Since participating in the first series of Junior Apprentice, Emma Walker has embarked on her own business venture called Enterprise Days -providing inspirational and educational one-day business challenges within schools. Emma talks to inspiresme.co.uk about life as a young entrepreneur and why children should be learning more about business.
Q: What is the concept of Enterprise Days Ltd and how did you come up with it?
A: After Junior Apprentice, I got asked to talk at schools frequently and was surprised at how I was the only real experience of enterprise the students were having. I asked teachers I met why they didn’t run any other activities and cost was the issue which kept arising. I did some research and found companies were charging stupid money for an enterprise day which didn’t really equip students with the skills they needed. My gap was found, and Enterprise Days was born.
Q: Once you had the idea, how easy was it to turn it into a business?
A: We all have ideas where we simply have no idea how to make it into a reality. Yet with Enterprise Days, I knew it was achievable. I was in education myself at the time yet also someone who educated on business. I knew both sides of the coin, and how to make it fantastic from both angles. It took me five weeks to launch the business from the initial idea.
Q: Why do you think teaching children about entrepreneurship and business orientation is so important?
A: I feel business is considered a dirty word in education, but it really is VITAL for everyone to know. Every element of peoples' lives is controlled by business. It’s all one giant cycle, which directly impacts individuals and their lives. We aim to educate students on enterprise to help support and guide them in 3 key areas; their own careers (as most students will work for a business), for their own personal finances (these also have to be run like a business, too much going out and not enough coming in doesn’t work in business or for personal finances) and to show students that business is a genuine option.
Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced during the initial start-up process?
A: My personal motivation level was my biggest challenge. I have spent the past 14 years in education with someone else telling me where to be and when to be there, so having free reign over my time and being at home the majority of the time made it difficult for me to get into the work mind set.
Q: Has starting your own business always been one of your goals?
A: It’s never really been a goal. To me, it was just another step. While most people go to university then into a job, I always knew that business was the path I would take.
Q: Why have you chosen to have your own business rather than have a successful career working for someone else?
A: As a child, I hated being restricted by others. We spend our school life being controlled by teachers, our childhood being controlled by parents and the rest of our life being controlled by our bosses and that next mortgage payment. I can’t stand not feeling free. And business can give me that freedom, both financially and time wise.
Q: What characteristics/qualities do you think are key to the success of an entrepreneur?
A: Bravery, passion, self-belief and common sense. And without all four of those, you can never be successful in business.
Q: What are your future plans and expectations for Enterprise Days Ltd?
A: I really hope and believe that Enterprise Days will become the biggest provider of enterprise education in the UK.
Q: Although Enterprise Days Ltd is still a new business, do you have any other potential start-ups on the horizon?
A: Goodness yes, I have ideas every single day and while my focus is on Enterprise Days, I have a few exciting projects coming for 2012.
Q: What is the best thing about being a young entrepreneur?
A: I get to do what I want, when I want. I don’t have to fit life around lessons or working hours, I work it around me.
Q: What is the worst thing about being an entrepreneur?
A: I think that loneliness is an issue. Entrepreneurs are a rare breed and the road they take is, to begin with, a very solitary one.
Q: What are your thoughts on starting a business during a recession?
A: I see a recession as a forest fire, wiping out the crap businesses which weren’t operating effectively. Those businesses SHOULD fold. This then leaves the room on the forest floor for new saplings to grow. Recession creates opportunities for new businesses, start one now, and you can ride the boom which will come.
Q: People often say “it’s who you know, not what you know”. Do you believe this is true and can this be applied to your situation?
A: Contacts in business can be gold dust. However, I think it’s a mixture of who and what you know which leads to success. Doesn’t matter who you know, if you’re an idiot it’s irrelevant. However, if you know the right stuff, you should have the initiative to go out and meet the right people.
Q: How do you manage the work/social life/home time balance? As a young entrepreneur do you ever find yourself working seven day weeks?
A: For me, business was always a hobby. And now it’s a full time thing I find it difficult to know when to switch off. I love what I do, and when I don’t do anything for an entire day, I actually feel really guilty. My social life isn’t the typical one of a 19 year old for sure, but I am blessed to meet incredible people regularly – I’d take that over getting drunk any day.
Q: If you could give future young entrepreneurs three pieces of advice what would they be?
- Listen to your gut. Society knocks gut feelings out of us, work to listen to it, it’s often right.
- Entrepreneurs are risk takers, so be brave.
- Be nice. Being rude and arrogant doesn’t make your achievements sound any better… plus, not being nice makes you a bit of an idiot. And nobody likes an idiot.