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Last week, the White House welcomed 150 young entrepreneurs and business owners from all around the country for Our Time’s “Buy Young” Initiative. These young leaders, who came from businesses like Wordpress, Gilt Group,Invite Media, and Living Social, shared their stories of innovation and entrepreneurship with the administration. The conversation was also broadcast live through Whitehouse.gov/live and facebook/whitehouse.
Job creation is crucial to our economic recovery and is the number one priority of the Obama administration. This event allowed young business leaders, who are responsible for the creation of over 7,000 jobs, to share their feedback with the administration about a wide variety of issues including job creation, small business, and youth employment. After a conversation with all the young business owners and administration officials, participants spoke (and the Administration listened) in breakout sessions with the Small Business Administration, the White House Business Council, the White House Council of Economic Advisors and the White House Office of Public Engagement to discuss their ideas. In these smaller sessions, they gave the administration feedback about projects they are working on and on how the government can better encourage entrepreneurship.
There was no shortage of great stories of how these brilliant young CEOs started their businesses: Amelia and her wife Erika from the locally-sourced and sustainable butcher shop “Lindy and Grundy” in California asked how they could connect with the USDA and also shared stories about how they created a locally-sourced business that features an apprenticeship program designed to grow along with their business. Hezekiah Griggs III joined us; Hezekiah mentors young entrepreneurs, and formed a public-private partnership with the Rutgers Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development. Matt Mullenweg, who started Word Press also joined. Not only does Word Press power more than 50 million websites, but Matt also advises and invests in over 20 young start-ups.
During one particular breakout session, we heard from Nick Kenner and Rob Crespi, two young entrepreneurs from New York. In May 2006, they took out an SBA loan to buy the equipment they needed to open up their first Just Salad restaurant in New York City. Today, thanks to the support they received from the SBA and their own hard work, they have opened 11 stores and employ over 300 people. Just Salad has become one of the leading small businesses promoting healthy and sustainable lifestyles in the New York region.
Our Time’s Buy Young Initiative allows consumers to find and support young entrepreneurs like Nick and Rob. These sorts of small businesses remain a major driver of American employment, and throughout the country young entrepreneurs are rebuilding our economy with these innovative ideas, environmentally friendly products, and groundbreaking business strategies. We continue to see that young people’s businesses are not simply the ideas of the future.