The people who want to make jobs, not take jobs
To mark Global Entrepreneurship Week, Matt Chorley meets some of Britain's brightest young business brains
School and university leavers shut out from Britain's grim jobs market are opting to go it alone, setting up their own businesses as established firms won't, or can't, give them a job.
Frustrated at the lack of vacancies and spurred on by television shows such as Dragons' Den, these are the next generation of entrepreneurs who could hold the key to reinvigorating Britain's flaccid economic growth.
Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) – which begins tomorrow – could be overshadowed if youth unemployment figures on Wednesday show that one million young people are now on the dole. While political opponents blame the Government for the crisis, in the process writing off an entire generation, others see the economic woes as an opportunity.
Richard Branson, a backer of the mentoring and support network Virgin Media Pioneers, told the IoS: "While global economic gloom has closed the door to many young people, thousands look upon this as an opportunity. They're seizing the chance to make a job rather than take a job."
David Cameron, speaking ahead of GEW, said: "Every success story starts with someone taking the brave step of striking out on their own. The more we can encourage people to take that step, the better for them, for our economy, and for our country."
Last week the Youth Business International Entrepreneur of the Year awards highlighted how young people from around the globe had started their own firms. The prize was won by Amir Asor, 26, a young Israeli businessman who set up a company using Lego and robotics to help children understand engineering.
Here we profile 10 successful young British entrepreneurs, some of whom are Virgin Media Pioneers who were offered support, mentoring and peer-to-peer guidance in setting up their businesses.
Rick Hewitt, 21
A student of product design at Sheffield Hallam University, he created a pedal-powered washing machine for developing countries and SpinCycle was born
"After washing children's clothes by hand in an orphanage in Burundi, I felt inspired to develop a better method of washing clothes in developing countries. I set up SpinCycle to address real design problems with simple innovative solutions as well as encouraging micro-enterprise in developing countries. Fully understanding my market can be challenging as I can't just fly off to Africa with a couple of questionnaires. Funding is also an issue because prototypes are expensive, as is shipping, so just getting a prototype out to test in Africa to prove its worth is a challenge."
Daniel Koseoglu, 25
Launched the Tiffin Company in Sheffield to give boring working lunches a makeover
"I came up with the idea of a catering and events service during a monotonous business lunch where someone said: 'If you're bidding for someone's work, you want to stand out – not serve up a sub-standard buffet of sandwiches.' I decided the answer was to offer hot, freshly cooked food delivered to the door. Despite living in the City of Steel, I was forced to source the stainless steel tiffin boxes from India instead of using Sheffield's most famous export. The pressure's immense, with many sleepless nights. I'm driven by a fear of failure. It's sometimes hard to maintain confidence in your own ability."
Ruth Amos, 22
Designed the StairSteady as part of a GCSE design project, set up a business in 2006 and launched the product two years later
"Being a young entrepreneur can be a challenge – my view is that you can start a business at any age but the important thing is to identify a need for your product and be passionate about achieving your goals. Age can be your biggest weakness but also your biggest strength. I now run StairSteady Ltd full time and use my experience to help other young, aspirant entrepreneurs by giving talks in schools and colleges. The most important piece of advice is to ask questions. Don't be afraid, as it is the only way to improve and grow, and everyone has been inexperienced at one stage. Take on board other people's opinions, learn from them but make sure you make the final decision for yourself – you have to believe in every decision you make. The most important part of entrepreneurship is passion so, above all else, enjoy it."
Zoe Jackson, 22
Aged just 16, she set up the Living the Dream Performing Arts Company in St Albans to subsidise her fees at the National Youth Theatre. Now works with more than 400 five- to 25-year-olds, offering classes, after-school clubs and dancewear
"Since graduating from The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts last year, I have launched Living the Dream. The past year has been a whirlwind. On New Year's Eve, our dancers performed a flash-mob at St Pancras International and this opened many doors, leading to creating flash-mobs for corporate companies. My key advice to anyone who wants to start or grow a business is not to be afraid to take risks. If I wasn't as fearless as I am, I wouldn't be where I am today. If you can dream it, you can do it."
Matt Lovett, 20
Launched WOW Media in 2007, with 10 websites in five countries offering discounts, marketing and dating
"At the age of 12 I started to buy and sell sweets to school pupils. I found that I had a passion for business and decided I wanted to do something online. I decided to start a new company on my own, WOW Media, which has grown from strength to strength over the past few years. I am driven by success and am constantly looking for fresh ideas to grow my company. My advice to people starting up in business is to plan out your ideas. Keep trying, but also know when to give up and move on to something else."
Alyssa Smith, 25
Wanting to create her own jewellery designs, she set up her own firm in Hertfordshire and is now "Resident Entrepreneur" at the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, supporting other young entrepreneurs
"Being a young entrepreneur is not easy. There have been a few disappointments so far, but nothing that has ever made me think about giving up. Putting myself out there and focusing on what I wanted to achieve has opened a lot of doors. My advice to others starting out? Be prepared to work hard. You can't give up at the first hurdle. It's not easy and if it was, everyone would be an entrepreneur. Believe in yourself, because if you don't, then no one else will."
Abdul Khan, 24
Raised £40,000 in finance from family and friends to launch the curry house directory RateThatCurry.com
"I saw a gap in the market for an online directory for UK curry houses, powered by customer reviews. All I was told was that I had no credibility. Access to finance was my biggest challenge but it turned into a great opportunity. I also raised capital by building websites for independent curry houses. So many ideas are wasted, but my advice would be to stay with it. Don't be put off by the economy – you have to accept that it'll be hard. The key to success is never take no for an answer."
Lizzie Fane, 25
Launched ThirdYearAbroad.com, offering advice on living, studying and working abroad, after she experienced difficulties abroad during her third year at university
"By offering free advice and support, inspiring case studies and a showcase of the huge range of careers open to graduates who have studied abroad, we can help students see the value of an overseas placement. Solving a problem you have personally experienced is a great foundation for starting a business – you understand your target market and know you can help make lives better. Entrepreneurs need to possess – or quickly learn – an huge number of skills. Coming up with an initial idea is the easy bit."
Ronke Ige, 32
While pregnant in 2007, she was sent shea butter, a skin moisturiser, by her grandmother in Nigeria. It was difficult to source in the UK so she launched Emi & Ben, named after her daughter and nephew
"I started my natural skincare business to be in control and have something to leave my child. The thought of being my own boss and creating something out of nothing has always excited me. The worst part is not having enough time. Becom- ing a successful entrepreneur is a great path, but budding entrepreneurs must gain experience. Be consistent, stand out from the crowd, never be satisfied, and have confidence."
Calypso Rose, 30
Founded Clippy Kits, after creating a clear plastic bag on her kitchen table that could display photographs which became popular with celebrities including Helena Bonham Carter
"I quickly realised that a business plan was a necessity. You need to have 100 per cent faith in your product and not be afraid to sell it – a bulk email will not do. Start networking for advice, ideas and opportunities. The great thing about being your own boss is that you are in charge. The surge of excitement from even small successes is exhilarating."
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