Investigating the Entrepreneurial Attitudes of African Americans: A Study of Young Adults

By Gibson, Shanan G.; Harris, Michael L. et al. | Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, April 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Investigating the Entrepreneurial Attitudes of African Americans: A Study of Young Adults


Gibson, Shanan G., Harris, Michael L., Walker, Patrick D., McDowell, William C., Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship


Introduction

As noted in multiple reports from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), entrepreneurs often pursue business ownership based on either opportunity recognition or financial necessity due to the lack of economic alternatives. Consistent with this finding, research indicates that minorities are seeking out more entrepreneurial opportunities as a way to overcome the frustration and discontent associated with the lack of advancement opportunities in their current organizations (Heilman & Chen, 2003; Weiler & Bernasek, 2001). While these numbers indicate that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, research indicates that many individuals have high levels of entrepreneurial potential that is never acted upon (Kent, 1990). In fact, the Kaufman Foundation indicates that minority entrepreneurs are a largely untapped resource in the economy of the United States. Of special concern is the degree to which African Americans may experience barriers that limit their potential in the entrepreneurial sector.

Before addressing potential obstacles historically faced by African Americans in regards to business ownership, it is first important to understand the significance of entrepreneurship for minority groups. As suggested by Acs, Tarpley and Phillips (1998), a primary contribution of entrepreneurship for minorities is the opportunity it creates to enter the economic and social mainstream of American society. Similarly, past research has argued that the health and growth of African American-owned small businesses often serves as a strong barometer for the overall progress made by minorities in the U.S. (Feldman, Koberg & Dean, 1991; Thompson, 1999).

The passage of the Small Business Act has positively impacted the number of minorities who have considered entrepreneurship as a viable career choice. The Act enhances the use of entrepreneurial training to grow the capacity and skills of potential small business owners (Martin, Wech, Sandefur & Pan, 2006). As a result of the governmental and educational initiatives, the number of opportunities for minorities to receive training and education for small business development has substantially increased over the past few decades.

Between 1997 and 2002, minority-owned companies increased in number, annual gross receipts, and paid employees at a rate faster than non-minority firms. According to a report from the Minority Business Development Agency (2006), these businesses represented almost 18% of classifiable firms, employed 9% of all paid employees, and grossed 8% of all annual gross receipts ($668 billion) in 2002. More recent research indicates that there are approximately one million African American owned businesses in the U.S., accounting for over $100 billion in annual sales (African American Entrepreneurs, 2009). Additional evidence also indicates that minority entrepreneurship has steadily increased during the past decade, with estimations that currently 30% of small businesses in the U.S. are owned by women or minorities (Bergman, 2006).

Little research has empirically examined the entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions of African Americans, particularly young adults. In fact, despite their increased involvement in business ownership, research indicates that minorities in general tend to be less optimistic overall in their expectations of business success (Carter, 2000) and are more likely to fail when starting a new venture (Boden & Nucci, 2000; Carter, Williams & Reynolds, 1997; Robb, 2002). Thompson (2004) points out that successful entrepreneurship requires a combination of temperament, talent and technique. It can be argued that temperament is first needed in order to convince African Americans of their potential in the entrepreneurial arena, and to encourage them to view business ownership as a viable career option.

The purpose of this study is to examine the entrepreneurial attitudes of African American students. …

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