I remember the first time I was called an entrepreneur. I was 13 and had started giving away my foreign sandwiches to English friends when I couldn't eat them. Soon, those friends started preferring my sandwiches to canteen food and asked if I would make extra to sell. And so, I started making bespoke pre-ordered sandwiches for students. At the peak of my short-run venture, I was carrying over 10 Sandwiches to school per-day, all paid for in advance and had over 25 loyal customers.
My teacher wasn't impressed by my accidental entrepreneurship; instead berating me after the silver foil from my mini-sandwich empire had been turned to improvised missiles and caused disruptive excitement to his usually suicide-inspiring delivery of afternoon Algebra. Consequently, my school prohibited me to sell sandwiches to students. God forbid, it was actually teaching me something and giving students healthy food.
It was later explained to me that entrepreneurs were the most accomplished of business people, the ones who didn't work for money, but made money work for them - like most things we are told, this was not very accurate. if it were, Pablo Escobar and most politicians would be the model to aspire to.
It has taken a long time to draw my own definition of an 'entrepreneur' and it is very different to the one most business schools teach. I believe an entrepreneur is a creator of value while the 'other kind' of entrepreneur is best described as "primarily concerned with making money at the expense of ethics" - the dictionary definition of a mercenary.
Papiss Cisse, a professional footballer at Newcastle United, recently caused a stir when he threatened a move away from his employer because their jersey will display the name of a loan shark - or was it a pay-day loan company; I have trouble distinguishing between the two. He was praised by some and criticised by others who cited pictures of him at a Casino, apparently stimulating another one of our 'entrepreneurial masterpieces' - the gambling industry. Removing the typical paradox between footballers and intellect, Cisse's brief insubordination was a public embarrassment to all government, FCA and pointless consumer groups that talk a lot but do very little.
Ironic that it should be a football player who stands-up the depravity of the loan shark - sorry - pay-day loan industry and not government officials who expertly portray to be handicapped by stupidity and are unable to connect the dots between loan sharking - damn it - micro-lending to people in dire straits, fuelling not economic growth, but debt to the most financially inept. Ironic even more that it should be a professional footballer, the breed often typecast as mercenaries for simply exploiting market demand, which should expose the real insatiability of man. Most ironic of all is that the loan-shark industry is actually not a pay-day loan industry. Those who have jobs are 'deadbeats' - that is to say, they pay their loan and serve no value to the loan shark. They deliberately and strategically target the credit unworthy, the NEETs, the 'JSA Massive' - the ones who hopefully can't pay the loans and will most likely accumulate APR of over 5000%.
Errol Damelin is not my definition of an entrepreneur - he is an example of free-enterprise and, with devilish brilliance, working within the rules of capitalism to create economic tyranny. It is the worst kind of exploitation and marketing to the country's most susceptible people. It's financial imperialism and is equivalent to a pack of hyenas feasting on the bones of society's most vulnerable people. For me, an entrepreneur is someone who sees a problem and conceives a business solution to the problem that ultimately creates value to all stakeholders. Playing Santa Clause to financially retarded customers adds as much value as offering vodka bottles to alcoholics.
I actually have nothing against these kinds of free marketers; I even admire them for their smarts and vision, if not the direction of their moral compass. The problem, however, is that the world still calls them entrepreneurs. The Guardian and Ernst & Young propagandise Damelin as their 'Entrepreneur of the Year' while the Sunday Times put his company as the Top Tech firm bating young graduates to join the movement. Kind of makes you wonder who these award makers hold accountable for the ongoing Global Debt Crisis - clearly they don't think it had anything to do with bad credit.
The bigger problem is that new organisations, intended to inspire future entrepreneurs that will drive economic growth, are in fact run by obsequious staff using nepotism to attract the right class of person, instead of the right type of person. The NEF holds a reception at Number 10 for their cohort, schmoozing with Dave while believing academics from elitist Universities working for 9 months in a company will spark the next Google! Because we all know (Steve) Jobs, Gates, Branson, Zuckerberg, Young, Ash, Carter and Winfrey changed the world because of their good grades, obedience, and work placements.
The NEF is just smoke and mirrors for entrepreneurship and their existence is best summed up by one of their 'next big stars' when he refreshingly says
'I've Always Been Motivated by Money'Well, at least someone has the balls to say it! In a frenzy to find the 'next Facebook', our undemocratically elected buffoons have only succeeded in re-framing and rewarding Exploitative Capitalism. And don't worry if our brightest don't like the idea of creating their own legal racket, our government still owns 81% of RBS which guarantees six figure bonuses to those who best practise Casino Capitalism - If your an accomplished banker; Santa Clause does exist - he resides at Number 10.
Show me the money!
Greed is good - Yay, get it off your chest, tell the truth! If your pursuit is money, good for you and I wish you all the success I wish for myself. But when that pursuit is to the detriment of others, you're no longer an entrepreneur - you're a mercenary. There is nothing entrepreneurial about loan sharks - they've been around for centuries. Putting puppets on TV and using colloquial names to appeal to one demographic is marketing. Sponsoring a Football Club that is an institution to the unemployed is clever product placement - it is not entrepreneurship.
As it turns out, most real entrepreneurs never tried to be entrepreneurs. They just set-out with a passion which often became an obsession to achieve their goal of adding-value through a new idea. While the real entrepreneurs continue to be labelled Hippies, Crazy, Incompetent, and Foolhardy, until one day, for a select few, the world starts calling them Pioneers. The 'other kind' will forgo their soul for a life of abundance and to find Angels, VCs or mercenary business associates. And don't worry if all this mosaic jibba-jabba fills your forehead with wrinkles, Dr. Alan Sugar can now remove those.
We, as free-thinking people, have a choice. We can complain, or we can create. One is easy and the other is hard. 10 young people with no money, power and influence decided to create. By doing so, they gave purpose to over 500,000 of the countries most marginalised people, inspired over 100 Million others and had their approach called 'the vision and delivery of Nelson Mandela. The question isn't can we create change - the question is, do we care enough to do more than just complain?