The Transformational Impact of Missouri’s Millennials

By Alyssa Brown, SBDC Intern & College-aged Business Owner

Hollywood and popular culture have created the myth of the college-aged entrepreneur with movies like The Social Network and the buzz around young, successful CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg.

As usual, Hollywood’s representation is inaccurate and Zuckerberg is an outlier in a group more likely to be in their forties than in a college dorm. First Round Capital’s annual survey, The State of Startups, indicates that less than three percent of startup businesses in 2018 were owned by individuals under the age of 26.

However, the number of entrepreneurship courses offered at colleges around the country, and in Missouri, has been increasing since the early 2000s. This trend may indicate legislative and collegiate efforts to boost the number of young entrepreneurs or future business owners.

The majority of these undergraduates fall into the generation classified as millennials. This cohort is often viewed as a group that could change the country because of their numbers. They made up a quarter of the United States’ population in 2015, according to Census Bureau data, and now make up a third of the country’s workforce.

So, how does the idea of millennial college students interested in entrepreneurship transform the state of Missouri?

Research from the Missouri 2030 strategic initiative shows that Missouri is facing difficulties with its workforce. As baby boomers retire, the state is becoming heavily dependent on its younger residents, including the millennials and their successors, Generation Z.

However, these generations are leaving Missouri for other opportunities. This phenomenon is called “brain drain.” It is characterized by the flight of educated professionals to other locations in search of jobs with bigger pay and better benefits. Its effect on Missouri’s economy has been detrimental.

The City of St. Louis alone lost more than $3 million in resident income from brain drain between 2001 and 2010, according to the IRS. And Missouri 2030 research indicates that this trend has created a need for skilled employees in Missouri businesses.

So, the transformational aspect of the millennials and Generation Z can be summed up in a cheesy and overused cliché: they are the future of Missouri.

Encouraging these age groups to become entrepreneurs later in life, or even during their college years, gives them an incentive to stay within the state after they receive a degree. Investing in these young entrepreneurs now can help stem the flow of brain drain and create new growth opportunities for the state.

A potential solution for the issues of brain drain and an unskilled workforce is now being offered through the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Missouri Intern Connect was launched by the Missouri Chamber in 2019 and allows students to search and apply for internships throughout Missouri.

The goal of this free-to-use website is to create strong connections between current business owners and students, providing them with chances to learn the skills that employers are in need of while presenting them with potential jobs after graduation.

The Missouri Chamber’s partnership with the Missouri Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) has created a way for the centers to direct small business owners to Missouri Intern Connect. This allows businesses to find new talent while creating opportunities for students who attend the universities where many of the SBDC centers are located.

This program is just one way to invest in younger generations and Missouri’s future. Providing stability and growth for the state in the coming years will mean finding creative solutions, like Missouri Intern Connect. Looking to our college-age residents as prospective entrepreneurs and investing in them now will prove essential to Missouri and the challenges the state faces.

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