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How policy and advocacy are vital to entrepreneurship
Katey Stoetzel
Content Marketing Coordinator, Public Affairs Kauffman Foundation
Matthew Long
Senior Video Producer, Public Affairs Kauffman Foundation
Matthew Pozel
Senior Multimedia Writer & Producer, Public Affairs Kauffman Foundation

How policy and advocacy are vital to entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs' Policy Network bolsters plan to empower those who support entrepreneurs to be effective policy advocates.

What you can do

Want to elevate the voice of entrepreneurs? Begin with Startup Week Across America.

This initiative prompts members of Congress to meet with entrepreneurs in their communities this month to discuss how policy can best support new business creation. 

Contact your legislators to share the stories of entrepreneurs you know.

A landscape architect in Kansas City needed some proper trucks to shuffle employees and equipment from one job site to the next, often across state lines.  But for this small business owner, the fees tied to the regulations for those trucks were difficult to manage.

The entrepreneur struggled, and despite receiving help in trying to navigate the regulations, his business was jeopardized.

"That's one example of how a well-meaning regulation can really impact somebody in the day-to-day, and can shut down their business," said Melissa Roberts, vice president of Strategy and Economic Development at the Enterprise Center in Johnson County (ECJC), a nonprofit providing education, mentoring, office space, and connections to capital for Kansas City area entrepreneurs.

Policy advocacy matters: with the help of entrepreneur support organizations, entrepreneurs can make their voices heard on the state level.

Jason Johnson of the Chicago Urban League, which opens doors to African-American entrepreneurs through advocacy, collaboration, and innovation, said it's vital to understand policy as an entrepreneur-support organization.

"Politics impact entrepreneurship," he said. "If you don't really understand the environment in which entrepreneurship and innovation is taking place – the regulatory or political environment – you really can't impact change."

This is why the Entrepreneurs' Policy Network (EPN) exists – "to empower organizations that champion entrepreneurs to be effective advocates for removing barriers to new business creation," said Jason Wiens, policy director at the Kauffman Foundation.

Kelsey Hampton at the Entrepreneurship Policy Network meetingRecently, representatives from 18 entrepreneurship support organizations from across the country met at the Kauffman Foundation for the purpose of becoming more effective advocates.

"We're becoming what we will be," Roberts said. "We're really starting to put together these first steps as to how to bring [entrepreneurs and policymakers] together and how to bridge that gap."

The convening had three objectives: build relationships, share best practices, and provide practical skills to become better advocates.

Betsy Biemann, CEO of Coastal Enterprises, an organization that helps grow environmentally sustainable enterprises, said those relationships started being built that very morning.

"It's wonderful to have an opportunity to sit down with folks and work and discuss solutions-driven activity and learn from each other," she said.  

While each of the participating organizations' focus might be different, those differences don't change the fact all entrepreneurs need their voices to be heard by policymakers.

"Change will only happen when entrepreneurs' voices are consistently heard in policy debates," Wiens said.

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