The UK government has a scheme for young entrepreneurs aged 18-24 which offers start-up loans averaging £2,500. I am wondering if this would have encouraged me when I was starting up, aged 22. Yes, I think it would; it would have paid for a few essentials like marketing. As one commenter said, in this day and age it is more than enough to set up a business online which is as good a way to start as any.
The scheme is aimed at young people with a business idea and offers them training and support in developing a business plan. Stefan Stern, writing in The Guardian, says that entrepreneurs need to be energetic, resilient and have the capacity to stick at something and never give up. These are qualities I recognise in the entrepreneur I once was but not now necessarily, although I think that may be just that I found a better way over the years. Certainly there is no other choice for me now, a job would be unthinkable.
The most telling points Mr Stern made in his piece were as follows:
“Entrepreneurs are different. They don’t take no for an answer. They pursue obsessions, beyond the point where other more conventional or conservative types would back down. They are also, crucially, often not really in it for the money. Their inner drive is emotional and may not have a rational basis. Sometimes entrepreneurs are trying to right a perceived wrong: they grew up in poverty and want to prove themselves, or perhaps they were bullied at school for being eccentric or a slow learner. Maybe a parent was unusually demanding, cruel or remote.
Whatever lies behind their ambition, true entrepreneurs will put up with a great deal of hardship and uncertainty in pursuit of their goals. So for many, while a small loan will be welcome, it is actually neither here nor there in terms of providing an incentive to start a business. They are going to do it anyway.”
Yes, I was always different, still am. And I was always going to do it anyway. I have become inured to hardship and uncertainty and I also recognise that it has taken its toll on my health and well-being and on my financial success which has ebbed and flowed over my entrepreneurial decades. But compared to the hardships endured by friends who still have jobs, there’s no contest.
What are your drivers? Do you recognise yourself in that description? Do you feel different? Do you revel in that or resist it? Today could be the day where we recognise our differences and celebrate them, perhaps wishing we were younger and might qualify for this little financial leg up.
Maybe we are not in it mainly for the money but, unlike many I’ve met over the years, I also welcome that reward as much as any of the other benefits I enjoy. And as long as we’re having fun, being engaged and keeping the wolf from the door, does it matter?
In the sense in which these loans are being offered, yes it does. Because they are intended as yet another (little) way of kick-starting the British economy by creating a climate of entrepreneurship such as that which is said to exist in the USA. Lord Young, David Cameron’s enterprise adviser, says that there would be 900,000 more businesses in Britain if we could foster that same climate of enterprise.
I would encourage anyone to have a go at working for themselves as I have found it to be much more stimulating in every way than any of the few jobs I ever had, but doing so obliges you to take a good, long hard look at yourself. Speaking as the accountant I used to be, it is possible to read in your accounts which bits of the business you are good and which bits need work. You probably know that about yourself already. So what still needs improvement and why are you dodging that challenge?
Are you content just to be providing your own employment, or is there any sense in which you want to do that to re-ignite the economy in your part of the world? Reflecting on that last question particularly, that’s a worthy goal too and it remains part of my mission although not always my main intention.