more likely to own businesses themselves. Nearly 40 percent of respondents who knew a growth entrepreneur were entrepreneurs themselves, as were 35.5 percent of those who knew entrepreneurs overall.
The study’s goal was to see whether entrepreneurship is an “imitative behavior,” and its findings seem to suggest that it is. That means exposing more people to entrepreneurship could have significant effects on increasing the number of business startups and of growth businesses in particular.
This study’s findings don’t surprise me one bit. Coming from a family of business owners had a huge effect on me—even though I didn’t start my business until later in life, I have been writing about and working with entrepreneurs for most of my adult career. It only makes sense that those who are aware of entrepreneurship as a career path would be more likely to follow it.
These findings have big implications for how small business owners can help others start and grow their businesses. Simply by talking about your business and what you do, you could inspire someone to start a business of their own. The effect can be even bigger when you’re dealing with young people or people who aren’t exposed to growth entrepreneurs in the course of their daily lives. What else can you do to help? Here are some ideas:
As small business owners we know it takes the effort of many people to help our businesses grow. By helping encourage others to follow the path of entrepreneurship, we can give back a little of what was given to us.
Speaking of encouragement, SCORE mentors are among the best examples I know of those who help small business grow. Don’t have a mentor? Visit www.score.org to learn more and get matched with one.