By Charlotte Hogg, Co-founder of TheEntrepreneursWorkout
The wheels on the Start Up Britain bus are going round and round, taking the superstar Start Up Britain team around the UK, inspiring students and encouraging entrepreneurship as they visit 10,000 students in 40 towns and cities in 4 weeks.
The Start up tour team, which is led by the extraordinary Emma Jones is the brainchild of 8 of the UKs leading entrepreneurs including Michael Hayman and Oli Barrett who were both at Lewisham College this week to see the bus off on its first leg of the month long tour.
The team, which has grown significantly in the last 18 months, spend much of the year working on various projects and initiatives across the UK, harnessing the expertise and passion of Britain’s leading businesspeople to celebrate, inspire and accelerate enterprise in the UK.
The campaign, and the bus tour, is fully supported by the Chancellor and HM Government whilst it is privately funded by the Start Up Britain sponsors, AXA, Dell, Intel, Intuit, Magento Go and Paypal.
The team are taking their computer terminals, their start up goody bags and two whole floors of passion, energy and enthusiasm to students who might like to consider entrepreneurship as an opportunity after school or college. The team will be ‘on board’ to help students understand how to develop their ideas, helping them understand the entrepreneurial journey and the many opportunities it can present, connect students to mentors and even help them apply for a start up loan on board.
The question is, what does this really mean and what can we do to help?
For me, leaving university isn’t too distant a memory and I can clearly remember feeling overwhelmed by the huge number of options presented to me upon graduation. Making the decision to start my own business feels like only yesterday yet the rollercoaster ride I have been on to provide me with the skills and knowledge I’ve needed to make my startup a success feels like a lifetime journey. It has been painful, expensive and often challenging and frankly, I would not be where I am if it weren’t for the valuable lessons more established entreprepreneurs in the industry, including members of the Start Up Britain team, have been able to share with me.
As our economic climate has become increasingly difficult and with the younger generation disproportionately affected by the downturn, over 1 million 16-24 year olds are facing unemployment. How much more confusing must making your big life decisions be as a teenager when your future is so uncertain and your options seemingly so limited?
Many young people will think that starting ‘their own’ business will mean that they will need to be able to make decisions, define ideas, develop marketing plans, deliver pitches and detail financial projections and forecasts on ‘their own’. They will be shocked and overwhelmed by the kindness, encouragement and support we, as an entrepreneurial community can offer them. They will be shocked by the generosity so many people will show them and the genuine belief people they admire and respect will have for them. I know, for me, it has made the difference between success and failure and removed all the ‘start up nightmares’ of loneliness, failure and complete confusion which has meant that ultimately, I can live my dream. Current students, our entrepreneurial talent of the future, simply won’t know that your own business doesn’t mean ‘on your own’ until we show them - and there is no better opportunity to do this than the Start Up Britain tour.
Thankfully for us and our economy, many young people are naturally wired for enterprise and 80% of 16-24 year olds have considered starting up. Most of these people will have the drive and determination to create their own income yet few of them have the simple know how to get things moving. As the Start Up Britain team know, entrepreneurial inspiration and helping young people access finance is not enough to get them on the road to business success. This is why the £82 million Start up Loans scheme that was launched by Lord Young yesterday as the bus commenced in Lewisham combines mentorship, access to finance, community support and encouragement - the key ingredients students need to make their hobbies, ambitions or day dreams a reality whilst helping our economy to prosper.
It is challenging, when your business is in full swing, to remember that at some point, we were all slightly confused by what the future would hold. We have all been stood at a crossroads slightly unsure of what path to take. and it is likely that many of us will remember the few people that were able to show us the way The bus tour, more than just inspiring students, give us all an opportunity to give back. Given that the entrepreneurs who have supported me so significantly are unlikely to benefit from anything other than my praise, I have realised that the most gratitude I can show to them, is to ‘pay it forward’. We all have a role to play in inspiring a generation and should we remember how lucky we are to be able to play that role.
For students across the country, taking a step on the Start Up bus, could be the step that makes the difference between employment and entrepreneurship, unemployment and entrepreneurship and having a daily dream and making that dream a daily reality.
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