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How Two Upstarts Sold Obama on National Entrepreneurs' Day

On Monday, President Obama issued a proclamation to create a National Entrepreneurs' Day on November 19, which falls during Global Entrepreneurship Week (Nov.15-21). The proclamation is due, at least in part, to an aggressive social media campaign started last spring by two young entrepreneurs. David Hauser and Siamak Taghaddos run Grasshopper Group, which sells virtual phone systems and other services to entrepreneurs, and they felt strongly that "the only people who are going to turn around the economy and really create jobs are entrepreneurs," says Taghaddos. So in May, they started a Twitter petition to convince the president (@BarackObama) to create a National Entrepreneurs' Day. The folks at the Kauffman Foundation heard about the campaign, jumped on board, and leveraged their considerable clout in Washington.

It's the "first ever Twitter petition to the first president on Twitter," says Jonathan Kay, Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper. "We got so much buzz and excitement around what we were doing." The petition gained traction with signatures from heavy hitters like Babson president Len Schlesinger, Jason Fried of 37Signals, Matt Mullenweg at WordPress, and Peter Shankman at HARO. The hard work paid off, and late Monday night, President Obama signed the proclamation. So here it is folks, direct from your president:

"NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 14 through November 20, 2010, as National Entrepreneurship Week. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this week with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 19, 2010, as National Entrepreneurs' Day."

What next? I like the suggestions from the Grasshopper team:

  • Thank. If you know an entrepreneur, thank them for the ways in which they've made an impact on our economy thus far; the simple act of giving thanks can strengthen a connection or start a new one. If you're an entrepreneur yourself, thank the individuals who brought you to where you are today. This is what National Entrepreneurs' Day is all about.
  • Mentor. Perhaps there was someone who urged you to start your first business or helped you bring your first big idea to life; if so, they've played a part in making you the entrepreneur you are today. Return the favor and find an entrepreneur you can mentor through thick and thin.
  • Give. Kiva is an organization that promotes micro lending to alleviate poverty around the world. With corporate and institutional partners from Google to Ashoka, you can feel confident that your donation is going to reach a deserving entrepreneur somewhere in the world, and that, in turn, your donation will serve as a catalyst for change (if you doubt this, might I remind you that anything is possible?).
  • Pay it forward. You can help support fellow entrepreneurs by paying it forward with products, services, and/or your time. What's easy for you may not be easy for another aspiring entrepreneur. Remember: a little help can go a long way.
What about you? How will you celebrate National Entrepreneurs' Day on Friday?

Barack Obama picture courtesy Flickr user Stefrich823. CC 2.0

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