WASHINGTON – United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, hosted a roundtable today entitled “Entrepreneurship for the Next Generation: Harnessing the Power of Young Entrepreneurs in a Changing Economic Landscape.” The roundtable focused on young entrepreneurs and the obstacles they face starting or expanding their business in the current economic climate.

“With a lower average net worth and arguably less real-world experience, young entrepreneurs can easily be discouraged,” Senator Landrieu said. “The recent increase in young entrepreneurs in the U.S. job market indicates that this group warrants our attention and support. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of self employed under the age of 25 will grow 5 percent by 2014. We in Congress need to nurture this growth to create and sustain jobs in our troubled economy.”

“Nobody wants to bank with us until everyone wants to bank with us,” explained Rachel Weeks, Founder and Chief Executive Office of School House, an eco-friendly t-shirt company. Weeks’ testimony pointed at the difficulty of young entrepreneurs trying to obtain capital. After graduating from Duke University, Weeks went to more than a dozen banks in North Carolina and could not get a $250,000 loan even with more than $250,000 in purchase orders. With no other options, Weeks looked into Angel Investors. With 14 “angels” investing between $15,000 to $100,000, Weeks gained the necessary capital to start School House.

Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontage Co-owners of Georgetown Cupcake and reality stars of TLC’s “D.C. Cupcakes” expressed similar sentiments. One of the most famous small businesses in the country described the constant struggle with large banks and some community banks not even listening to their business plans before denying them a loan. “Until we sat face to face with Eagle Bank, we were unable to get a loan,” explained LaMontagne.

Every entrepreneur had a different story to tell, but no one could deny the need for programs for future young entrepreneurs. Monique Coleman, High School Musical actress, had the necessary capital, but did not know where to begin. Coleman discussed with other roundtable witnesses the avenues to gain knowledge and support while starting your own business. Additionally, representatives from the Small Business Administration, SCORE, and Small Business Development Centers, which provide important entrepreneurial development, counseling and technical assistance services to small business owners, participated in today’s roundtable.

The Senate Small Business Committee will be holding a hearing on the topic this fall.