A time for young Entrepreneurs

18/04/2018 — Graeme Smith

Now is the time of the year when our young people start visiting universities, choosing courses and deciding on the path their career will take. But, university isn’t the only option for a rewarding life of work, being a young entrepreneur is a viable option that can bring all the attributes of success that are associated with a traditional career and often much sooner.

A study by Microsoft in 2016 showed that there are many young entrepreneurs in the UK who have launched companies that have scaled and hit major business milestones while only in their teens or early 20s. And, these young entrepreneurs are often much more successful than their more established colleagues.

In the same survey, 9% of companies owned by entrepreneurs over the age of 55 were running at a loss compare to just 3% of UK companies owned by under 35 year-olds. Of those surveyed, women were also revealed to be better at managing their firm’s financial health than men, with just 2% of female-owned businesses making a loss compared to 8% of their male counterparts.

For any bight young individual it can be an easy decision to follow the allure of a good regular salary with a visible career path and regular hours especially when compared to the uncertainty of working for yourself. After all, building a business requires hard work, long hours and probably limited income in the early years. But the rewards of entrepreneurship can come quickly.

Tom Honey started selling ice cream on a beach in Devon when he was 16. By the end of that summer he was earning £300 day and by the time he was doing his A levels he was employing 20 people and getting investment for a restaurant.

Fraser Doherty left school to perfect his grans jam recipe and by 19 he was selling to Waitrose. 10 years later he was exporting around the world, expanding the product range and had become an international business speaker.

Jersey has a wealth of talented young people just like Tom and Fraser running businesses in the digital sector, agriculture, creative industries, e-commerce and retail industries. Without any fuss they are just getting on with setting up and growing their organisations, employing people, exporting and using technology in a way that more established businesses can only dream of.

Some may have been to university before starting their enterprise, some may not, but either way we need to celebrate these young entrepreneurs, work out how to support them better and encourage more to follow in their footsteps.

I believe that one way to do this is to focus on is how to develop and support an ‘entrepreneurial mind-set’. The success of our financial services sector means there are a large number of high quality career opportunities with great salaries in multi-national organisations. So it could be argued that  Jersey’s success in finance means that less of our students choose to become young entrepreneurs partly because they and their mentors don’t have the experience of this career path.

I’m not critical of our financial Services sector, quite the opposite. The fact that we do have well paid career opportunities for our talented students, benefits our whole society. What I’m trying to say is that because of our success, we need to find better ways  of supporting the young entrepreneurs who do decide to build their own business.

In Jersey we are naturally risk averse and that means we don’t tend to deal with any form of change or risk well. To encourage entrepreneurs to build really innovative new businesses we need to allow them to try, fail, learn quickly and then try again.

We do have some good initiatives with the activities of Young Enterprise and various school programmes stimulating entrepreneurial talent. We at Jersey Business will also help support young entrepreneurs with more generic business skills development and Digital Jersey are playing a vital role ensuring we build cutting edge capability both in our young people and the wider business economy.

But we don’t have a joined up environment where the physical, financial and practical support is in one location focused on young developing entrepreneurs. I am committed to working with government and business leaders to create a more cohesive approach to business support in Jersey but we all have a responsibility, in our roles as parents, teachers and bosses, to make sure that our young entrepreneurs have the chance to succeed in whatever path they choose.

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