Breaking Stereotypes: Separating Myth From Reality When It Comes To Young Entrepreneurs
When we hear the words "young entrepreneur," there's often an image already created in our heads of what such a person would look like: a tech-savvy millennial developing an app or a startup, maybe fresh out of college, mid-to-late 20s, working on the next big thing, and enjoying every minute of it. However, this image has become a stereotype thanks to the media's portrayal of the world of entrepreneurship, but this field is so wide, and it encompasses so many factors that we need to separate myths from reality, especially when it comes to the subject of young entrepreneurs.
Here are a couple of myths that need to be dispelled:
Myth 1: You need to be an adult to enter the entrepreneurship world
Far from it- we are all born entrepreneurs, and more importantly, entrepreneurship can start at any age. Enterprising children as young as 12 years in age have launched successful startups from fashion to tech, and indeed, the pages of Entrepreneur have covered many of their stories. But in addition to the successful "kidpreneurs" who received the spotlight, it's important to remember that many children who ran small or temporary businesses are entrepreneurs in their own right. Whether it's by building a lemonade stand or a storefront for homemade jewelry, these kids have all learned valuable lessons along the way that would be applicable later in their professional lives.
Myth 2: Entrepreneurship is a lot more fun than a traditional career
Young entrepreneurs will need to prepare for many sleepless nights, shortcomings, and never-ending waves of problems after problems. The best part about it is pursuing something you personally believe in, but that also comes with some hard truths and many struggles to make your vision come to life. Unfortunately, schools do not really prepare young entrepreneurs to properly face these challenges. It takes time to develop a sense of resilience and optimism to navigate the psychological pressures of entrepreneurship, something all young entrepreneurs need to cultivate at an early age.
Myth 3: Young entrepreneurs need to focus on the technology industry
While it does help to have a technology friendly enterprise to reach and service customers, it's not all always about technology. Many entrepreneurs have made a name for themselves by identifying a need or a problem in the market and filling it in with their idea, and this could be applicable in any industry. Young entrepreneurs don't have to be forced into a certain industry like creating apps or gadgets. Young entrepreneurs need creativity to succeed in business and in life; they also need to have critical thinking skills to identify what's needed in their market and how to capitalize on it.
Myth 4: Young entrepreneurs are rich kids
Try telling that to the thousands of entrepreneurs across the Middle East who could not secure traditional employment and had no choice but to make it on their own with little to no funding. While there may be some affluent entrepreneurs, this does not necessarily mean their enterprises will be successful. Bottom line, the spectrum is quite wide, and with ever-increasing alternative funding options available to entrepreneurs, it is unfair to categorize all entrepreneurs as rich kids. Entrepreneurship is an open field that rewards the hard-workers, the innovative, and the persistent.
Myth 5: Young entrepreneurs are taking a big risk by not pursuing traditional employment
This one needs some perspective, especially in our part of the world. 70% of the MENA region's population is under 30 years old, and with youth unemployment topping 25% in some countries, there is no way enough jobs can be created by the existing private and public sectors to meet this demand. Entrepreneurship has been identified as the best way to generate job opportunities for our young people and this is where governments are putting their backing to grow the entrepreneurial class. Sending endless amounts of CVs for months or years without any leads is a risk. Working in a low-wage career with no hope of improvement is a risk. Working in a high-turnover company while you have a house loan is a risk. When you look at it this way, starting your own enterprise and smartly hedging your financial commitments, sounds like a reasonable option.
At the end of the day, we all need to remember that young entrepreneurs can come in all shapes and sizes, all backgrounds and all ages, but they all have one thing in common: the entrepreneurial spirit. A spirit they nurtured throughout their lives, giving them the drive to continue pursuing their passion, despite the odds and that should be reason enough for the rest of us to keep encouraging our young entrepreneurs.