Entrepreneurs put ideas into action

With this twice-monthly column, we’re hoping to spark a community-wide conversation about entrepreneurship.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll talk about topics related to entrepreneurship and overcoming some of the obstacles that come with starting your own business, running your company or identifying new opportunities. We hope that you’ll send us your questions, observations and stories about your experiences as an entrepreneur.

But first, let us introduce ourselves:

My name is Pat Sisneros. I’m the dean of Everett Community College’s Business and Applied Technology Division. I have been at the college for 10 years, first as a business instructor and now as an administrator. I recently sold a franchised restaurant business after 15 years in that industry. During that time, I learned a lot about managing teenage employees, operating a franchised business, working with my family and understanding how to compete with other businesses offering similar products.

And I’m Lynne Munoz. I’m director of the School of Business Design, which is Everett Community College’s entrepreneurship program. I have been teaching and mentoring business students for more than 20 years. I strive to inspire students to think about designing their futures — taking their current talents and skills and encouraging them to build on those. I want students of all ages to think about their education and how to create a unique life that is filled with success, excitement and their personal vision of success, whether that means working for themselves or becoming a valued employee who is innovative and creative.

So let’s get the conversation started by starting with some background information.

We all know how important small businesses are to our community. But did you know that small businesses have enabled millions of people, including women and minorities, to access the American dream? More than 23 million small businesses make up 99 percent of the nation’s employers, create approximately 70 percent of the new jobs and contribute more than half of the private sector GDP output. Unfortunately, business survival rates are low, with the majority of small businesses failing after the first few years of launching.

These statistics obviously indicate the need to do a better job of supporting small-business owners in our community, because these businesses are the growth engine of our economy. A newly released economic report from the regional think-tank Prosperity Partnerships has ranked Washington state near the top in the nation for starting new businesses, but almost last in terms of keeping those businesses open. The lack of access to capital, resources and markets stagnates small businesses, and the lack of effective training programs stifles many entrepreneurs.

Additionally, relatively few students are exposed to entrepreneurial experiences or business education during their K-through-12 years. As a result, not enough students are graduating with the technical, analytical and creative skills required to successfully compete in a changing marketplace. An entrepreneurial education helps students develop the confidence to start their own ventures, and gives them the expertise to be valuable employees.

We’re interested in revamping entrepreneurship education to foster a robust entrepreneurial culture to support enterprising students and existing small businesses in Snohomish County. We would suggest that successful businesses in the future will be increasingly determined by the creativity and innovation behind their product or service.

What do you think about the need for entrepreneurial education in general and how to foster creativity and innovation? Please e-mail us your thoughts at entrepreneurship@everettcc.edu

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