More mentors & enterprise education needed in schools

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UK business leaders believe more mentors and enterprise education in schools are key to nurturing a new generation of young entrepreneurs.

The findings of the survey by education charity, Aldridge Foundation, questioned 370 men and women who have successfully started and still run their own businesses. It asked them about their educational, socio-economic and family backgrounds and asked what more could be done to encourage young people to become entrepreneurs.

  • 21% say we need more business mentors 
  • 20% say schools need to offer more enterprise education
  • 17% say we need to overcome a cultural fear of failure
  • 14% say offer free business advice
  • 13% say access to start up funding.
  • 10% say business networking opportunities

Rod Aldridge, founder of the charity, said: “There is an urgent need to support young entrepreneurs who are struggling in this recession. They need experienced business people to give them mentoring support to help them adapt and survive. In addition, if we want UKPLC to come out of this recession with a pool of entrepreneurial talent, we need to instil resilience and an entrepreneurial mindset among school children that can only be learned from real business.

”There is clearly a willingness from the business world to offer help but we need to find a way to connect them with young entrepreneurs and schools. Whether we create a national database of mentors or find another practical mechanism, we must address this need now.”

Leading entrepreneurs believe that schools can help overcome the UK’s cultural fear of failure by instilling resilience and teaching enterprise using real life examples.

The main findings of the report include:

  • Entrepreneurs mainly come from middle income families – While the majority grew up in middle income families (54%), a significant number (34%) came from low income families. Only 12% came from affluent backgrounds.
  • Many of their parents were also entrepreneurs – While the majority (28%) came from families whose parents were white-collar workers, 24% had parents who were also entrepreneurs or self-employed.
  • Most self-fund their first ventures (39%) – 27% relied on families and friends, 25% negotiated bank loans or remortgaged their property.  Only 9% received external investment.
  • Most are university educated but say academic qualifications are not key – Despite the fact that more than half (60%) were educated to a university or Higher Education level, many respondents feel  that academic qualifications have not been the key to their success.
  • Entrepreneurs start young – The average age of those who first started to earn money was 17. The top three reasons for setting up a business are to be your own boss (30%), because they spotted an opportunity (27%) and to make more money (20%).
  • Attitude is everything – The majority believe that determination (56%) and passion (22%) are the most important characteristics for an entrepreneur.  
  • Adversity motivates them – 69% believe that adversity, in either socio-economic or personal circumstances, is a driving factor in motivating successful entrepreneurs.
  • Cultural attitudes stifle entrepreneurship – An ingrained fear of failure deters entrepreneurs but building closer links between schools and business can challenge this attitude - entrepreneurs believe the best means of encouraging young people to become entrepreneurs are: providing business mentors (21%), teaching business and enterprise at school (20%) and changing the prevailing attitudes towards failure (17%).
School Leadership Today