Many people will consider the option of starting a business of their own at some point during their life. Sometimes this is fuelled by a change of personal circumstances, sometimes it is as a result of a 'light bulb' moment where you think to yourself "I can do it better than that" and for others it is to fulfil a life-long ambition.
The UK is a nation of entrepreneurs. There are more than 2.1 million VAT registered businesses and the vast majority of those are small businesses. StartUp Britain suggests that entrepreneurs in Britain will start more than 500,000 new businesses in 2013 alone.
Andrew Devenport, chief executive of Youth Business International (hosts of Global Entrepreneurship Week) says "While more than half of the population would like to start their own business, less than 5% actually do. These entrepreneurial ambitions are even more acute among young people and women. Young people in the UK are three-times more likely to be unemployed than adults, and more than twice as many men start businesses as women.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of Global Entrepreneurship Week, which is dedicated to giving individuals and start-ups practical support to help them get set up and grow. Andrew Devenport says, “Young or old, whether you’re in Barrow or Braintree, or Greenock or Greenwich, Global Entrepreneurship Week can help you take a step forward.”
Here, four entrepreneurs tell us why they decided to set up on their own and share their stories.
Alex Head - Social Pantry Ltd
Alex began her entrepreneurial journey when she started a small sandwich company at the age of 15 and since then it has steadily grown it to the company it is today.
After opening three restaurants for other people she decided it was time to take the plunge and founded Social Pantry Ltd, a café and catering company in Clapham. Social Pantry was created on the back of Alex’s love of food and a challenge. Despite starting up during the recession, she has expanded with an impressive client list including Jo Malone, Red Bull, Innocent Drinks and Laura Ashley.
However, it hasn't always been plain-sailing for Alex - learning quickly how easy it is to get it wrong after the closure of Melito in 2010, a company she had invested in and set up.
One piece of advice Alex would give to people looking to start a food business would be to run a pilot scheme or a trial run. "A good way of starting is to have a pop up as a tester and then you can get direct feedback straight away. Alternatively, if you’re delivering food, start with a small sample of addresses you deliver to, and then expand if successful."
Jacob Hill, age 20 – The Lazy Camper
Jacob is currently studying for a degree in Enterprise Development at the University of Huddersfield, but unlike his peers, he isn’t just learning about starting a business, he’s actually doing it. What started as an idea in a muddy campsite at the Leeds festival has now grown into having its own office and six members of staff. Jacob now supplies camping equipment to thousands of festival goers and campers across the UK through his company, The Lazy Camper.
The company, whose best selling product is the £69.99 all-in-one camping kit in bag, is now a proud sponsor of Virgin Media’s V Festival and offers one of the easiest camping options ever to the hundreds of thousands of people at events such as ‘V Festival’ each year.
However this young entrepreneur nearly didn’t make it through school when his teachers found out he was running a confectionary enterprise from his school lockers. When threatened with suspension at fourteen he worried about his future, but little did he or his teachers realise that by twenty-one he would be a successful businessman winning £270k worth of investment for his start-up enterprise. Jacob wants to inspire other youngsters to combat the lack of employment opportunities by thinking big and starting up their own business.
James and Charlie Gerard - Offertune
Offertune was born over a good steak in an empty restaurant on a Monday evening. Two brothers (James and Charlie) were dining with the owner of a small group of restaurants and discussing why the normally busy restaurant appeared empty in the early week.
They realised that large chain restaurants were able to communicate offers to their guests through organisations like Groupon that have large, ready-made databases.
The seed of Offertune was sewn and the brothers worked for eight months trialling and developing software that provides a free tool for restaurants to collect and grow databases and send out free vouchers to their members.
Through a number of trials, they proved that fans of the restaurants would pay up-front and then spend 150% on the night. Charlie and James are now ready to run their business after a turbulent year of setting up but state that the key to their success is their brotherly bond. Charlie describes their relationship as one of the many strengths of Offertune, having a shared background and a similar frame of mind they are able to bounce ideas off each other with no inhibitions for sharing ideas.
As a result of both their hard work and teamwork, they already have interest from household names such as Charles Wells Pubs, Yo Sushi and Loungers, so it’ll certainly be a busy Christmas for them!
Katie Ainsworth – The Celebration Tent
Katie’s business idea grew while she was looking for something out of the ordinary for her son’s first birthday. She spotted this gap in the market and jumped at the chance to have a business that would fit around family life.
In 2011, Katie undertook voluntary redundancy from the NHS to coincide with her maternity leave. Katie dreamt of having a rewarding job that also let her work from home and have flexible hours to be a full-time mum. She realised the only way this would be possible was to become her own boss and she is now leading the way for stay-at-home parents seeking commercial success.
Katie started up The Celebration Tent, offering a decorated five metre bell tent for hire at private events, in April 2013, and has never looked back. Throughout this year, the company has gone from strength to strength as a result of beaming reviews from all of her clients and she has now expanded from one huge tent to four.
Katie describes her job as much more rewarding and challenging than her previous job at the NHS working with high level researchers. She would advise anyone thinking of changing their career and starting up their own business to take the plunge, as it was the best decision she ever made.
This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week – a week that aims to grow enterprise ambition and motivate people to meet their new business potential. Entrepreneurs and budding entrepreneurs from across the globe use the week to share ideas, connect with each other and receive valuable support and advice. Sounds great, but what does this mean for the UK’s small businesses? Why should they care about Global Entrepreneurship Week?
The organisation I represent – Youth Business International – runs the week in the UK and 10 other countries across the globe. Our ultimate goal is to help people around the world to start and grow their own business. Global Entrepreneurship Week gives us a platform from which to drive this goal forward, shining a spotlight on enterprise that enables us inspire and encourage new business ventures. But, for me, Global Entrepreneurship Week is more than that. Now in its tenth year, the week has become more of a movement than a PR push.
The campaign will see over 3,000 events across the country involving in excess of 300,000 people. Very few of these events are organised directly by Youth Business International. They’re organised by partners, from schools who want to inspire their young people to Barclays Bank who want to help businesses take their venture to the next stage.
So why should small businesses care? For me, there are three reasons. First of all, the week can be a catalyst for growth. Our theme this year is ‘take a step forward’ and the activity taking place is focused on giving small firms the tools and encouragement to push themselves, even if they make just one change that will open up their potential. Secondly, the week shines a light on the importance of enterprise – it’s a celebration of the UK’s start-ups and a time to be bold in communicating the value they bring to our economy. And finally, through the week, small businesses have unprecedented access to a huge amount of practical advice and resources, from masterclasses in international client marketing to bookkeeping workshops.
Global Entrepreneurship Week genuinely helps entrepreneurs to get the recognition they deserve and the support they need to grow. That’s why I believe it’s a week that all small businesses should take note of.
For more information about Global Entrepreneurship Week, to learn more about the events taking place across the world and how you can be involved, visit www.gew.org.uk or follow the hashtag, #GEWfwd on Twitter.
Andrew Devenport is the Chief Executive of Youth Business International
More than 350 events in the UK involving more than 76,000 people are planned, but there is still time to stage your own event – and there are many good reasons why you should (you can email the organisers for advice).
Business Secretary Vince Cable will launch GEW at an event at Westminster Kingsway College, which will be hosted by organizers Youth Business International and sponsors Barclays, where attendees will include former Pizza Express entrepreneur Luke Johnson, and Gandy’s Flip Flops founders Rob and Paul Forkan.
The theme for this year’s GEW is to encourage would-be entrepreneurs and business owners to “Take a Step Forward” towards starting a business. According to the organisers, highlights of the week include:
This year marks the tenth year of GEW, according to organisers, a week that is “dedicated to giving individuals and start-ups practical support to help them get set up and grow”. Last year, they say, 279,500 people in the UK attended more than 3,200 GEW events organised by more than 500 partner organisations.
“Young or old, whether you’re in Barrow or Braintree, or Greenock or Greenwich, Global Entrepreneurship Week can help you take a step forward,” comments Andrew Devenport, chief executive of Youth Business International (YBL – “a global network of independent non-profit initiatives” with HRH The Prince of Wales as its president). “We had a record year last year, but 2013 is shaping up to be even bigger and better.”
GEW certainly has high-level support. Prime Minister David Cameron says: “Global Entrepreneurship Week is about growing enterprise ambition and ensuring that those with ideas know where to get the support they need to make them a reality. It’s about creating jobs and opportunities.”
YBL says it believes that a large national campaign to promote entrepreneurship is “a vital part of making the UK more entrepreneurial, to encourage more people to start up their own business.
“The challenge we face is simple: while more than half of the population would like to start their own business, less than 5% actually do. These entrepreneurial ambitions are even more acute among young people and women. Young people in the UK are three-times more likely to be unemployed than adults, and more than twice as many men start businesses as women.”
Maybe this year’s GEW can help to address such problems by encouraging many more people to take control of the future by starting their own business.
Starting a business can be one of the most challenging, nerve-wracking – yet rewarding – decisions you can ever make. The good news is that there’s a lot of other people out there who’ve been there, done it, and have great advice they can share.
But the entrepreneurial community is spread thin, and, let’s face it, often pretty busy. So how do you go about tapping in to all the wisdom that’s out there?
This year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week is about helping you do just that. Running from 12-18 November, with some 2,500 events in the UK alone, this year’s theme is ‘Pass It On’ – asking anyone who’s been involved in starting a business to share the advice that’s been the most helpful to them in their entrepreneurial journey, with an eye to helping those just starting out.
Entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes will be sharing their thoughts on social media and in the media (follow us at @GEWUK and #GEWPassItOn for more updates). But there’s also a wealth of events happening all around the country, including:
Even if you’re too busy to get to such events, there’s plenty you can get involved with virtually. For example, The Global Brainstorm will broadcast live from a central London location, featuring a free live brainstorming session asking the question – What do you need to know to succeed?. And the Business & IP Centre at the British Library is hosting two webinars each day to give you the essential information you need to protect your business and improve profitability.
So, between 12 and 18 November, take some time out of your working day to get involved. Whether you’re looking for information or want to share it, you can be part of the world’s biggest annual celebration of entrepreneurship. And you never know – you might find the answer to that business puzzle that’s so far eluded you…
Andrew Devenport is the Chief Executive Officer of Youth Business International, which manages Global Entrepreneurship Week in the UK. For more information visit www.gew.org.uk
Over 40,000 events, 115 countries and 10 million people taking part – as business events go, Global Entrepreneurship Week ranks a little bit higher than a sad ham roll and a warm pint at your local Rotary Networking Soiree. And it has government backing: - at Monday’s launch, Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk said:
“Up and down the country, dynamic entrepreneurs are creating jobs and driving sustainable economic growth. It is vital that we do all we can to help them realise their ambitions and transform the economies of their communities.
“We know that events like Global Entrepreneurship Week can transform people’s appetite for enterprise. We want to help people develop the knowledge and confidence they need to pursue their dreams.”
We’re officially impressed - but how can GEW help your business?
There’s a lot more to the week than huge statistics and ministerial speeches. Keenly aware that only five per cent of people in the UK start their own business, GEW exists to encourage entrepreneurs to make the break and set up on their own, and to give really practical help to small firms.
From 14-18 November, the UK sees the brightest and best of its business talent offering you talks, exhibitions, seminars and networking events daily, as well as competitions with properly worthwhile prizes.
Highlights In England include investment shows, free training workshops on essential skills such as phone sales, Apprentice winners sharing their expertise, and online trading masterclasses trading from ebay and PayPal directors.
A lot of GEW events are free, or under £10, and thanks to the determinedly local bias, take place all over the country, with hundreds of organisations holding every type of event, from creative ideas workshops to HMRC officers giving advice to start ups.
Find the event that you - or your staff – could use on the GEW online search for activities in your area. You can filter by type of help that you need – eg sales techniques or tax advice – as well as by date and location. Or just browse for useful new local leads – Ladies who Latte, the women’s networking group, is holding coffee mornings throughout the South to welcome new entrepreneurs. And this year, special focus goes to young people who want to start, or at least understand, what running a business means, so check what’s happening at local schools too.
Because this is Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) and because I was intrigued to see the interior of Coutts Bank in the Strand in London, I went to a panel debate on Wednesday organised by the Sunday Telegraph.
Titled ‘The time is now for entrepreneurs’, the debate featured a line up of the great and the good in UK enterprise – Brent Hoberman, Julie Meyer, Sara Murray, Joe Cohen and the man behind GEW, Tom Bewick.
These are influential people. Many are direct advisers to Government on enterprise and entrepreneurship. They are genuinely keen to help the powers that be develop an enterprise culture in the UK and to turn entrepreneurship into an aspiration for many of our young people. Some would like to see enterprise introduced to the curriculum as a formal element, alongside science, English and maths.
There was talk of rapid growth, high turnover, capital investment, economic output, and so on – all good stuff and the panellists seemed to mostly agree on everything. There wasn’t much in the way of debate going on. I was lucky enough to be picked to ask a question. To paraphrase, I said:
“We’re all talking about entrepreneurialism and high-growth business here, and all the political lobbying and Government policy and media conversation seems to be geared towards these firms. But the majority of people running small businesses in the UK don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs. They’re small-business owners. What are we doing for them?”
The panel was perplexed. You could almost see them thinking “NOT high-growth? I don’t understand the question.” And it’s true, perhaps I didn’t make my point as well as I might. But I was surprised none of the panel took up the opportunity I gave them to explore the distinction between an ‘entrepreneur’ and a ‘small-business owner’ and think about the needs of a range of different kinds of business owner.
Instead they talked about the need to generate and support high growth businesses. Julie Meyer was somewhat withering about ‘slow growth’ firms (as she had been earlier about ‘lifestyle’ businesses); Sara Murray pointed out that the “majority of those businesses are corner shops” and that the Government wants to help create the next Tesco. “Tesco,” she said, paraphrasing Vince Cable, “is a bigger driver of economic output.”
This, I suppose, was the salient point. To be fair, Sara Murray also observed that Tesco had actually ruined hundreds of small businesses, so she didn’t necessarily agree with Vince Cable. But the panel as a whole seemed to find the idea of anything other than rapid growth alien and undesirable.
This is a shame. Let’s be realistic about this: the vast majority of the UK’s 4.5 million small businesses are not high-growth and will not become the next Tesco. What’s more, their owners don’t want to be the next Richard Branson, either. But they continue to employ people, pay their taxes and provide essential goods and services, year after year; they, too, provide ‘economic output’.
So why focus all of our attention on the tiny proportion of firms that will grow rapidly and make mega-millions? Why encourage all of our young people that it’s a realistic aspiration. It’s not – and X-Factor provides a salutary lesson here: for every Will Young or Alexandra Burke, there are innumerable other aspirants who now make a small living crooning on cruise ships or in pubs, or who have gone back to whatever they were doing before. Sure, they’re not as glamorous or as eye-catching, and they’re not making as much money for other people, but they are still valuable.
There seems to be something in our culture at the moment, where we consider only the spectacular and the highly lucrative to be deserving of attention. But tradespeople, enthusiasts who have turned their passion into a livelihood – yes, even corner shop owners – they are the meat and drink of our economy, and they all need a little thought from lobbyists and policymakers.
So while we’re blowing the trumpet for enterprise during Global Entrepreneurship Week, let’s remember that even though ‘now’ may well be the time for entrepreneurs, it is ‘always’ the time for small-business owners.
At the National Enterprise Academy (NEA), we are passionate about creating the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders. We exist to do something that has never been achieved inside the education system before.
And that’s to demonstrate that you can develop the entrepreneurial skills of our young people. We developed the first ever qualification, based on a curriculum written personally by Peter Jones — in enterprise and entrepreneurship — starting with 16 to 19 year-olds.
You may well ask why we don’t have enterprise education already. And it would be a good question.
Despite more than four million people passing through our further education system each year, no-one was teaching our young people the foundations of building a good business.
Now, I know Lord Sugar would probably disagree with Peter and I about this but we believe passionately that entrepreneurs can be made, as well as born. Yes, raw talent, commitment and that spark of a business idea is of course important and difficult to learn. But the basic ingredients of what makes a successful entrepreneur can, we believe, be taught.
I just do not accept that to get on in life and be successful in business is somehow solely the product of the bed you were born in or the genes that you inherit.
Lord Sugar is right about one thing though. We need to rewire the entrepreneurial mindset of the British people — perhaps even change our cultural DNA altogether. That’s as much about changing the attitudes of people in our society who too often ask the question: ‘Can I?’ Instead of saying, ‘I can!’.
This is borne out by the international evidence. The UK is second from top in the G7 of those — over 50 per cent of the population — who believe they have the know-how to set up successfully in business. Yet, only 5.8 per cent of our population is in the process of starting a new business right now. To put this into a global context –in the US it is 8 per cent, in Brazil 15 per cent and in China 19 per cent.
So this suggests that there is still a huge ambition gap to overcome. Converting the thinking into the doing is key. At the NEA we are trying to address this through what we call “learning by doing”. By nurturing a generation of young people that come out of the formal education system with the determination to make a job, not just take a job.
This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week – now in its third year. Over 100 countries will simultaneously celebrate the importance of building an enterprise culture. Ten million entrepreneurs around the globe will take part.
It’s based on a UK invention: an annual Enterprise Week launched in 2004. Like so many things, we’re great at generating the ideas. We can clearly export our ideas and creativity abroad. But can we really be the best and make the next decade the most entrepreneurial in our history?
A guest blog by Tom Bewick, chief executive of Enterprise UK