This weekend I'll be travelling to London ahead of next week's Youth Business International Entrepreneur of the Year final. I'll find out on Tuesday if I've won the competition, which is supported by Barclays. As I get ready for the trip, I've been thinking about how I got to this position, where an international competition has recognized my work by awarding me a place in the top three, and perhaps even first place come next week.
It's fitting that the competition is run by Youth Business International (YBI) as the organization, through its Youth Business Hong Kong (YBHK) partner, has been an integral part of getting me to where I am today. From the interest-free start-up loan they gave me, to the ongoing mentorship and small business support I've had as my enterprise has begun to grow, it's been hugely valuable and reassuring to feel I have an experienced organization to turn to when I need help. It's also enabled me to meet and learn from the experiences of entrepreneurs not just local to me but from other countries.
This is one of the reasons I take as active a role as possible in helping support other young, budding entrepreneurs now I have the skills and experience. By mentoring them, I feel like I've come full circle and am paying back in some way all the support and advice I found so helpful. Finding a mentor who understands what you are going through can make or break your business. It was definitely one of the keys to my success.
When you start out you don't know about training or how to get publicity for your company, or how to infiltrate business networks. Because I know what it's like to be in that position, I can guide others who are now where I was when I first took the plunge. I recently mentored a group in a social enterprise competition at my university and when they won I was so thrilled.
Of course mentoring isn't the only form of support needed, funding is still a huge issue for entrepreneurs worldwide. When I decided to start my own business, there were some development and marking funds available for established small to medium sized businesses but I wasn't at that stage yet. There were also grants for start-ups, but only those in the IT sector. This is why I had to look at other routes for support.
Things are beginning to change with funding in Hong Kong - in June 2012 a Government microfinance scheme was set up to support entrepreneurship - but I still think other Asian countries are more active in promoting youth business and in creating young-entrepreneur-friendly policies. I hope by being involved in the YBI Entrepreneur of the Year competition I can capitalise on the opportunity to convince our Government to put more plans in place to help young people start up successful business.