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America’s New Business Plan expands what it means to be ‘pro-business’

Women's Entrepreneurship Roundtable, Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus, Center for American Entrepreneurship (CAE)
The Center for American Entrepreneurship (CAE) assisted in the establishment of the first bipartisan Senate Entrepreneurship Congress, which hosted the Women's Entrepreneurship Roundtable. Policy Director in Entrepreneurship Jason Wiens and President and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation Wendy Guillies attended the roundtable in September 2019. Photo courtesy of CAE.

For policymakers who want to do something to help entrepreneurs, here’s a roadmap to what they need, and it starts with opportunity, funding, knowledge, and support.

At the Kauffman Foundation, we’ve been listening to entrepreneurs.

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We have a bipartisan plan for policymakers that is focused on creating new jobs and leveling the playing field for startups and small businesses: America’s New Business Plan.

Find out out how policymakers – at every level – can champion entrepreneurs:

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We’ve been listening during advocacy events with grantees from entrepreneurship support organizations and the entrepreneurs they serve. We’ve been listening at the ESHIP Summit and the Mayors Conference. We listened to the thousands of entrepreneurs we surveyed last November. And together, we’re learning what entrepreneurs need to turn their ideas into new businesses.

Last month, I got to listen to 22 women entrepreneurs share their challenges and successes with the Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus at a roundtable event in Washington, D.C. The founders were from every stage of startup and level of funding, across varied industries, with diverse backgrounds and experiences, and from all over the country. They illustrated what entrepreneurship looks like in America today.

But perhaps more importantly, the experiences, struggles, and worries these few entrepreneurs shared with policymakers reflected what the Kauffman Foundation has heard loud and clear as we’ve listened to entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurs need a level playing field and less red tape, equal access to the right kind of capital, the know-how to start a business, and the ability for all people to take risks.

These four themes – opportunity, funding, knowledge, and support – are at the heart of America’s New Business Plan, a bipartisan roadmap for reducing barriers to entrepreneurship and spurring more startups across the country.

Women's Entrepreneurship Roundtable, Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus, Center for American Entrepreneurship (CAE)
Roundtable, hosted by bipartisan Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus in Washington, D.C., September 2019. Photo courtesy of Center for American Entrepreneurship.

What it means to be ‘pro-business’

For too long and for too many policymakers, being “pro-business” has come to represent favoring big business. When government acts to help American businesses, support is heavily skewed toward established businesses – not scrappy and striving new business owners and entrepreneurs. This is despite of the fact that new businesses created by entrepreneurs are the primary source of almost all net new jobs.


We need to reframe what it means to be pro-business. And that starts with policymakers of all levels listening to entrepreneurs.

Every business started with an entrepreneur. Yet policymakers tend not to hear from new and small business owners. Instead, established and large firms command their attention, shaping a narrative about business needs and what makes a strong economy. While barriers faced by established and big businesses may at times be similar to the barriers entrepreneurs face, entrepreneurs have unique barriers at the outset to start and grow – hurdles that established businesses have already crossed.

This is why hearing the voices of entrepreneurs is so important. The conversation at the roundtable gave us glimpses, not only of the entrepreneurial journey of those in the room, but of all the unseen entrepreneurs toiling away in obscurity right now. Their stories, that policymakers might not otherwise see, were lifted up.

Most Americans wouldn’t know the names of the entrepreneurs in that room on Capitol Hill or recognize their businesses (yet!), but they’re creating new things, taking risks, and employing people. They’re adding value to their communities and to the economy.

Being pro-business should be about leveling the playing field so that those 22 women entrepreneurs, and untold and unnamed others like them, have an opportunity for their new ideas to take root and a chance to compete.

Women's Entrepreneurship Roundtable, Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus, Center for American Entrepreneurship (CAE)
Twenty-two women entrepreneurs traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss the issues and challenges that confront women entrepreneurs in America with the Senate Entrepreneurship Congress. Photo courtesy of Center for American Entrepreneurship.

What we stand to lose gain

America’s New Business Plan expands the view of what it means to be pro-business; equating it to being pro-opportunity.

The values held in America’s New Business Plan are essential for creating economic growth that works for everyone. Without it, we stand to lose a lot – not just for entrepreneurs or the Americans who would have been entrepreneurs, but for the people who would’ve worked at those businesses and the communities in which those businesses would have been started.

But rather than focusing on what would be lost, policymakers should think of what can be gained: jobs; revitalization; new inventions, products, and services; individual purpose and fulfillment; vibrancy; economic competitiveness; new wealth.

Policymakers must see the economy not as a giant, robotic system, but a collection of millions of individuals making their own choices. Economic policy must serve the people who make up the economy. For policymakers who want to do something to help entrepreneurs, America’s New Business Plan can be a roadmap to expand access to entrepreneurship.