Start Them Young

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In an economy that is increasingly reliant on entrepreneurship for job creation, should South Africa not be looking at nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit at a younger age? The adage ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day but teach a man to fish and you feed him for life!’ should be the mantra for our approach to creating a sustainable, entrepreneur-based economy.

Often, young people are turned away from potential employment due to a lack of experience.  This leaves them disillusioned, as not many companies are willing to give them the opportunity to gain experience because training and mentoring negatively impacts profitability. One possible alternative to the continuous rejection of job-hunting is entrepreneurship. And while the road to entrepreneurial success is rocky, it does allow youngsters to seize control of their own destinies.

Entrepreneurship education offers young people the chance to learn organisational skills, leadership, time-management and problem-solving in a constantly changing environment. These skills are prized by big businesses or corporates as essential for any potential high-flyer.

Entrepreneurship should also be valued as an agent of social change. Early education, when partnered with business mentorship, allows youths from various socio-economic backgrounds to nurture their business ideas as well as innovative problem-solving techniques, thus levelling the historically unbalanced playing field.

Another key characteristic of entrepreneurs is that they are sometimes not considered to be conventionally smart. Young entrepreneurs often display characteristics that would lead them to be punished or penalized by a school system that seeks to create a uniformly-shaped person by the end of high school. These ‘diamonds in the rough’ should be embraced for their uniqueness of thought and supported in creating a niche for themselves and others. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, is by his own admission, a bad student…

Another positive outcome of promoting youth entrepreneurship is that the goods and services they provide their community at a localised level revitalises the micro-economy, by creating opportunities for local goods and services to be utilised by the same community in which they were created.

Fostering an entrepreneurial mindset at an early age could very well unlock South Africa’s latent earning potential, especially in the youth sector. Education, mentorship and partnerships with business support organisations will enable South African youth to grasp opportunities that currently do not exist, and forge their own paths to a better future.

Editor’s Note: You can do your part by contacting local schools and offering to host their students for a morning in your business, along the lines of the ‘Take a Girl Child to Work’ initiative. Encourage your own kids by teaching them the value of saving, investing and turning a small amount of money into a larger one through hard work. Other exciting youth entrepreneurial initiatives include www.teenentrepreneur.co.za and www.yesa.co.za.

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IMG_20150920_192137Lauren Daniels is a Cape Town writer who recently graduated with a BA Media Studies. Follow her on Twitter (@JournoLolz)

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