Wherever you look, there are loads of opportunities for young people to experience entrepreneurship or get help launching their businesses. Personally, I took part in Young Enterprise while at Secondary School (we won our school competition) and I was in the founding team of SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) at Aston University (now branded Enactus - part of a global programme).
Most schools, colleges and Universities offer activities in the entrepreneurial direction that you can take part in. Then there are national competitions to consider; for example, I have just been on the judging panel of Casio'sBright Minds Enterprise competition, where four of the best new business ideas from schoolchildren around the UK presented to myself and Zara Brownless, winner of the Young Apprentice. These opportunities are great, and you should watch out for them.
But if you don't have anything immediately available to you - create something. For me - that's the spirit of entrepreneurship. You don't have to wait until someone gives you what you need or supports you in it - you have to decide what you want to do and make it happen.
For example - I didn't do anything out of the ordinary while at school - I found lost golf balls and sold them back to golfers and I cut people's lawns for them - but most kids do something like this. My first taste of "running" a business was running the SIFE student society at University - where I started and ran the society - we recruited over 300 students to join and we ran 14 projects around Birmingham.
It was while working at Deutsche Bank that I came up with the business idea for Co-Go - my first business. The biggest help to me with this was mentorship from local business people- it wasn't anything formal - I just asked people around me for their opinions on my business and for advice on how to improve it. Asking people for advice is easy, implementing it a little harder. When you're given advice, I'd challenge everyone, if they agree with the advice, to make a serious effort to implement it.
What are we all driving for? Ambition, recognition and the thought of building something big. Money also motivates me. But most of all, I want to succeed -and I really enjoy the process of building a company. I find it fun. I wake up in the morning filled with enthusiasm to "make it happen", not dreading another day at work.
For young entrepreneurs looking to take their first steps, I think the education system could do more. Educators should teach people to think for themselves a little more, rather than just regurgitate text books for the purpose of grades. There's definitely an improvement to be made there. In the Casio competition I judged, I saw teachers providing excellent support for their students, both in drawing up a business plan and presenting effectively, which offers an example that many more should be following.
Schemes like SEIS and EIS (a tax-incentive for investors to back small high-risk companies) are great ways of getting ex-entrepreneurs to back the ones starting out with money and advice. That's what's important and what we need. We need an "ecosystem" like Silicon Valley - where entrepreneurs that have made it help the new generation do it with their advice and capital. SEIS and EIS schemes are a great way to encourage this and I am personally grateful to the government for these.
Outside this, I don't expect anything else from the government. I think it's up to the education system to encourage individual thinking, instill ambition and motivation and promote all career routes - then provide pupils with more information on how to get where they want.
The most important thing in entrepreneurship is instilling the ambition and motivation to do it in the first place. Popular TV shows like The BBC Apprentice and Dragons Den have done that for many.
Once people have the bug for it, there is a wealth of information online or in books on how to do it well. (My favourites are listed on my website.)
But fundamentally, budding entrepreneurs need to take more responsibility on themselves to make it happen for them - not wait for someone to hand answers to them on a plate.
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