This post originally appeared in Forbes, written by Erik Rannala.
America recently celebrated Memorial Day to honor military men and women who paid the ultimate price to secure and defend liberty. In a country full of heroes, these are the superheroes.
In response to COVID-19, we’ve seen numerous examples of other types of heroism, including those exhibited by first responders and frontline medical workers. As we move forward from this health crisis and toward reopening society, we’ll need other heroes to step up as well: entrepreneurs.
It sounds almost cliché to say that this country was built by those willing to take risks. But it’s true. To give our economy a jolt and, importantly, to give hope to the millions across the country who have lost jobs in recent months we need risk takers now more than ever.
Even as the unemployment rate dipped in May, the jump from earlier this year remains staggering. All told, over 40 million jobs have been shed since mid-March, more than quadruple the number that occurred during the 2008 financial crisis.
Making matters worse, 42% of those positions may never return, according to the Becker Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago.
What often gets overlooked during times of economic hardship is the depth of the human suffering that takes place. With most focused on everyday issues like families finding a way to pay bills and to keep food on the table, darker problems such as addiction and suicide sometimes get ignored.
But there is ample evidence that these ills become more of a concern when jobs are harder to come by. A University of New Hampshire report, for example, found that drug overdoses are more prevalent in areas with weak economies, while CDC findings show a strong correlation between business cycles and suicide among prime-aged workers.
These tragic figures suggest that job creation and economic vitality are quite literally life savers.
TAKING THE RISK
So, if you’ve always felt compelled to start a business, to make an idea a reality, there is no time like the present.
Becoming an entrepreneur, of course, is not something you should take lightly. Starting – and then running – a successful company is hard, risky work.
Not everyone will have the resources to get started, especially now, whether it’s leaning on a stockpile of personal savings or a network of generous friends and family. Nor will most have access to venture capital or, for that matter, be a good fit for it.
After all, most venture capital firms make relatively few investments each year, hearing thousands of pitches from founders and only making about 10-20 commitments annually.
But the dynamics of the venture capital world are largely beside the point. The biggest issue right now is getting people back to work and reinvigorating the economy. Indeed, you don’t have to build the next Facebook, Google or Apple to make a difference.
At the same time, take heart in the fact that plenty of hugely successful companies were born either during or in the wake of economic calamity. Disney was founded in 1928, a year before The Great Depression. More recently, firms like Airbnb, Square, Uber and Slack were all established during the last financial crisis.
There are countless other examples on a micro level of successful small to medium-sized businesses that were hatched as economic cycles were near trough levels.
BECOMING ECONOMIC HEROES
Yes, many businesses will shut their doors forever due to the fallout from the lockdowns. Even so, the economy will recover. And when that happens, entrepreneurs across every industry will be able to take advantage.
But the time to act is now. Be that leader we need. Help people in cities and towns throughout the country to regain a sense of control and value in their lives.
Every job you create would give someone purpose and hope to provide for themselves and their families – which then helps them gain financial stability, enabling them to experience the dignity that comes with productive work.
Again, this economic recovery will not be easy, nor will starting a company amid ongoing uncertainty. But when we look back on this era years from now, the entrepreneurs who build new businesses and collectively create millions of new American jobs will be considered economic heroes.
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