mauryI miss November. Don’t get me wrong, December is a nice month, even a great one. Everybody gets to celebrate their own holiday, how cool is that? There are the more well-known holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. And there are the less well known like St. Lucia Day or Ramadan. Hindus celebrate Pancha Ganapati while Buddhists enjoy enlightenment on Bodhi Day. If that’s not enough some people even welcome December with Festivas a parody made popular by Jerry Seinfeld. I count at least 43 holidays celebrated by people for at least one day during December.

But November is special. Yes, there’s turkey and dressing and football. But it is also the month that all over the world we give thanks to entrepreneurs in our community for one full week. Developed by the Kauffman Foundation, Global Entrepreneurship Week is a time when we celebrate innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. During this one week each November, GEW inspires people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators.

But one week was just not enough for the 39 counties of Washington. We needed to take the entire month. And, my goodness, celebrate we did. The fourth annual 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Week – um, month – in Washington, was the most successful one that has taken place for local entrepreneurs. Not just because of the thousands of people that attended or participated or supported entrepreneurs at the more than 150 public events in November, but also because of the quality and the diversity of the events that took place in each and every one of our counties.

It is worth noting that no other state can claim that every part of it had at least one event that celebrated entrepreneurship. Washington State can claim that. Celebrations took place in rural and urban areas, there were business plan competitions and startup weekends, participants included fourth graders, high school, college students and adults, sponsors came from both the private and public sector.

Some of my favorites deserving recognition include:

  • Walla Walla and its collaboration between the public school district and 3 colleges that resulted in a shark tank competition. This year’s prize was $500. They have committed to raising $10,000 for next year’s winner.
  • The Southeast Washington Economic Development Association participated in bringing together 220 Clarkston fourth graders to learn about entrepreneurship, running a business, and the importance of the free enterprise system in an interactive day of fun and education.
  • The Yakima County Development Association continued its focus on startups with its fifth annual Enterprise Challenge. More than 80 entrepreneurs have competed in the contest since its inception and many of them have gone on to start businesses in the Yakima area with help from the cash prizes awarded from private and public sector sponsors.
  • The Island County Economic Development Foundation hosted the first annual Student Entrepreneur Challenge. The Challenge gave high school students real-world business experience in writing a business plan, recruiting investors and selling a product or service for one week. The team with the highest profit at the end of the competition received an in-school scholarship they can use for competition fees, school equipment, or other academic pursuits. There were 13 sponsors to help make this program a success.
  • Kitsap County takes the prize for having the most events with 10 different sessions throughout the month ranging from crowdsourcing and gaming to networking and STEM innovation. There is no cash prize for this honor but judging by the attendance, Kitsap shows that it is a hotbed for entrepreneurial support.

There are too many successful events to mention but those are just a few of my favorite things. (I know, that’s a favorite Christmas song for many carolers and Julie Andrews lovers.) Global Entrepreneurship Month in Washington was comprehensive, inclusive and educational.  In addition, many communities have incorporated entrepreneurship into their economic development strategies to continue and build on the momentum and create new businesses while others are already looking to sponsors to support global entrepreneurship 2016 in their communities.

Global Entrepreneurship started out as a week’s worth of events in Washington and has now become a monthly celebration. In 2016, let’s together make it an entire year for giving thanks to those people that made sacrifices, took on risks and have created continuous innovation and opportunities worldwide enabling consumers to have more options in the marketplace and creating healthy communities for Washington residents.

– Maury