Getting your foot on the career ladder can be a challenging experience. Looking for the right role within the right organisation or sector is often competitive, uncertain and stressful.
These kinds of concerns may be partly what persuades some young people to strike out on their own instead – to pursue an entrepreneurial path that will allow their creativity and individuality to thrive.
But of course, that is not a path without risk. Entrepreneurs face a wide range of other obstacles and pitfalls. Without the safety net of an employer, they operate at the mercy of the market, and failure rates are high.
Put simply, for an entrepreneur to succeed, they require a good idea, a well researched target customer, and funding. They also need the resilience and ability to take calculated risks, and a network which provides advice and support.
This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.
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So it’s not easy. And in the UK (as with many other countries) the current economic climate adds further difficulties for entrepreneurs, including the ongoing cost of living, the costs of being sustainable, and supply chain issues.
These all make the role of the state even more vital in sustaining enterprising environments and entrepreneurial spirits. This generally happens through the provision of things like grants, loans and tax relief.
But the current government has come up with plans it hopes will make it easier for businesses to grow, which include a more manageable tax system (to allow small businesses to focus on their day-to-day operations) and new funding for research and development.
There are welcome moves as well to improve links between businesses and universities in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The idea here is for new firms to benefit from the specialist research and skills that universities can provide.
British universities have an important role in encouraging entrepreneurial activity and supporting small businesses. Between now and the end of the decade it is thought that they will provide over £11 billion worth of guidance, advice and research. In the five-year period up to 2026, it has been estimated that around 20,000 businesses will be created through universities.
There are also related organisations such as the National Association of Colleges and University Entrepreneurs, Young Enterprise Scotland, Elevator, and Converge, which all support budding entrepreneurs, helping students and graduates to develop their business-building skills.
Inspiration and insight
Research confirms that both the government and the university sector are vital parts of the entrepreneurial landscape. They have the resources and expertise to be a decisive influence on whether or not the UK is a place that truly welcomes and encourages entrepreneurship.
There is no question that it ought to be. Entrepreneurs are important in any economy, creating jobs and wealth, and increasing competition and quality in a variety of sectors.
After years of researching entrepreneurship, I am optimistic that despite the ever-present challenges, there is good support out there if you know where to look for it. And my main piece of advice for any young person seeking to set up a business is to find that support.
Once you’ve found it, learn from it, and be inspired by it. Don’t assume that you will know the solution to every problem you encounter – instead, seek advice and expertise from as broad a network as possible.
Aside from that, always plan your next business move and be thorough in your research. Consider your unique selling point: how will your business enter the market, and what will keep customers interested?
For those with entrepreneurial ambitions, it is important to stress that it is never easy. They may be in for a rough (and often exciting) ride. But if you know where to find expertise and funding and are blessed with the necessary resilience and perseverance to navigate this volatile terrain, the opportunities for a fulfilling future are there for the taking.