WASHINGTON – When it comes to lobster fishing,what usually comes to mind is a strong fishy smell,dirty clothes,rolling waves,cold temperatures and almost Canadian accents. But for Kyle Murdock it’s about suits – about four times a year.
Murdock,24,dropped out of school and started his own business,Sea Hag Seafood in St. George,Maine. Because of his entrepreneurial spirit and his choice to employ ex-cons,he had to wear a suit Monday to accept his award as one of the Hitachi Foundation’s 2013 Young Entrepreneurs.
Coming from a family of lobster harvesters,“It runs in my blood,” Murdock said.
Despite that,he went to college planning on a career in military technology. Then,a crash in the lobster market reeled him back in to the family industry. His father operates a fishing boat,but he saw an opportunity in processing.
With very little business experience,other than his self-proclaimed “wildly successful” lemonade stand,he purchased the closed down Great Eastern Mussel Farm plant in March 2011 and dropped out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester,Mass.,during his senior year.
“It never actually bothered me,” Murdock said about the decision to drop out before getting his degree in physics with a minor in differential math. “I took a corporate accounting class freshman year,and it turned out to be the only useful class I took in college.”
Parents may cringe at the thought of their child dropping out of college,and with good reason,because it could mean missing out on more $10,000 per year in annual income according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
“A lot of young people are going to have to make some very different decisions than their parents did,” Gerber said. “Am I going to climb up the imaginary corporate ladder,or am I going to try a level of self-employment?”
Unemployment numbers went down in September to 7.2 percent from 7.3 percent in August,according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Young people,ages 16 to 19,however,have an unemployment rate of 21.4 percent.
“The more that we can get entrepreneurship engrained into the youth culture,the more likely it is that they’ll be better off in the long run,” Gerber said. “They’ll have more opportunity and a better livelihood as a result of better understanding their options.”
According to a 2005 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,people are twice as likely to be self employed at age 42 than they were at age 22.
Brandy Bertram,Executive Director of Youthbiz,an organization that helps young people through entrepreneurship,said the U.S. needs to change that.
“How do we push our communities,our cities,our lawmakers to make owning a business as a young person easier and more commonplace?” Bertram asked. “The best and fastest way to teach a young person entrepreneurship is to put the money and the power in their hands. I feel like there aren’t enough of those opportunities.”
Another one of the Hitachi Foundation’s 2013 Young Entrepreneurs,Kaben Smallwood,28,faced difficulties in finding opportunities to get his company off the ground.
“We knew nobody would give us money unless we proved the concept,” Smallwood said.
Symbiotic Aquaponic,which Smallwood runs with his brother and a friend,ended up finding reprieve in a grant from the Choctaw Nation. That startup capital allowed him to prove his company’s concept and,in turn,get the $40,000 grant and professional mentor from the Hitachi Foundation.
Gerber said young people who want to become entrepreneurs don’t all need grants or organizations to start a small business.
“It’s easier to start a business than ever before.” Gerber said. “A young person today with only a little bit of money in their pocket can,thanks to the Internet,be on the same playing field as the vast majority of companies in the world.”
Sea Hag Seafood,Murdock’s company,opened in August,2011. Murdock raised capital through private investment,a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture for creating jobs in rural areas,a grant for being energy efficient,tax credits and tax incentives.
“All of these came together into one big pot to help us attract investors and to finance the whole project,” Murdock said.
In an interview with Bangor Daily News,he said,“It’s tough to convince a bank to loan a 23-year-old with no credit history $2 million. Most gave me a sideways look.”
He acknowledged that he would have preferred to have finished college before starting his business. But his advice to young entrepreneurs is not to give up.
“It’s nothing but sacrifices. Be prepared to give it everything. If you don’t put your company first you’re not going to make it.”
The other 2013 Hitachi Foundation Young Entrepreneurs are Vineet Singal,who founded Anjna Patient Education in San Francisco; Ted Gonder,who founded Moneythink in Chicago; Emily Doubilet and Jessica Holsey,who funded Susty Party in Brooklyn,N.Y.,and Kaben Smallwood’s partners,Shelby Smallwood and Keith Scott.
Reach reporter Nick Prete at [email protected] or 202-326-9861. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.