The past 12 months have seen the Government try to further encourage entrepreneurship in the UK through a number of initiatives such as startup loans for young entrepreneurs, the Government backed GrowthAccelerator programme & the continued growth of TCIO, established by UKTI, which helps by attracting inward investment, and supporting companies in London's tech cluster who want to expand into international markets.
Whether or not you feel these organisations are actually doing enough to truly help entrepreneurship flourish is another question or in this case another post, but you still have to acknowledge the fact that the government are at least making an effort and certainly adding a fair amount of publicity around entrepreneurship to those who haven't been exposed to it.
One MP determined to make a change is Richard Fuller, MP for Bedford. He is currently on the look out for ways at which the local Government can help foster entrepreneurship.
During my last conversation with Richard, his interest in entrepreneurship was clearly obvious, and his enthusiasm for the subject was clearly visible for me to see.
You can argue the almost everyone could look enthusiastic and interested in entrepreneurship but what got me really interested in his story was what he was doing. 'Business Fund' is a local fund which he set recently that will see wealthier individuals in the community contribute to the fund which will then go back into supporting startups in the Bedford community. This will ultimately grow and help boost local employments dependent on the businesses getting the right support along the way. The hope is that these individuals who want to give back to the community can help support the growth of the next generation of local businesses. The fund is on course to raise £1million and those wanting to get investment from the fund will pitch to get investment.
It's early days for this but it will be great to see how this develops. One things for sure is that the startup hubs who flourish have a community which gives back through knowledge and support. This idea brings successful business people back into the community to offer mentorship and funds for the next generation to rise through. This has worked spectacularly well in areas such as Tech city in London and the Cambridge startup scene.
Growing this on a local scale across the country would create multiple mini startup hubs. There are thousands of entrepreneurs across the country and not all of them live in London or the other major cities. Many of these are in smaller populated towns where an entrepreneurial community doesn't exist, but there are businesses across the country including these smaller populated areas that can provide the support to the next generation of entrepreneurs who don't currently have any sort of mentorship. Starting a business is hard enough, doing it alone is even harder. Family support can only go so far, having others going through what you are really makes the difference.
London has a huge support network and multiple networking events, where you can meet other entrepreneurs in the same stage as you or entrepreneurs who have built multi-million pound companies to investors & more. We all know how useful having connections is, putting local business owners and investors in touch can help create connections that might not have otherwise happened.
Certainly having a support network in place will also help in alleviating any fear aspiring entrepreneurs may have. Even though we say entrepreneurs don't have that fear, we all grow up going through an education system that looks down on failure, and the majority of individuals grow up with this inherent fear of failure and look to stay in the safe zone as much as possible. We've seen that in the recent recession that when many career professionals were thrown out of their 'secure' 9-5 jobs that they were suddenly forced to face that fear and many entrepreneurs were born.
Entrepreneurship needs to become a real career choice in the eyes of the nation and that starts from what is taught in schools. I'm not saying everyone should be pushed down that route but it should be an option. The full low-down needs to be laid out on the table, how to start a business, what's really involved, the good bits and the shit bits. Have entrepreneurs speak in schools. Its a mentality more than anything. Its a mentality that will prove fruitful in a traditional job or when starting a business. It should be an option. Business studies as it is, is inadequate and too focused on theory, more Maslow's triangle and the 80/20 rule than how to set up a website and the financials.
Again Business degrees don't currently expand on this much more. It's improving but the education system moves so slowly it can't keep up with the real world. Is a business degree really giving you a good enough grounding or is it merely a piece of paper to show that you have a good skillset and get you an interview? Make up your own mind.
Now wouldn't it be great if the Government introduced proper startup loans as an alternative to University. University is becoming an expensive option for many. The prospect of a degree and £30,000 of debt doesn't sound so great. Wouldn't it be nice if you had the choice of taking a startup loan. Much like you apply for a student loan, a startup loan could help pay for your living costs for 3 years so you can concentrate on trying to build a business. You would have to pitch an idea and submit a business plan to get it of course.
If it fails I guarantee you would have learned more than you would have in a business degree. Those who take the startup loan could be given mentorship and connections with organisations that can help support the companies growth.
Or maybe the Government could set up some sort of entrepreneurial gap year programme. Which actually is kind of what NEF is.
Now I know everyone has an opinion on what the Government can do to help foster entrepreneurship and boost small businesses so please add your ideas to the comments or email me and I will be sure to pass them onto Richard Fuller MP if you wish.
Oh and lets all remember that it is also important not to think that starting new businesses for the sake of increasing entrepreneurship is not what it's all about. If we truly want to ensure that entrepreneurship is contributing to economic growth we need to ensure that viable businesses that will be still be around in 5 years and making money are the ones being started. We need to ensure that SMEs are not left to fight a battle they can't win, they need the support to grow into the next medium and large enterprises that will be hiring thousands of employees and really contributing to the UK economy.