How the U.K. Can -- and Should -- Encourage Our Youth to Pursue Entrepreneurship
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All of us have ideas -- lightbulb moments or well constructed thoughts that suddenly produce solutions to problems. Sadly, only a handful of us ever do something with these ideas. The evolution from an idea into a business is a long, winding path but ultimately it has a huge amount of benefit to society: more jobs, a thriving economy and constant innovation.
Encouraging young people to discover entrepreneurship as a career option is the only way to ensure this continues, and there is strong evidence that the U.K. is a breeding ground for future entrepreneurs. Now is certainly a better time than ever to make this happen. According to a recent survey of U.K. adults, having a career is as important as finding a partner, having a family or owning a home for young people today.
In the U.K. in 2016, Companies House data shows a record high in business formation. This trend presents an economy that is favoring entrepreneurs and therefore building firm foundations for future business leaders. With this new wave of ventures being formed, the government should look to prioritize its focus on boosting startups. Funding schemes specifically aimed at helping entrepreneurs climb the ladder of business are fantastic but in entrepreneurship, money is not enough. In fact, there's something more important than money that the U.K. needs to implement if we want to see young entrepreneurs growing to be truly self-reliant and successful.
Hands-on support through mentoring by experienced, genuine entrepreneurs and business leaders needs to be provided to ensure young people and their startups have the best chance of succeeding. Setting up is merely the beginning of business but persisting with a venture is where the going gets tough. Personally, I was very lucky to find a best friend, mentor and now a business partner in social entrepreneur Trudy Thompson. With 20 years more entrepreneurship experience than me, she has guided and fast-tracked me into a world that is not forgiving. It's a world that relies upon well thought out decision-making and scraping the depths of your mental well-being to pull you through both the best and the worst times in business. My No. 1 tip without a doubt for budding entrepreneurs is to find yourself a mentor -- someone you can bounce ideas off, someone who can call you up on business choices and someone who can be there when you need the support the most.
We need to find more ways of opening up this fountain of knowledge from successful people and sharing it with those who will benefit from taking it onboard. One place where this could begin to materialize more often is in the education curriculum. Despite reports showing the benefits of entrepreneurship in education, the current syllabus in U.K. schools has little to no focused enterprise studies, and this infuriates me. I've found through my journey so far that being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle, not a job that allows us to switch off at the end of the day. And because of this we develop life skills that help us in our personal relationships and self development as well as our business ventures. It surely makes sense to introduce this learning to people at a young age so that they can develop their mental hygiene and have the right skill set to deal with life situations.
Perhaps there is a way that young entrepreneurs can gain hands-on experience by being directly involved in successful businesses. One of the ways this has worked for me is by hiring a board of young entrepreneurs between the ages of 10 and 15 years old. I provide these young minds with problems or issues in my business to see what solutions they propagate. Less life experience, a vivid and creative imagination, and a touch of the naive has led to some incredible, sometimes obvious answers. It's a win-win situation. They profit from hands on experience and I can gain from fresh thinking and exciting progress for my business.
Finally, I want to offer a change in thinking that genuinely helped me develop my business ventures when I first started out. I always grew up expecting to follow a certain path already laid out for me, ready to walk along without excessive decision-making. Schooling and jobs have this effect, and the fact that there is no structured path to entrepreneurship is something that scares a lot of people. Young entrepreneurs reading this article with their sights set high and ambition brimming only need to take away the following piece of advice: Constantly reassure yourself that there is no need to know how to do something, only the need to try anyway.
Half the battle is won when we persuade ourselves to try something. But, the other winning half comes from external influence. People who have had success and become role models for young entrepreneurs have a responsibility to pass their knowledge on and encourage them to give business and entrepreneurship a go, no matter whether they succeed or fail. The environment in the U.K. is ripe for a blossoming of future entrepreneurs. I for one pledge to do my part to help pave the way for them.