The greatest gift

Written by Ian Portsmouth

When Christmas comes, many of us reflect on the richness of our lives and how we might improve the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves. Call me Scrooge, but we should be thinking about entrepreneurship, too.

Why? Because entrepreneurship is the greatest gift you can give a young person.

Entrepreneurs have the power to force social change. Entrepreneurship is also about giving people meaningful work and developing their human potential. And it lets you expand your horizons on your own terms. These are the benefits that make entrepreneurship such a wonderful vocation; the cash, cars and cottages are merely perks of the job.

A lot of hyper-entrepreneurial youth are already out there. Hundreds of them gather each May for the Student Entrepreneur of the Year competition conducted by ACE, which stands for Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship (how’s that for a mission statement?). These college and university students run substantial businesses between classes and, given the power of today’s PDAs, maybe even from their classes. Last month, I spoke at the Impact Conference, attended by more than 300 student entrepreneurs who had come from across Canada to celebrate their most successful peers and develop their management skills.

The young adults at these events are all smart, polished and ambitious. Another common thread: a disproportionate number of them come from families of entrepreneurs. Take, for instance, Kunal Gupta, a third-year software engineering student who founded Impact at the ripe age of 19; today he leads a 30-person team dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship on campuses across Canada. Kunal is surrounded by entrepreneurial relatives such as his cousins Anuj and Neeraj Jain, who run Avnan Electro, a three-time PROFIT 100 winner; Kunal’s dad is a senior and highly entrepreneurial executive within a Canadian branch of Tata, a massive conglomerate that permeates life in India more than General Electric does in North America. Given their presence during Kunal’s upbringing, it’s easy to see why he opted for a life of entrepreneurship.

But for each of these future self-made stars are a dozen kids who will never take this road less travelled. Some believe they’re not up to the task, many have insufficient knowledge of what’s involved in building a business, and still others simply think that running a business is a dishonest profession—an unfortunate perception reinforced by a mass media obsessed with corporate scandal.

So, come Christmas, think about giving the greatest gift by telling your nieces and nephews what you do for a living and why you love it, mentoring a budding young entrepreneur or sharing your story with a business class at the local high school. It’s one gift that will keep on giving.

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