Entrepreneurs are universally acknowledged as so valuable to an area’s economy that there was a push in 2013 to get Congress to officially designate the third Tuesday of November as National Entrepreneurs’ Day.

The authors of the resolution make a strong case for nationally recognizing and fostering this economic activity.

“Whereas more than half-a-million new businesses are created in the United States every month and small business openings have accounted for 40 percent of new jobs in the last two decades,” the resolution stated. “Entrepreneurial literacy skills serve as one of the 21st-century content areas critical to success in communities and workplaces. More than 70 percent of young Americans envision starting a business or doing something entrepreneurial as adults.”

In Arizona, the Chamber and our other partners provide one-stop shop assistance and guidance to both existing and new businesses through our Phoenix Forward collaborative economic development initiative.

In official recognition of this as-yet unofficial holiday, we recognize some of our own Chamber members that are rising to the occasion, creating jobs and finding success.

For Wes Harrington, CEO of Scottsdale-based Bed DRS, properly managing his bed-selling business’ cash flow and ensuring he has the beds consumers want are of paramount importance to his success.

Now that he’s been in business for a while, his advice to any new entrepreneurs is to plan to spend more money than you anticipate and to stay on course. “It takes twice as much money as you originally project,” he said. “Stick to your vision and have the tenacity to move forward – never give up.”

Entrepreneurs who operate small businesses are vital to the Arizona economy. They employ half of all private sector employees, generated 65 percent of net new jobs during the past 17 years and create more than half of the non-farming private GDP, he said.

Sidnee Peck is using her successful, real-world entrepreneurship experience to mold future business owners at the Center for Entrepreneurship at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, where she serves as director.

Her collaborative teaching program focuses squarely on encouraging students to go out and try to become entrepreneurs. ASU and several partners support students’ efforts through mentoring, networks and funding – the Center alone awarded $115,000 to students last year.

“There is a groundswell of support from Arizona-based entrepreneurs, investors, municipalities, universities, and others who are coming together to make great things happen through the right support,” she said.

Peck’s advice to would-be entrepreneurs comes from a holistic point-of-view. She emphasizes hiring a diverse workforce, talking to customers and minding health, as it is very easy to run your brain and body into the ground while trying to get a business going.

And lastly, she stresses, be prepared!

“Everything will take longer, be harder, and cost more than you plan for,” she said. “So just know that going in.”

Cynthia Wrasman, owner and “chief catalyst” of her own management consulting business, Kefi Catalyst, provides opportunities for the c-level executives who are her clients to meet and interact face-to-face, which she says are increasingly important in today’s technology-driven workforce.

One of her keys to entrepreneurial success is networking and relationship building, which “is essential for building a strong brand, acquiring new business and obtaining referrals to new prospects and clients.”

She sees small businesses as the backbone of sustaining and growing the Arizona economy.

“I love growing my business in metro Phoenix because it is one of the biggest small towns in the United States,” she said. “Business owners and leaders are more open to both make connections and take time to help each other.”

Pearl Chang Esau isn’t an entrepreneur in the strictest sense – she didn’t start her own business – but she did leave a predictable and stable career in the private sector to become the inaugural president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, which she helped transition from a collaborative community partnership into a non-profit organization.

She is driven by her passion to help kids and serve her community. Her method for gathering support for EMA, which is dedicated to improving the state’s education system, is to show Arizonans that the education system matters to them personally.

“There are still a lot of people in Arizona who don’t always see that connection between education and everyone’s quality of life,” the 2014 ATHENA Young Professional Award recipient said. “We need more Arizonans to raise their voices and vote to support education.”

As a leader in the state’s education community, Esau says cultivating passion and finding purpose are keys to success as an entrepreneur. “Being driven by a purpose helps you to be a trailblazer because it encourages you to take risks and make sacrifices,” she said. “I also think it’s important to surround yourself with people who support you and who give you the space to ‘fail forward.’”

-written by Josh Coddington, marketing and communications manager.

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