By: Sam Smith, CEO, finnCap
As an entrepreneur myself, I strongly believe in making entrepreneurship a career path truly open to all. We must ensure the obvious entrepreneurial potential of young people is realised, regardless of their background. Too often, lack of networks, expertise and capital are significant barriers for young people trying to turn their amazing business idea into a successful business. ‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it’ springs to mind – aspiring young entrepreneurs without role-models, mentors or family connections undoubtedly face an uphill struggle. That is why inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs – and creating a more level playing field – has become a personal mission of mine.
It all starts at school
The starting point is to increase the visibility of entrepreneurship at an early age and integrate entrepreneurship into the school curriculum. Entrepreneurship is often taught at colleges and universities, but earlier intervention in schools and a greater focus on thinking and acting entrepreneurially could radically transform young people’s career prospects. As a society, we should be doing all we can to harness the passion, creativity, and ambition of young people – and that means addressing the fundamental shortcomings of the school curriculum. If we are looking to the education system to help produce the next generation of entrepreneurial talent, it’s abundantly clear that business schools and MBA courses are only part of the solution.
Skills for life
Many of tomorrow’s movers and shakers will be teenagers now, literally building businesses from their bedrooms. Demystifying entrepreneurship and fostering the skills of entrepreneurship, such as initiative, innovation, and creativity, can set young people from diverse backgrounds on the path to entrepreneurship early on. Critically, entrepreneurship education isn’t just for would-be entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial skills are, in fact, vital life skills. Character-building elements of self-confidence, leadership, curiosity, and problem-solving provide a huge foundation for future life. Entrepreneurship education helps to create a fairer foundation for all and a more balanced, equal society – better for young people, and better for society as a whole.
Teen-preneurs: the next generation
Supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs – whoever they are and wherever they come from – is both the right thing to do, and fundamental for the long-term growth of the British economy. Smart, fearless thinking from the very youngest entrepreneurs – who often bring fierce ambition and much sought-after insight about their own age group – can boost British business and the economy. We stand on the verge of profound and rapid technological advancements that will precipitate even greater change in business and employment – new skillsets and new outlooks for prosperity have arguably never had greater currency.
I’ve seen first-hand the creativity, innovation and tenacity of the UK’s ‘teen-preneurs’ through finnCap’s Side Hustle initiative in partnership with YourGamePlan and ACCA. Through the initiative, we celebrated the achievements of 25 exceptional young entrepreneurs aged 14-18 years old, who took part in a Dragons Den-style pitch.
Finalists included a 17-year-old old ‘teen-preneur’ who started his own 3D printing side-hustle, using his lunch money to buy a small 3D printer to kickstart his idea, and a self-taught freelance motion designer who, from the age of 11, has created animated videos and graphics for advertising campaigns and is now receiving commissions from businesses. It was an absolute privilege to hear about their incredible business ideas and to offer funding and professional mentoring to support them on their entrepreneurial journey. It also made me more determined than ever to help tackle the deep challenges faced by aspiring young entrepreneurs and help drive much-needed change. I would urge other entrepreneurs and business leaders to consider how they too can help make a difference.