THE TEN POCKET TOOL KIT: Encouraging Entrepreneurship among People of Color

Article excerpt

Abstract

The central question of this special issue is what can career counselors do to create social justice for those who are currently engaged in unsatisfying, unchallenging low income work, or facing underemployment or unemployment without viable options to improve their economic outlook. Career counselors may find that fostering entrepreneurship is a viable alternative. An investment of a few days to a few weeks could position a career counselor to offer this kind of social advocacy counseling. A step-by-step process for building a 10-pocket tool kit is offered.

In 1885, Sarah S. Goode secured a U.S patent for a cabinet bed, perhaps the precursor to the Murphy beds of today. She was the first AfricanAmerican woman to be recognized for her inventive work, but missed her place in traditional books on the history of American invention. The inventions of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Benjamin Franklin, and many other European American inventors are featured in countless biographies and textbooks, yet people of color have been left out. The names of Sarah S. Goode, Edmond Berger (spark plug, 1939) and Alice Parker (central heating, 1919) are names virtually unspoken in traditional history of science curricula. The irony is that the creativity and entrepreneurialism of thousands of inventors of color - African-American, Latino, Native American, Asian-American, and mixed-race people-have been fundamental to American prosperity over the last two centuries with no known legacy to honor them (Evans, 2004).

This is the tragic story for two reasons: Creativity and invention without recognition; entrepreneurship without funding. Entrepreneurship is one important force from which people of color can build their economic freedom. The good news is that today social and economic justice advocates are fighting for a more equitable future for people of color. Career counselors, often on the front lines of career decision-making, may be among the first individuals in a client's life to recommend entrepreneurship as an option.

Potential entrepreneurs come in many guises. When a client arrives to your counseling center, recently immigrated from Asia, South Asia, Middle East, Central or Latin America, the Caribbean, or Africa, you may be assisting a future entrepreneur. When a high school minority student comes to you looking for meaningful direction, you may be counseling a future entrepreneur. When an African-American, Native American, Latino, or Asian client comes to counseling looking for meaningful work outside the traditional venues, you may be counseling a future entrepreneur. When a client comes to you tired of low wages and living from paycheck to paycheck, you may be counseling a future entrepreneur. The problem is that vocational psychology literature available now offers very little on invention and fostering entrepreneurialism. The purpose of this article is to address this gap in the literature by suggesting how career counselors interested in fostering entrepreneurs of color can build a 10-pocket tool kit for. Career counselors interested in social justice advocacy can develop quickly the knowledge and tools to counsel potential entrepreneurs. The first five steps of self-study involve: a) Building a bookshelf of resources on the history of minority inventors, b) Familiarizing oneself with the psychology of inventing achievement; c) Considering the American "wealth gap" and its consequences for economic freedom; d) Identifying affordable sources of financial capital for people of color; and e) Learning about forums for entrepreneurship training.

The next five steps involve more specific client interventions: f) Encourage clients to brainstorm business ideas; g) Assess clients strengths and entrepreneurial skills; h) Create an individualized client-focused entrepreneurship training plan; i) Teach networking strategies, and j) Facilitate client involvement in the world of entrepreneurship.

This article challenges career counselors to make an upfront investment of a few days to a few weeks of self-study to build this toolkit of entrepreneurial resources [Steps 1-5]. …