Report: Milwaukee ranks 4th for U.S. cities with youngest entrepreneurs

Ranking linked to affordable cost of living, risk tolerance, senior research analyst says

A LendingTree study released Tuesday ranks Milwaukee 4th for U.S. cities with the youngest entrepreneurs.

According to the report, entrepreneurs who started a business in Milwaukee are on average 37.92 years old. Approximately 51.9% of recent business founders in Milwaukee are Millennials, 32.2% are Gen X, 10.1% are Baby Boomers, 3.5% are from Gen Z and 1.2% are from the Silent Generation.

Milwaukee ranks behind New Orleans, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia, according to the report.

Milwaukee’s position on the list could be linked to the city’s cost-of-living and a startup culture that is more risk-tolerant, said Derek Miller, LendingTree senior research analyst. Miller also said younger doesn’t necessarily mean better, however, younger entrepreneurs can lead to more dynamism in a city.

“Maybe that suggests something about the internal Milwaukee startup culture is maybe a bit more risk-tolerant and younger people there are more willing to try new things,” Miller said. “I also think Milwaukee’s affordability is making it an interesting place for young people to start businesses.”

The Pew Research Center defines each generation by the following: members of the Silent Generation were born between 1928 and 1945; the Baby Boomer generation between 1946 and 1964; Generation X between 1965 and 1980; the Millennial generation between 1981 and 1996; and Generation Z after 1996.

Data of borrowers seeking business loans on the LendingTree platform was analyzed anonymously to determine the average age of a business founder in the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas.

The data was limited to businesses founded within the last five years, and founders’ ages are from the date they founded their businesses.

While the coasts have a lot more venture capital, an attractive element when deciding where to start a business, a lot of businesses on the coasts are actually sourcing tech talent, at a reduced salary, from the Midwest, Miller said.

“It’s just so expensive to get started (on the coasts) and obviously there’s a lot of tech talent there which has encouraged people, but I think we’re seeing more and more people move to the Midwest,” Miller said.

Young Enterprising Society (YES) is one of many organizations in Milwaukee focused on educating and cultivating the ideas of young entrepreneurs. Khalif El-Amin, who founded the organization with his brother Que El-Amin in 2012, said young entrepreneurship in Milwaukee is growing.

“I think it’s at a really good place and it’s budding,” El-Amin said. “A lot of the older generations are investing into the younger generations with not only treasure, but time and in-kind resources as well.”

El-Amin called education and entrepreneurship “equalizers,” or a method of leveling the playing field, especially in a city like Milwaukee, which has a variety of negative stereotypes including zip codes with high incarceration rates, or ranking as “one of the worst cities for African Americans,” he added.

However, many organizations have and are working to raise the next generation of Milwaukee entrepreneurs – Khalif listed local education institutions like Cardinal Stritch University, organizations like YES and shows like Project Pitch It, which recently added student entrepreneurs to its upcoming season.

“Equipping them with not only the resources, but also the knowledge and the confidence that they need to be successful,” El-Amin said. “A lot of these students, they have amazing ideas and they’re already doing entrepreneurial activity, but they just don’t know how to cultivate it and bring it to fruition.”

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Brandon Anderegg
Brandon covers startups, technology, banking and finance. He previously worked as a general assignment and court reporter for The Freeman in Waukesha. Brandon graduated from UW-Milwaukee’s journalism, advertising and media studies program with an emphasis in journalism. He enjoys live music, playing guitar and loves to hacky sack.