Evening Entrepreneurs

If you’re worried about whether there is any entrepreneurial spirit left in America, relax!  Last night we paid a visit to the Moonlight Market on Gay Street in downtown Columbus, and we can faithfully report that the entrepreneurial spirit in Cbus is alive and most definitely kicking.

The Moonlight Market is held once a month on the two blocks of Gay Street between High Street and Fourth.  Vendors set up tents on each side of the street — including on the sidewalk directly in front of the firm — and sell all manner of products, from artwork to baked goods and other foods to used books to plants to clothing to massages.  Unlike some street markets, all of the participants in the Moonlight Market seem to be individuals who are pursuing their passions through their small businesses and trying to make a few bucks in the process.  Without exception, the vendors are friendly, outgoing, and excited about what they are selling, and their enthusiasm is infectious.  You can’t help but pull for these people, and also support them with your wallets.  We bought some colorful artwork and some tasty baked goods from some very appreciative sellers.

Capitalism has its good points and its bad points, and some of the good points were on display last night on Gay Street.  Dozens of people were out in their tents on a very warm Saturday evening hoping to sell their handmade or hand-raised goods — even crocheted scarves and clothing that wasn’t exactly suited to the weather.  They all have stories to tell, like the young woman nicknamed Suga Pie who has a talent for cupcakes and has been working on selling them for eight years.  She’s recently created her own website and is working on her brand.  Her pineapple upside-down cupcakes are delicious, by the way.

Go get ’em, Suga Pie, and the rest of the Moonlight Market crew!  You are what makes our economy tick.  And if you want to see a little small business entrepreneurialism in the flesh, you can catch the next Moonlight Market on August 10.

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JT’s Grand Reopening

If you’re in the Columbus area today, you should stop by and join us at the grand reopening celebration at JT’s Pizza & Pub.

The work to reconfigure the place into something with more of a sports/brew pub atmosphere has been completed, and today the new business officially reopens with food and drink specials.

The drink specials include $1.50 for bottles of domestic beer and $3.00 for bottles of craft beers, $3.00 craft beer drafts,  $2.00 well drinks, and $3.00 for selected specialty shots.  The food specials include $10.00 for large 1 topping pizzas — and I can attest from personal experience that the pizzas are great — and half price appetizers.  There also will be some prize giveaways during the day.

JT’s would be a good place to grab a brew, enjoy some grub, and watch the excellent sheet of college football games today that culminates in the Buckeyes’ game tonight against Minnesota.  In doing so, you not only would be getting some good chow in a fun and festive atmosphere, you’d also be supporting a locally owned business run by an young entrepreneur — who also happens to be my nephew.  We all should be interested in supporting the jobs creators in our communities!

JT’s is located at 390 W. Dublin Granville Road, and the grand reopening runs from 2 p.m. until midnight.  We’ll probably be there this afternoon.  Hope to see you there!

Silicon Valley On The Scioto

I ran across this interesting article about a Silicon Valley venture capital stud who has relocated to Columbus, Ohio.  His company, Drive Capital, decided to move to our fair city, and he and his wife and kids came along from San Francisco to be part of the fun.

IMG_2108The article is worth a look because it gives a West Coaster’s view of what the Midwest has to offer from a business standpoint, and it is a generally positive take.  Often those of us who live in a place, particularly long-term, tend to focus on the difficulties, the challenges, and the negatives.  Andy Jenks, the author of the article, sees the Midwest from a different perspective and with a different set of eyes, and he sees . . . opportunity.  Lots of opportunity, in fact, and lots of interesting, well-managed companies that are positioned for growth.

Silicon Valley is an amazing place because of the amount of wealth located there, but also because the culture of investment and risk-acceptance and receptiveness to new ideas makes it an especially fertile place to start a business and work to make it grow.  But in the Midwest, Mr. Jenks has found that many businesses have a more practical focus.  Rather than worrying about raising the next pot of venture capital cash, they are focused on the nuts and bolts of their businesses and the services or products it offers.  And the article notes some of the challenges, too — Mr. Jenks has found that the notion that our friends on the coasts view Ohio and its neighbors as “flyover states” has some truth to it.

It’s nice to know that some venture capitalists are moving into the Heartland to help our entrepreneurs, and it’s equally nice to see that they recognize the opportunities that can be found here.  If we want to make our American economy really grow again, we’re going to have to take advantage of the opportunities found throughout the country — flyover areas included.  If the moneyed interests are looking for investment options in Columbus and similar cities, that’s a very hopeful long-term sign.

When Entrepreneurialism Falters

A new study by the Brookings Institution suggests that there is a disturbing trend in the U.S. economy — one that involves less entrepreneurial spirit, less risk-taking, and the declining creation of new businesses.

The study looked at the rates of business creation and destruction in the U.S. from 1978 to 2011.  It shows a persistent national decline in the percentage of new businesses in the economy.  Moreover, during the 2008-2011 time period the percentage of failing businesses exceeded the number of new businesses being created for the first time.

These findings help to explain the poor employment statistics in America in recent years.  The number of people aren’t even trying to find work has grown to more than 92 million Americans, and job growth isn’t keeping pace with population growth.  A decline in entrepreneurialism would help to explain these very troubling trends.  New businesses not only create new jobs, the creation of new businesses often follows a recession, as some Americans who have lost their jobs look at their options and decide to go into business for themselves. They employ themselves, and in the process they employ others, too.  That apparently isn’t  happening as frequently now.  Why not?

The Brookings Institution study says the reasons for the decline in new business creation are “unknown.”  We can draw inferences about the causes, however, by looking at the common characteristics of entrepreneurs.  They tend to be dreamers and risk-takers.  They are willing to work hard and to put their own money into their new ventures.  They believe in themselves, in their products and services, and in their ability to succeed in our capitalist economy.  Scratch an entrepreneur, and you’ll likely find an optimist.

From this armchair analysis, I’d speculate that the decline in new business creation means that fewer people are optimistic about the future, or that fewer people have confidence in themselves and their ability to succeed on their own, or that more people are comfortable with their current circumstances and are more interested in holding on to what they’ve already got than in risking it on a new business that will involve hard work and potential failure — or a combination of those factors.  If any of these potential causes turns out to be the truth, it doesn’t paint an encouraging picture of our future.