In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama noted one of the core principles supporting the American journey: the idea that anyone can create something that can transform life as we know it. A week later, the administration announced the StartUP America Partnership, an alliance of corporations, foundations, universities, and thought leaders that will join with a number of federal agencies to spark innovation by investing in entrepreneurship.
With nearly 45 million Americans living in poverty, can a public initiative designed to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit really help to elevate these individuals and heal their communities? If some of the investment is clearly committed to helping low-wealth individuals, the answer is Yes.
The concept of social entrepreneurship is not new, nor is the idea that supporting social enterprises can help address poverty. But the vast majority of investments in social enterprises designed to ameliorate poverty occur overseas.
The Hitachi Foundation launched the Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs Program in 2010 to focus on this domestic gap. We now have six vibrant examples of entrepreneurs—all younger than 30 when they started their businesses—committed to making a living and making a difference. One entrepreneur is helping low-wealth agricultural and forestry communities across the United States through “cleantech” and soil enhancement. Two other entrepreneurs operate a kitchen incubator for low-wealth, immigrant food entrepreneurs in the Bay Area.
The application for the 2011 program is now open and will remain so until March 14. Chosen entrepreneurs will receive $40,000 over two years and have access to technical assistance resources. For more information on eligibility, please visit our website.
Help us support young entrepreneurs committed to addressing poverty in the United States by sharing this post. Together, we can continue to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit.
Barbara Dyer is executive director of the Hitachi Foundation