I have spent many, many hours with numerous bright and engaging young people who all want to make their mark in the commercial world. The Big Idea Challenge is just one example of a hot house-style, day-long incubator where ideas are drilled down to create compelling investor pitches.
I’m fully invested in the concept of encouraging young people to be the best they can possibly be, in whatever they choose to set their sights on.
As a mentor, when presented with a new business pitch, you’re faced with many questions to challenge the viability of their idea. Have they considered how they are going to generate the level of sales or momentum to make their business sustainable? Have they really considered if they will be profitable and if so do they appreciate the importance of how cashflow impacts on their journey?
Often the ‘youngprenuer’ has not done much if any research beyond an internet search. However, in my opinion, I do not feel the above points are that relevant to a young entrepreneur’s early development, so why does it matter? And anyway - how is that going to help the young entrepreneur develop their big idea in the first place? Which, by definition, is precisely the point of being a young entrepreneur.
You must learn to self-check regularly and to manage the paranoia and euphoria with equal diligence.
You see, while creating correct logistical processes, and collating the views and expertise of others are important aspects of entrepreneurial life, they are tools and disciplines for another day – ones that you can build as you mature and improve. In the first instance, being a successful young entrepreneur is much more about listening to your gut and putting yourself in a position where you wholeheartedly believe in what you feel or have created.
A young entrepreneur will face many, many challenges on the road to achieving their personal early success – and the line between ‘personal’ and ‘professional’ can be non-existent at this point, Yes, I do mean ‘personal’ because everything a young entrepreneur does in business is personal. This success may materialise as a thriving business, or it may stimulate and empower them to go on to do other more creative and productive things.
However, for a young entrepreneur to make the most of their idea, it must be watered and fed by the following attributes to give it any chance of success.
- Belief: You have to totally believe in your idea. There must be no reasons in your mind why you will not succeed. All objections are simply a request for more information. Achieve this level of passion and others will also become believers
- Drive: You must be driven to succeed, so you can achieve the very best you possibly can from your idea. This will be the fuel that powers you in challenging times and makes you formidable when momentum is positive
- Understanding: You must have an innate understanding of the commercial sector you are focusing on. This should almost border on an obsessive dedication to understanding every aspect of the opportunity
- Honesty: You will have to learn how to be inwardly honest very fast. It is one thing making others believe, but a whole other challenge making it believable to yourself. You must learn to self-check regularly and to manage the paranoia and euphoria with equal diligence
Of course, successful young entrepreneurs need to nurture many more character traits and skillsets than this. The creative thinking, focus, self-belief and drive will not be present at the levels required to sustain the early journey of a fledgling business. Together with the support of entrepreneur mentors, each of the Big Idea Challenge finalists was taught how to sharpen their business idea and pitch to a panel of judges.
Indeed, the ideas that came out of the event this year are nothing short of visionary. From a smart bracelet that keeps you safe on a night out to a London bus that provides showers for homeless people – there is no shortage of ideas that tap into the millennials’ passion for safety, security and community.
So, how do we consider what makes a young entrepreneur? And, are they visionaries or delusional romantics, or are the two conjoined? I think they are both. If you nurture a balanced mixture of vision, delusion, creative thinking, focus and self-belief and drive you will be able to sustain your early journey as a young entrepreneur.
These attributes - which are all required at almost super-human levels – are what defines a young entrepreneur in their early stages of their personal commercially creative development. Using the words of the passionate and focused Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.”