By Daniel Hunter

There has never been a better time for young people to start a business, according to experts at the Student Entrepreneurs Question Time (SEQT) event at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester last night (Tuesday).

Panellists from the world of business and politics told the audience of students that today’s technological advances gave entrepreneurs more opportunity than ever before.

However, they warned that to succeed in business they need to be prepared to fail, remain ambitious without over-stretching themselves financially, and seek expert advice to negotiate complications such as managing intellectual property, exporting, contracts and funding.

The event, hosted by the National Association of College & University Entrepreneurs (NACUE) and Santander, was set up to bridge the gap between youth and government and allow budding entrepreneurs to discuss the issues that are important to them.

Around 80,000 university students across the UK currently run businesses, according to research from Santander. A quarter of these plan to turn their business into a career when they graduate, highlighting the importance of young entrepreneurs to the UK economy.

But students at the SEQT event claimed they needed more practical support from the government and universities such as mentoring schemes. Other ideas discussed included making use of vacant office buildings to house start-up businesses and introducing assessment of entrepreneurial work undertaken during university degree courses as well as academic study.

Chris Sharkey, Head of Education, Santander Corporate and Commercial Banking, said: “We cannot underestimate the importance of the nation’s young entrepreneurs. The economy needs small businesses to bring about prosperity and nurturing young people, innovation and expertise is key to accelerating growth. An important part of this is to ensure their voice does not get lost – young people need to be heard as they are the business leaders of the future.”

Johnny Luk, NACUE Chief Executive added: “More students are setting up businesses and choosing to be self-employed than ever before. They’re engaging in activities beyond the classroom, such as entrepreneurial societies, and developing their soft skills, which are not always reflected in an exam grade. In spite of this, the students in our community often find it difficult to engage with politicians. We work to advocate for these students, the dreamers, the strivers, and the innovators, opening up more meaningful engagement channels between young people and politicians.”

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