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People have been starting businesses and dreaming up the next big product or service ever since the founding of the United States. Franchising, a form of entrepreneurism, began during the Civil War when the Singer Sewing Machine Company allowed dealers across the country to sell its sewing machines. But franchising didn’t really take off until the 1950s, when Ray Kroc offered aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to purchase McDonald’s franchises. In more recent decades, the growth of technology and social media have created a vast new range of entrepreneur-developed products and services. The number of people who start businesses continues to increase. A record 5.4 million new business applications were filed in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This broke the previous record of 4.4 million, which was set in 2020.

One major trend in entrepreneurism is social entrepreneurship, in which an entrepreneur develops products or services or launches a business, nonprofit, or a business/nonprofit hybrid in order to solve social issues such as world hunger, poverty, outbreaks of infectious disease, or lack of access to clean water. One example of social entrepreneurship is the shoe company TOMS. In 2006, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie launched the One for One® model—in which the company gave away one pair of shoes for every pair sold. Today, the company reports that it invests one-third of its profits in grassroots initiatives that make the world a better place.

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