The importance of nurturing entrepreneurial skills in the youth

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, at least half of all working men and women will have engaged in a period of self-employment for one or more years by the time they reach their retirement age.

January 28, 2011

Entrepreneurship is prolific. It is the ability to make something out of nothing; it fuels imagination and provides millions of jobs across the globe. It is usually associated with the young, and vibrant, the fearless few that are willing to take the first step. “If you have a dream, an idea and a burning desire, but are not willing to try, you have failed already,” says Ivan Epstein, entrepreneur founder and CEO of Softline which is part of Sage Group plc.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, at least half of all working men and women will have engaged in a period of self-employment for one or more years by the time they reach their retirement age. “Every single company out there started with an idea and has grown from there, whether it is Bill Gates or the innovative sculptor making garden birds out of scrap metal,” says Epstein.

The youth is the future of our country and the ideas and concepts that come from their minds will pave the way. “South Africa is fast progressing and if you factor in our developing economy it is definitely an exciting time to be young, living here and have your entire career ahead of you. It is however up to the youth to embrace the positive aspects of South Africa and to build on it. We have embedded a strong ‘can do’ culture and there are many examples of entrepreneurial successes that the youth can learn and benefit from,” says Epstein.

Entrepreneurship is defined as the process of identifying, evaluating and seizing an opportunity. Venturing out can however be very daunting for some. “You have to believe in yourself and be relentlessly passionate about your idea. If you have done your homework and you believe it will work, especially if the product or service is needed or of use to some: Go for it!” urges Epstein.

Skills are key to building the future economy and these skills must be nurtured through education and training. “The more skills we have at our disposal, the more entrepreneurial successes will unfold. New, fresh and expanding business endeavours are vital ingredients to building our economy and our nation at large, empowering South Africans to earn a living. For that reason, entrepreneurship needs to be nurtured and instilled in the minds of the youth,” says Epstein, it needs to pervade throughout the country.

A formal tertiary education creates a better foundation for entrepreneurial success. It’s not essential, as there are countless examples of incredibly successful entrepreneurial successes without any formal education whatsoever. “It’s beneficial to have a qualification to fall back onto, an insurance policy of sort. On the other hand, knowing you have nothing to fall back on can create an even greater necessity and burning desire to succeed as we have seen throughout the world.”

“The beauty of entrepreneurship is that it can take any shape or form. Sometimes a complete lack of skills can grant a person the freedom to think outside the normal frame of reference, to find something truly unique, a sense of naïve freedom. An idea can be born from simply getting to know a market, a product or a business skill or spotting an opportunity within what you do, or just a great instinct and foresight. Whatever the circumstance, we need to nurture it and encourage it, to allow entrepreneurship to flourish.”

The formal sector has a role to play in fostering young minds and one such tool is internships. “It makes a profound difference to discover whether you have a passion for a particular career by being exposed to the processes and the daily routine. In many instances, interns take up permanent positions as they will possess the necessary skills to perform the job with confidence in addition to being acclimated to the company culture,” says Epstein.

Entrepreneurialism has been part of the South African landscape throughout our rich and colourful history. “We have proven ourselves in the global environment to be progressive, innovative, idealistic and original. The road to success is not easy and will be fraught with many challenges, but I would like to urge you to follow your passion, even when you feel like you want to give up. Make the absolute best of it, and never give up” urges Epstein.