Young entrepreneurs

Britain’s youngest are filled with a passion for success in business and there are a distinct crop of younger business people leading the way in success and innovation. Despite the taxing economic conditions of the global downturn, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful, as our young business leaders find new and intriguing ways to beat the financial blues and create successful firms, as well as set the standard on sustainability and CSR.

Technological savvyness

There's little doubt that technology is an enabler, reducing the costs of doing business and increasing the potential marketplace for any company. Younger people have grown up with technology at the forefront of their lives, and understand the efficiencies it can create. They also have an understanding of how it can be deployed effectively. This is particularly true of online technologies such as cloud computing and social media.

Rajeeb Dey, who founded the English Secondary Students’ Association (ESSA) when he was 17, says that a natural affinity with social media platforms will go a long way to help young entrepreneurs market their businesses.

“Young people in Britain today are increasingly connected and are digital natives - thus au fait social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn which provide great marketing and networking opportunities. They are great ways of promoting your own businesses and connecting with potential business contacts - helping to drive up sales and access new opportunities - best of all they're free.”

Alice Hastings-Bass and Rebecca Glenapp, who founded members only fashion community when they were 28, say that the rise of social media allows tech-savvy youngsters to more effectively market their business at a reduced cost.

“It's never been easier to start marketing a business. With free or very low cost online marketing channels instantly at your disposal, you can start selling your product or service instantly. Our biggest sales driver, for example, is our weekly email newsletter.”

Less to lose and easier to gain

The rise of the web has allowed entrepreneurs to not only start online businesses with minimal cost but also to reach a far wider audience at a fraction of the cost of traditional forms of advertising. This has really democratised the nature of entrepreneurship, and has made the potential risk of starting up a business far more attractive. 

Rajeeb Dey, who was given the O2 X Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2009, says: “The cost of setting up a business (especially an online venture) has fallen dramatically and there is far less to lose. You can start a business from your bedroom, bootstrap it (keeping your expenses to a minimum and not necessarily having to raise lots of investment).”

That there is now less to lose when starting a business is very attractive to younger people who may have dreamt of starting a business but couldn’t quite stomach the potential losses if things did not work out. This issue is compounded in periods of high unemployment where everyone becomes particularly risk-averse. However, the lower-risk nature of online businesses means entrepreneurs are more able to ‘take a punt,’ which could well lead to long-term success.

As Rajeeb Dey says: “Given the state of the youth unemployment crisis - why not make your own job rather than take a job?”

Access to resources

Like many things in life, there’s now much more advice and support out there from people with experience and knowledge. In the business world, this often comes in the form of advice clinics, seminars, business events, Government initiatives, and a whole host of measures that are available from many areas.

All this advice allows you to do one thing – learn from other peoples’ mistakes instead of your own. There's a much better appreciation for the benefits of learning from others, and because information can be accessed so much more easily (via a simple Google search in many cases) budding entrepreneurs can get clued-up quickly.

Fraser Doherty, who started fresh jam company SuperJam when he was 14, found the level of support he received invaluable: “In my experience of getting SuperJam off the ground, I found that there is a huge amount of help, support and advice available to young people trying to start a business.

University schemes for Graduate entrepreneurs

The number of university schemes that teach young entrepreneurs essential business skills continues to grow, giving inventors and energetic business people an established and proven route to take, which can be useful for young entrepreneurs who know they want to go into business but don’t know how to start.

This represents a growing cultural shift that sees 'going into business' as a viable career choice, and helps give young people the approval and backing they need to believe in themselves and make a go of entrepreneurship.

Arnold Du Toit, who started his company Drive Daddy when he was 21 years old and in his final year of university, feels that many university courses offer a full package of support to their students.

“London South Bank University, for example, has pioneered their Enterprise Associate Scheme which supports graduate entrepreneurs by vital start-up support and funding. This particular scheme will give the entrepreneurs two years to get their idea developed and progressed to a commercial state.

“They will also build, finance and protect all the companies' IP to match their growth and strategy which can give the entrepreneur full confidence in having a global dream. They continue their support throughout the companies life cycle as an invested partner and therefore products such as our RolleyGolf [Drive Daddy product] had a great start for a global attack.”

Mentoring schemes

The rise in acceptance and popularity of mentoring schemes have slashed the business learning curve and allowed younger entrepreneurs to benefit from the expertise and experience of established business people. These relationships are often one-on-one, allowing the mentor to offer personalised advice relevant to the young entrepreneur’s ideas, increasing the chances of the business succeeding.

Specialised companies now exist solely to provide mentoring to entrepreneurs - these companies have teams of entrepreneurs picked for their mentoring prowess, along with honed mentoring programmes that help to deliver the maximum benefit in the most cost-effective way.

Arnold Du Toit says: “Today's young entrepreneurs rely mostly on gut feeling and the burning desire to build new and innovative businesses. But unfortunately there is no substitute for experience and foresight in this line of business. Thankfully to-date there are hundreds of willing "grey-hairs" who find time to give back into the entrepreneurial world.

"These mentors can be the fundamental ingredient to success and many will never expect anything in return. Mentors can become great negotiators and sounding boards to eliminate risk in making decisions. With RolleyGolf we have a small collective of mentors who make sure the young enterprising spirit is channeled correctly.”

Fraser from SuperJam adds: “I benefitted from having a mentor, a guy called Kevin. He had built a successful business supplying supermarkets and was willing to spend some time with me, sharing the lessons he had learned. I think that with the advice of mentors like Kevin, Britain's young entrepreneurs have a much better chance of success.”

Networking opportunities

According to Alice Hastings-Bass and Rebecca Glenapp of, younger people have access to a far greater range of networking opportunities and mediums than the previous generation.

“Every young person has grown up with a much bigger network to contact (for example, via social media and email) then the previous generation. It sounds obvious but one of the easiest wins is to
tell your network about your business - everyone loves to hear about something new and exciting!”

Previously it was a lot harder for entrepreneurs to access useful contacts within their friends' networks, but social media allows them to look beyond their own network at the click of a button.

There are also dedicated networking groups that exist solely to promote business connections and collaborative efforts, which makes it far easier for entrepreneurs to get partnerships off the ground quickly.