The world’s largest economies, and those developing the fastest to join them, are all entrepreneurial cultures. This is not a coincidence. A culture that encourages and supports self-reliance, initiative, personal ambition and economic competition is building the conditions in which money-making enterprises will thrive, and the nation as a whole will benefit. Though it is often well-established multi-nationals that get the attention, these do not drive world economies on their own.
Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of any capitalist economy, and it is important that they keep coming up. New entrepreneurs bring with them new ideas, new ways of doing business, and new technology that ensures continued growth and development. With that in mind, it is important to consider just what we can do to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.
The good news is that there is no shortage of motivation among the young. Recent studies suggest that 72% of high school students and 64% of college undergraduates hope to start their own business (the drop of 8% between college and high school is probably because those budding entrepreneurs went straight into work rather than higher education). However, motivation isn’t everything, and sadly without proper support, roughly half of new business ventures fail within their first year. What is the best way to offer effective support?
Many high schools now offer subjects that are relevant to entrepreneurship, such as business studies and economics. However, schools also need to inculcate the less tangible qualities that entrepreneurs require. AIS of Singapore is an American international school that places confidence, creativity and balance at the heart of its curriculum, and encourages its pupils to follow their dreams while also learning the practical skills to make that possible.
While many entrepreneurs when left to their own devices will fail, 88% of those working with an experienced mentor will succeed. When successful businesspeople invest time and energy into helping a young person succeed with their own start-up company, they are also investing in the future. Successful start-ups improve the wider economy, creating a healthier market for everyone.
Companies can also help to encourage entrepreneurship by partnering with nonprofits or government organizations to set up business training programs both for disadvantaged youngsters at home and in developing countries. Such programs encourage the entrepreneurial spirit while providing resources and opportunities that are not readily available to many, even if they have the talent, drive and vision to become great entrepreneurs. Business-based scholarship programs for promising entrepreneurs from deprived backgrounds can be similarly effective.
Sometimes, it can be hard to recognize entrepreneurial behavior in young people because it often goes against our ideas of how they should behave. “Disruptive” is considered a positive description in business, but negative when applied to a child’s behavior. Yet tomorrow’s entrepreneurs are frequently rule-breakers who question authority, see things differently, and may forego academic study for getting ahead in other ways.
By recognizing this entrepreneurial spirit and channeling it rather than punishing it, we can not only stop these children from getting into trouble but also set them on the path to becoming future entrepreneurs who will bring great benefit to society.