April 4, 2013—A respected online platform for hiring local contractors and a foundation focused on entrepreneurship have ranked Utah as the No. 1 state for small business. In putting together the ranking, Thumbtack.com and the Kaufman Foundation collected 7,766 responses from very small businesses across the country—96 percent of respondents have fewer than 10 employees.
When announcing the ranking, the groups cited Utah’s “training and networking programs” as a key ingredient to the state’s A+ ranking, like those provided by the University of Utah – the state’s largest university and research institution – and its Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center.
The U has steadily grown its support for entrepreneurial education and experiential learning. The Lassonde Entrepreneur Center, which is part of the David Eccles School of Business, has played a vital role by helping train the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders through a series of unique student programs.
“We provide the opportunity for students to experience starting and running businesses while getting a degree,” says Troy D’Ambrosio, director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Center. “Classroom learning combined with real-world application teach students how to start a business or have an immediate impact on the business that hires them.”
For a look at the full ranking, visit http://www.thumbtack.com/survey#2013/cities
In writing about Utah’s top ranking, Dane Stangler, director of research and policy at the Kaufman Foundation says “it is critical to the economic health of every city and state to create an entrepreneur-friendly environment. Policymakers put themselves in the best position to encourage sustainable growth and long-term prosperity by listening to the voices of small business owners themselves.”
On top of the companies that spring from entrepreneur training at the U, the experiences provided teach students what it takes to run a successful business – something useful to any company. Thousands of students participate in these programs every year, adding substantial fuel to the state’s coveted workforce.
Many of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Center programs are open to students at any institution – not just the University of Utah. Programs include:
- The Utah Entrepreneur Series, a series of three statewide business plan competitions sponsored by Zions Bank
- The New Venture Development Center, where graduate students write business plans for faculty inventors
- The Foundry, a student business discovery and peer network
Among the many success stories are Navillum Nanotechnologies and Power Practical. Navillum is a startup based on nanocrystal research at the University of Utah. Students in the Lassonde New Venture Development Center wrote a business plan for the company and competed in a series of student competitions that culminated in more than $100,000 in seed funding and a visit to the White House in 2012. Power Practical is a startup with roots in the College of Engineering. The student inventors participated in the Foundry, which helped them cement their business team and strategy.