stock-illustration-40050170-businessman-on-the-roadYesterday was the start of the 2014 Small Business Week, a week to honor and celebrate small business owners, lenders, contractors and all manner of contributors to the small business community. Events from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. as well as several online events will be taking place this week in celebration of entrepreneurship. As I gain more and more experience in the business world, I continue to notice a gradual, yet significant, evolution in the nature of entrepreneurship, both in definition and in practice. In the past, an entrepreneur may have been thought of as a person who simply starts a business capable of sustaining him(or her)self. Now, the word “entrepreneur” has become much more synonymous with the word “visionary,” someone who provides new ideas and inspires innovation. With help from technology and the momentum of the trailblazing visionaries who came before them, a new generation of entrepreneurship is emerging, and they are achieving new heights that, until recently, most didn’t couldn’t even conceive of.

For a long time, the formula that was traditionally associated with success was something along the lines of:  go to high school + get good grades = go to a good college; go to a good college + get good grades = get a good job.  And, just to be clear, I am and always will be a proponent of getting an education; but for someone who feels that. It used to be that, if you wanted to start a business, you had to know someone who had already started a business, someone to help get you in the door. Nowadays, you see new companies that go national, even global, right out of the gate! Now you can create that good job that you strive for after graduation; and it’s not considered a “pipe dream” or a temporary substitute for a “real job.”

Startup funds are often a huge barrier for new businesses. An innovative new concept called “crowdfunding” has the potential to change that fact in a major way. With “crowdfunding,” people from around the world can make investments in a new project online as easily as they can buy a book on Amazon.com. It’s basically the social media of fundraising; and it’s absolutely amazing. You can make your idea a reality without ever having to step foot into a bank. Instead of tip-toeing up to a banker for a loan like Dorothy begging the Wizard of Oz to send her back to Kansas, you can plainly state your vision online and a random assortment of people who believe in your dream will help you make it come true. They do this by sending “donations” of just ten to thousands of dollars at a time to your official business account. Some of the more popular crowdfunding sites that the new generation of entrepreneur is using are Indiegogo (which is very popular in Indiana), RocketHub, Peerbackers, and Kickstarter; but the options are limitless.  Social Entrepreneurship is another term that’s gradually making its way to the forefront of the collective entrepreneurial consciousness. There’s no consensus on a rigid definition of the term, but it’s generally associated with the pursuit of innovative solutions to social problems by way of continuous adaptation. In other words, social entrepreneurs identify a problem in society that they want to help solve, and use their business savvy to find a solution. French economist, Jean-Baptist Say, states that an entrepreneur is “someone who undertakes an idea and shifts perspectives in a way that it alters the effect that idea has on society.” This definition is so emblematic of changing views toward entrepreneurship and, in a broader sense, toward the concept of success. When I was coming up, success was associated with the kind of car you drove, the house you lived in, those sorts of things. The new measure of success is how much of a difference you are able to make in society. Generation X asks “how are changes in our world affecting me?” Generation Y asks “what can I do to affect change in the world?”

That’s not to say that my or any of the previous generations’ goals were frivolous or not worthwhile. The natural flow of the universe is expansion; and the people who belong to each new generation naturally seek to expand their spheres of influence beyond those of the ones who preceded them. They build off of the foundation that’s been laid for them. My father once told me that he’s absolutely amazed by my achievements; and initially I thought to myself, “Well, I don’t see how. I haven’t really done anything.” But then I considered the world that my almost eighty-year-old father grew up in. I’m a woman; and a lot of the things I’ve achieved were way out of reach for a woman (especially a woman of color) when he was coming up. When I considered that, I realized that my own amazement at these new entrepreneurs is just a continuation of a pattern that’s been going on since the very first syllable of recorded time. With a new generation come new minds, new ideas, new tools, new opportunities and increased growth. To me, that’s a beautiful thing.