Sir Richard Branson recently launched the Virgin Start-Up, his not-for-profit venture offering financial support, mentoring and business advice to hopeful entrepreneurs across the UK.
However, upon closer inspection, it is yet another scheme aimed solely at 18-30 year olds which makes me wonder why those over the age of 30 do not receive as much support as their younger counterparts.
Youth unemployment is currently at the forefront of people's minds with the media flourishing with stories of young people fighting back against the current job market and starting their own businesses. Whilst young entrepreneurs are essential to the growth of the British Economy, there seems to be a message that, perhaps unintentionally, suggests that there is an element of ageism in the business world and that entrepreneurialism is 'a young person's game'.
My own entrepreneurial success began once I'd passed the 'undesirable' age of 30. This means that if I were in the same start-up position today and needed help; my choices would be limited. And yet, here I am a successful self-made entrepreneur with the ability to make it to the top.
The desire to nurture young entrepreneurial talent is essential, and something that I do myself in my role as a business mentor. However, I also believe there needs to be more equality and that the opportunities available to young entrepreneurs should be available to the older generation. It's understandable that, on the surface at least, younger entrepreneurs may appear to have better long-term prospects than an older generation. However, does that mean that younger talent needs to thrive at the expense of older entrepreneurial talent?
Many of the mature entrepreneurs I meet are just as able to succeed as their younger counterparts. The reason is that they have the benefit of experience which tends to lead them to be more realistic and prudent in their choice of business venture. After all, with a growing family and the prospect of redundancy looming, they really can't afford not to succeed. Often their determination is almost palpable, and to those who are worried about the longevity question, we just have to consider the offspring as well as the grandchildren, nieces and nephews all ready to step into their elder family member's shoes.
I understand the importance of firing up young entrepreneurial minds but I do not agree it should be at the expense of an older and more experienced generation. Yet it is something we see time and again, for example by the Start-up Loan Scheme, who had a similar type of pre-middle age cut off point. This age cap was later removed which perhaps shows that these organisations are beginning to recognise that the over 30's are underrepresented and that more needs to be done to support the older entrepreneurs. It shouldn't be forgotten that mature entrepreneurs are just as valuable to the British economy as their younger counterparts and I think society needs to reflect this by offering them more support and opportunities than what is currently available.