When I read that David Cameron believed young entrepreneurs to be the key to Britain's future prosperity, I must admit that for the first time I actually felt as though I was contributing to society. As a young entrepreneur, I reflected on that statement and was quietly optimistic about the future of entrepreneurialism amongst today's youth - if only for a moment. In reality, there are still many obstacles to overcome if we are to give young businesspeople any hope of succeeding.
Speaking from experience, I believe there are two main challenges that face aspiring young entrepreneurs, the first being a lack of knowledge. Tradition dictates that the correct path to success involves three years reading for a degree, after which you will be more than prepared to enter the world at large and embark upon your career. Is this really the case nowadays? I learnt and retained more information about setting up a limited company by actually setting up a limited company, and can recall practically nothing from my numerous 2 hour lectures on the same subject.
If other young entrepreneurs, like me, choose not to go to university, then what other options are available to them? The main contender for this challenge falls to apprenticeships, with even the incomparable Lord Alan Sugar championing the cause way back in 2010. A good friend of mine is currently on an apprenticeship down in London, and when we last spoke we briefly discussed her situation. As it turns out, she's stuck in limbo. She isn't classed as a student, so she gets no deductions on tax, and she earns about £150 per week (which after tax is even less) so all she is really getting from the deal is experience. Although that is the whole point of an apprenticeship, it's not an accepted form of currency which brings us to the second challenge facing young entrepreneurs - namely a lack of access to finance.
When setting up my business, I knew that I was going to need start-up capital, so I worked for two years and saved everything I could. With the help of my family and even an overdraft from the bank, I was still nowhere near where I wanted to be to realistically challenge the established businesses in my industry. Undeterred, I launched and am slowly building my empire, but I am all too aware that other young entrepreneurs may not be as fortunate as I was. Although there are grants available, in reality they are not that easy to obtain as they have a plethora of location or situation based criteria alongside endless amounts of hoops to jump through.
Thankfully, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon in the form of the Youth Investment Fund - an initiative that would see young entrepreneurs being offered business loans from the government on similar terms to those of student loans, which is backed by none other than Richard Branson and has even received a nod from David Cameron. Hopefully the Youth Investment Fund will be announced in the 2012 budget, as it would create a means for all young entrepreneurs to secure finance for their business.
I mentioned earlier that apprenticeships are the heir apparent for those choosing not to go to university, but I have an alternative to that alternative. As I said, I learnt and continue to learn so much about business through running my own company, and believe the best option is to simply give more young entrepreneurs the opportunity to get their own experience. I'm not disputing the wealth of knowledge that lies within the vast array of business books, but if I've learnt anything from my time talking with industry veterans - it's that they would undoubtedly choose someone with actual experience over someone that was married to the library for three years, every time.
I began this post on a thought of hope, even if somewhat briefly, so it feels only right that I end in the same regard. I've had the good fortune to meet and get to know some of our nation's young entrepreneurs, and am bold enough to consider myself one of them. There is no doubt in my mind that we all harbour the passion to reach our full potential, but more could be done to assist those who choose to strike out on their own and seek to create a business and a livelihood from nothing, purely on the back of hard work and determination.
I am grateful for all the help I have received so far, but as I mentioned; others may not be so lucky. The worlds next Richard Branson could be ready and waiting with an idea, but due to no fault of their own lack the financial means to act on it. I think it's only fair that we give them a chance.
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