Poll: Gen Y loves entrepreneurship, needs help

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My MoneyWatch colleague Steve Tobak may feel that Gen Y entrepreneurship will be a disaster, but apparently young people aren't heeding his warnings. A new survey has found an astonishing number of them are hoping to start their own businesses one day.

To gauge young people's thoughts on the economy and entrepreneurship, Young Invincibles, together with Lake Research Partners, Bellwether Research and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, called up 872 millennials aged 18-34 to ask about their views.

The results are clear -- this group is keen for entrepreneurship: 54 percent either want to start a business or already have started one.

The numbers were even higher for minority young people, with 64 percent of Latinos and 63 percent of African-Americans declaring their interest in starting a business. Women were slightly less excited about the prospect of becoming entrepreneurs -- 44 percent want to start a business -- perhaps because of the perception that start up culture makes it hard to combine entrepreneurship with family life.

Just because so many young people want to try their hand at entrepreneurship doesn't mean they feel they have the tools to make these dreams reality though. The economy is an obvious drag, with 38 percent of respondents saying they have delayed starting a business because of the gloomy outlook and just 11 percent reporting they plan to start their business within the next year. But the poll also indicated other barriers to entrepreneurship, including:

-- The inability to access capital needed to get a business going

-- Lack of knowledge needed to run a small business

-- Concerns with overcoming current debt burdens

-- Few mentors from whom young people can learn

Young people strongly feel that the government could do something to eliminate some of their stumbling blocks:

-- 65 percent say making it easier to start a business should be a priority for Congress and 41 percent saying it should be a top priority

-- 83 percent believe that Congress should increase the availability of startup loans

-- 92 percent support increased access to the education and training needed to run a small business

-- 81 percent support student loan relief for Millennials who start companies.

With the traditional job market still limping along and young people particularly struggling to get their careers off the ground, their interest in entrepreneurship makes sense. But with the government less than awash in cash and the need to balance the interests of so many different constituencies, it's unclear whether they'll get much help from Washington anytime soon.

Several private initiatives have sprung up to support the dreams of would-be Gen Y entrepreneurs, however, including the Young Entrepreneur Council's Gen Y Fund, Venture for America andPeter Thiel's "20 Under 20."

  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.

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