With so many young people choosing to work for themselves rather than become someone’s employee, Sussex Business Times looks at how education and business can come together to nurture the entrepreneurial community and build on those skills needed to run a business
As a country, our entrepreneurial community, and therefore business is growing. In 2015, 608,110 businesses were started in the UK, which was a new record compared to 2014’s 581,173 start-ups and 526,447 in 2013 – the number is ever growing. The RBS Enterprise Tracker has consistently found that around a third of UK adults surveyed would like to start their own business. However, not only do only around 6% actually take the leap of faith, we also consistently find a large failure rate when they do: 50% of startups fail in the first year of business, whilst over 90% of businesses fail within 5 years.
So, the question is really, where are we going wrong? Of course, it’s survival of the fittest out there, and we wouldn’t want it any other way, but a huge proportion of that 50% of startups could well have been saved from failure with a few simple solutions. Equally, the fear of failure is one of the top reasons young people don’t pursue their business idea – perhaps with a bit more education and confidence, that fear wouldn’t be so rife.
RBS’ Future of Identifying Enterprising Students paper in 2014 identified that 22% of students have a business idea they would like to develop, but only 4% expect to be running a business or be self-employed six months after graduation. The single biggest obstacle they found between student and enterprise opportunity was engagement; there exists a cohort of enterprise-minded students who are not aware of key organisations that can support them. In simple terms, many students will be missing out on opportunities available to all, simply because of the university they attend or the lack of education they receive on the topic.
Although Britain is producing highly enterprising and skilled students, many of them simply don’t identify with the term ‘enterprise’ or ‘entrepreneur’. There seems to be a chasm between what people’s idea of enterprise is, and what it actually means. More work clearly needs to be done to define it and to help students understand the value they offer employers as they develop enterprise and business skills at school and university.
The RBS Enterprise Tracker in 2014 found that only a third (34%) of the public say that they know where to get information about starting a business and many who do, then find that they’re faced with problems that they simply don’t know how to manage. This can range from simple account management, to employing staff or making a profit.
Schools have long taught the basic and essential skills young people need in life; to build their future; to secure a good career. Mathematics, Sciences and English Literature are views as top of the list when it comes to essential knowledge up to the age of 16, but with the country’s future leaders, managers, employers and entrepreneurs at our fingertips, why are we not taking the opportunity to teach Business?
The term ‘Business Studies’ may make the majority of employers out there cringe, but it’s these ‘soft’ skills that are fueling our demise as an economic and business powerhouse.
We got in touch with Entrepreneur, Tom Cridland, who is in the process of launching a campaign to help integrate education with business, offering young people in developing countries the chance to learn what’s needed in the business world. Passionate about the idea that entrepreneurs in this country and all over the world need more support, we asked about his own entrepreneurial journey.
Tom, you are now the owner of a very successful business, but tell us a bit about your start up story…
I founded Tom Cridland in 2014 when I was 23 to make the perfect pair of men’s trousers and sell them direct to customer online. I took out a £6,000 government start-up loan and jumped head first into the fashion industry with no previous experience. We soon had the honour of making Tom Cridland trousers for people like Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Craig and the brand has started to take off.
And what support or training did you get when you were starting up at age 23?
I had the government start-up loan in terms of support but no training in business or fashion. I first designed clothing when I was 18 and I sold nearly £3,000 worth of “SWINE 09” t-shirts in a single week of school and donated all the profits to Médecins Sans Frontières! That said, I actually studied Modern Languages at the University of Bristol before starting Tom Cridland so, as you can imagine, I had plenty of time to watch The Sopranos before I actually entered the fashion industry.
Tell me about The Entrepreneur’s Shirt campaign. Who are you working with, what are the aims and how will you achieve them?
The Entrepreneur’s Shirt is an opportunity for you to support entrepreneurship in the developing world and amongst young people, whilst getting a sustainable Italian cotton Oxford Shirt in return.
We have campaigned extensively for sustainability in the industry with The 30 Year Collection and designing clothing is true labour of love for us.
We are keen to give back and support aspiring young entrepreneurs, as well as those in the developing world who deserve the opportunity to start businesses and work their way out of poverty. We also want to campaign for a greater focus on nurturing entrepreneurial talent and providing basic business training in our education systems across the world.
5% of The Entrepreneur’s Shirt campaign will be donated to Young Enterprise to inspire and equip young people in Britain to learn and succeed through entrepreneurial endeavour. Based on research statistics published by FreshMinds, students who participate in Young Enterprise programmes have a better understanding of business than their peers and are twice as likely to start-up their own company.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of any healthy economy and, yet, in the developing world it is nigh on impossible for many people to have the chance to work their way out of poverty through entrepreneurship.
Together we can provide greater support to aspiring entrepreneurs who need it and lead a trend towards greater business training in our education systems.
So, do you believe it is important for businesses and education bodies to collaborate? How can we tackle that skills gap that’s affecting so many potential entrepreneurs’ success?
The economic climate for our generation is making it harder for young people seeking employment, looking to buy property and generally trying to do the same things our parents’ generation were able to do far more easily.
On top of that, in a age of supposed tolerance and open mindedness, young entrepreneur’s are often treated in Britain like they’ve strayed from the herd. Many viewed my attempt at starting Tom Cridland as a phase that I will grow out of before getting a ‘proper job’. Our businesses and education bodies need to collaborate.
We must nurture and encourage people who are looking to start businesses, and the economy will benefit a huge amount as a result as people will have far more courage and confidence to give it a go when they have a good idea.
From primary school to university level, unless you take a formal – and often impractical – Business course, you are taught everything from Geography and History to sport and music. Why therefore isn’t a basic business and entrepreneurial training part of curriculum from an early age? It doesn’t matter if you run a small business like or you’re an executive working at a big corporation. Everyone needs to know how to run a business and, more importantly, how to take initiative and think like an entrepreneur.
Apprenticeships are certainly improving this. They teach the value of money, hard work and are more vocational than degrees that are often simply an amusing few years of government subsidised trips to the pub.