Creating Entrepreneurs from the Ranks of the Unemployed
A little known provision of the North America Trade Agreement (NAFTA) legislation of 1993 is a mechanism that assists displaced workers with an interest in becoming entrepreneurs and small business owners. A program named the Self Employment Assistance Program (SEAP) was created and implemented in a number of states in the 1990s to do just that. SEAP facilitates entrepreneurial and small business management training and assistance to displaced workers. This article summarizes the experience and findings from Indiana University of Pennsylvania's SEAP program, which has provided assistance to over two hundred displaced workers in a tri-county area of western Pennsylvania between 1998 and 2003. The results support the contention that entrepreneurs can be "made" (or at least "assisted") even when they are confronted with less than optimal circumstances. Moreover, the findings suggest that the most reliable predictor of "success" was participation in the program itself, not entrepreneurial predisposition, education, aptitudes, or other factors that would be expected to positively influence success. Based on the success criteria established by the state of Pennsylvania, this program produced a "success rate " of 83%. Using an "up and running" criterion to define a successful entrepreneur, a 70% success rate was achieved. The framework for this entrepreneurial training program is also presented.
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