How young people are challenging the conventions of entrepreneurship
Despite the flurry of media commentary surrounding young enterprise, very little is actually known about how young people become entrepreneurs. As part of their Inspiring Enterprise partnership [link to IE page], the RSA and RBS sought to plug this gap by listening to and analysing the stories told by young people about their entrepreneurial journeys: from the emergence of their business idea, to the inception of their business, to where they are today.
Our report, Disrupt Inc. (PDF 1.2MB), reveals that the way in which some young people now start and run businesses is radically different to widely held assumptions. While some young people will live up to the conscious, meticulous and lone stereotypes that are so synonymous with entrepreneurship, many others will not. Rather, they will stumble into a business ‘accidentally’, start up on a shoestring budget and with an imperfect product, and rely on a whole host of other people to get them to where they want to be.
The report concludes that young enterprise support may be geared too heavily towards supporting one ‘journey’ of entrepreneurship at the expense of less conventional, but increasingly popular, routes to start-up. The level of debate around the availability of finance, for example, overlooks the large numbers of young people who are keen to bootstrap their way through the initial stages of their business. Similarly, the effort spent in establishing formal mentorship schemes belie the preference that many young people have for more informal support from personal contacts.
The report recommends a number of steps that government, support organisations and the corporate industry could take to rebalance support and help more young people become successful entrepreneurs. These include:
- Launching a myth-busting marketing campaign to challenge assumptions and change the culture surrounding enterprise.
- Encouraging greater numbers of young people to access enterprise support by promoting a more inclusive definition of ‘entrepreneurialism’ that encompasses a broader range of activities and behaviours.
- Establishing micro-loans that enable young people to build prototypes and test the viability of their business idea with real customers in the market.
- Reengineering enterprise support services to cater for the lean, bootstrapping style of entrepreneurship increasingly witnessed among young people.
- Stoking the demand for the products and services of young entrepreneurs by altering procurement exercises and connecting them with new clients.
- Supporting co-founding initiatives that enable young people to link up with supportive business partners.
- Encouraging well-established businesses to incubate young entrepreneurs and open up access to their expertise and connections.