UK government opens fund for young entrepreneurs

Four young entrepreneurs, and what they're selling.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has launched a fund which will offer startup loans to under-25s who have a big idea for a business. What does it take to be a young entrepreneur?

When Jamal Edwards was fifteen, careers advisers had little hope for him. Working in a fast food restaurant, they said, was the peak of his potential.

But Jamal had other ideas. Combining his two obsessions – urban music and film-making – he started creating videos of grime MCs on the streets of his native London. Jamal struck gold: by the time he was 18, his online TV channel had millions of viewers. Last month his personal fortune hit £6 million.

Most striking of all is Jamal’s age: he is just 21. By giving a voice to genres that mainstream media ignored, he built a hugely successful enterprise while he was still in his teens. In an age of rocketing youth unemployment, young entrepreneurs like Jamal are particularly inspiring.

Among those impressed is British Prime Minister David Cameron. This week, Cameron has launched a fund offering loans to young people for startup businesses. Anybody between the ages of 18 and 24 can apply: the only requirement is a big idea and the drive to see it through.

Ideas can come from anywhere. Oliver Bridge received his inspiration in a shoe shop. By the time he was sixteen, his feet were already too large for mainstream shoe sizes. There seemed to be no easy solution – so he decided to invent one. His website, Bigger Feet, now caters to thousands of people with above-average foot sizes. By the time he finished university, Oliver owned no fewer than three startup businesses.

Dominic McVey’s spark came from an even less likely source. After misspelling the word ‘visa’ in a Google search, he came across a foreign company called ‘Viza,’ which sold kick scooters. Realising that they could be a hit among British teens, he immediately started importing them. His enterprising thinking started a craze.

Success takes sacrifices. After long days of school work, Oliver would stay up late into the night arranging orders for shoes and tweaking his website. As Jamal says, ‘be prepared to limit your social life.’

But for most young entrepreneurs, the experience of achieving something from scratch is more than enough of a reward.

Jamal’s best advice: ‘chase your dream, not the competition, because looking at the competition will cloud your vision.’

Teenage kickstart

These are inspiring stories – but the truth is, most startup businesses end in failure. It takes luck as well as determination to make a fortune in business.

But those who have had a shot at being an entrepreneur almost always say it is worth it – even if the idea is not a success. Building a business, they say, teaches you things that books and teachers never can. Even if your plan does not work out, you come out of it a stronger, smarter person.

You Decide

  1. Does the idea of starting a business appeal to you?
  2. Should schools focus more on teaching practical business skills?

Activities

  1. You are a young person looking for a loan for your startup business. Write a letter to a bank in which you try to persuade them that your youth is an advantage, not a handicap.
  2. Think of an idea for a business and write up a plan of action. What is the product? Who are your target audience? How will you go about selling it?

Some People Say...

“The best school in the world is the school of life.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I’ve got a business idea! How do I get hold of a loan?
Great! If you are 18 and live in England, head tothe fund’s website as soon as possible. If you don’t fit those criteria and you don’t want to wait, never fear: banks or individuals can often be persuaded to fund a truly good idea. Charities and the government also run mentoring programmes to help you put your idea into practice.
There’s a recession on, right? So isn’t this a pretty bad time to start up a business?
Many of the most successful businesses of recent times began during a recession – Apple, Microsoft, Facebook. With established businesses struggling and people changing their buying habits, a bad economy can counterintuitively mean a good climate for startups.

Word Watch

Grime
‘Grime’ emerged in the early 2000s from the East End of London, from a marriage American-influenced hip-hop to genres more popular in Britain, such as garage and dancehall. Grime remained ‘underground’ for a long time, but eventually broke into the mainstream with artists like Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Strider.
Entrepreneurs
Literally ‘one who undertakes something,’ the word ‘entrepreneur’ was first used to describe theatrical agents and managers. Nowadays it refers to businesspeople who come up with innovations in order to make money from business.
Kick scooters
Scooters have been around for at least a hundred years, mostly as toys for children. But in the 1990s – partly because of Dominic McVey – they became briefly fashionable for teenagers and even businessmen.

Subjects

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