The power of global connections

The theme of this years Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) was connections, but can connections work for you? And if so what is the value it can bring to your start-up?

On the Thursday of GEW a, standing room only, event was held at the House of Lords, it was a joint effort between Young Brits and YBI and was a shining example of the advantages that networking and connections can bring when done in the right way. The event focused on the international dimension, it pulled together young entrepreneurs from the UK who have recently attended major summits that have been run across the globe by the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance and the European Confederation of Young Entrepreneurs as well as over 100 attendees and even the Prime Ministers Enterprise Advisor, Lord Young, asked to attend!

The key question that was asked, was can attendance at international summits for entrepreneurs really add value to your business. Tomasz Letniowski, Founder of Traductio, (attended G20 YEA Summit, Australia 2014), had this to say, “attending these summits offer unparalleled opportunity to network with influential business leaders from all over the world. However it is important to remember that once the connections are made you must look at how you maintain them.” Amy Barker, Founder of Monks & Co, (attended European Confederation Summit Greece 2014), went on to say, “being included in these international events have provided our business with incomparable networking opportunities with some inspirational established businesses. Networking with such advanced entrepreneurs aspire us to push further in our own enterprise and have provided contacts which have helped develop our business strategy’s further.” Nathaniel Peat, Founder of Gennex, (attended G20 YEA Summit, Canada 2010), summed it up well by giving a practical example of the benefit, “these types of summit have assisted the international development of my company directly, meeting like minded people, learning best practices, getting a contact database and establishing business relationships. As a result my company has now expanded into Africa the Caribbean and  is operating with partners in Asia, Europe and soon the USA.”

A few other boarder topics came up a number of time during discussions, and one was superbly articulated by Manuel Pinuela, CTO, Drayson Technologies, (attended G20 YEA Summit, Australia 2014), “It was great to hear across the panel that having the ability and the resilience to take risks and tolerate failure is becoming an important and recurring point to improve the entrepreneurship culture around the world.” Perhaps unsurprisingly the theme of mentoring, access to finance, coordinated support and access to market also came up during the sessions and it was extremely positive hear panellists and audience members mentioning the Start Up Loans scheme that is helping startups get access to finance and the IoDs Young Director Forum that is doing a lot of work around mentoring and support.

Finally, at a time of political sensitivity around Europe, it was extremely positive to have at the event a strong presence from the European entrepreneurship scene and to hear their insights/ thoughts on the UK and Europe. This was best summed up by Dimitris Tsigos, who is not only the President of the European Confederation of  Young Entrepreneurs but is also founder of a tech start up in Athens, Greece and has also recently launched his business in the UK. Dimitris had this to say, “The UK represents an amazing success story of governmental policies for promoting high growth and innovative entrepreneurship, being a true role model for Europe and the World. I was delighted to be involved in discussing the various ways international cooperation of Young Entrepreneurs can help them and their ventures take off, including the amazing opportunities that are possible for all young entrepreneurs if the UK and Europe and continue to work and grow together.“

It was a real pleasure to be involved in such a successful event, one where there was a tangible buzz in the air, and one where the networking went on until the early hours! But let me finish with the words of another one of the great entrepreneurs who kindly took part. Daniel Rajkumar, Founder of Rebuilding Society, (attended G20 YEA Summit, Russia 2013), “participation by members of the House of Lords along with a strong European contingent shows formidable government support for global entrepreneurship. May the inspiration motivate us all to do more & long may these positive initiatives continue.”

Many thanks to everyone who took part and to all those who attended. If you want to be involved in delegations to future international summits please contact me directly on: alex@youngbrits.com

Alex Mitchell, Director, Young Brits

Responsible Entrepreneurship

Last week (31 March to 4 April) was responsible business week. This is a great new initiative, which has been set up by Business In The Community (BITC) and aims to inspire and equip businesses to unlock innovation and demonstrate the positive impact of business in society. On the Wednesday (2 April) there was a focus on responsible entrepreneurship and this is what I am basing this piece on.

To me responsible entrepreneurship is both a concept and a process that sees companies integrating social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with all their stakeholders. It has to be driven from the top down and stakeholders must include both internal and external, customers and supply chain.

I like to think of responsible entrepreneurs as social innovators, not least because it kind of conjures up images of strangely dressed social super hero’s! However a responsible entrepreneur can create solutions to tough local and national social issues, whilst also ensuring commercial viability, thus increasing long term survivability and impact.

During the event there were three main speakers who I met and I wanted to share some of their thoughts and insights along with my own comments. First was Marcelino Castrillo, who is the Managing Director of SME banking at Santander. So why is one of the largest high street banks at a responsible business week event? They were a key sponsor, but their involvement seemed to be a lot more than that. Marcelion spoke passionately about his belief, and that of Santander’s, in the importance for all business to focus on education, enterprise and employment and the important business growth opportunities for SMEs that can be gained through responsible business practices. He also talked about the role that his bank can, and needs to play, in getting larger business supporting small business to create mutual benefit and growth, as well as the challenges that we all face in getting everyone, businesses and consumers, to think about sustainability and responsibility in all aspects of our lives. Finally Marcelino mentioned the wider positive impact that embedding responsibility at the core of your business can have, quoting that circa 80% of young people want to work for a company that has a positive impact on society.

The second person was Mary Portas who lead the independent review into the future of Britain’s high streets. Mary highlighted the impact that responsible business and responsible entrepreneurial enterprises can have on the high street. At a time when the high street in the UK is suffering and there is a continuing movement to out of town shopping centers, the high street needs to reinvent itself and create its own USP. She went on to cover the importance that popup hubs can play on the high street to highlight local traders, designers, artists, manufactures etc. If there is empty space on the high street, why not try and use it for a popup hub highlighting local trade talent? When I spoke to her briefly I was struck by her enthusiasm and passion for creating environments of kindness, how you should only employ happy people and the importance of living and giving – how you live your life and what you give back to society.

The third person was Chuka Umunna MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Business. It is not only positive to see a senior politician taking part and supporting such an event, but to also see him talk about the importance of responsible business and responsible entrepreneurship from the heart. Chuka is the MP for Brixton and there are some great examples there of responsible businesses and entrepreneurs and the positive effect they can have on the local community. He also recently chaired a Labour Next Generation event on the importance of responsible entrepreneurship. It was at that event and again last week, that he highlighted the need for entrepreneurship to be ‘in the hearts of the many not in the hands of few’, and the creation of/ belief in a ‘British Dream’ with more people setting up businesses, leading business, and working in businesses. It was good to hear about the emphasis he and the Labour party are putting on the power of entrepreneurship and its social value. Chuka also touched on the need for government to empower responsible entrepreneurs to do what they want to do, creating businesses that have shared values, bottom line and society.

Both Chuka and Mary touched on the importance of consumer behavior and the need to change this, increasing awareness of the impact purchasing decisions can make. They both highlighted the important role that the media could play in championing responsible enterprises, as well as the need for those in positions of influence to create a ground swell within consumers to change their purchasing habits towards one that supports responsible businesses.

I strongly feel that sustainability and responsibility in all enterprises, large and small, new and old, will be a major competitive advantage moving forward. Customers will want to buy into brands that believe in something more than just profit.

It is great to see BITC leading the charge; they have a strong network of businesses large and small across the UK and in sectors from manufacturing to tech and catering to housing. Responsible small startups and entrepreneurs will need all the help they can get to ensure they can be the change makers society needs. I think and hope that BITC will act as an informal incubator and catalyst for them by utilising their network and their influence.

I will leave you with a key aspect of what responsible entrepreneurship is to me.

A responsible entrepreneur does not focus on short-term profits to the exclusion of all else, and they actually go on to make more money. This is going to only increase and will create real change within the business landscape. Why? Because as the power shifts to the consumer, if a business doesn’t become responsible, customers and stakeholders will ultimately vote with their feet.

Social enterprise lessons from Mumbai

NB: This article first appeared in the Guardian on 5 April 2013 and it can be found here

Recently I was invited to Mumbai by Young Indians to address the inaugural Commonwealth Asia Alliance for Young Entrepreneurs summit on behalf of Young Brits and the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance. During my time in the city I got to visit some remarkable micro enterprises and meet some quite amazing social entrepreneurs. I wanted to share two of the lessons I learnt from these individuals, who from the outside seem to have the odds stacked against them, but all share a will, determination and ultimately a desire to bring about a real change.

From the moment you step off the plane you are hit by it, your senses are over powered by it and you will not escape it. It pulls you in and wraps you up. In a word, it’s ‘enterprise’.

Enterprise is everywhere, from stall sellers in the airport to the cabbies pitching for your business outside, the street sellers trying to get you to buy anything from leather jackets to balloons and the street food sellers with a dazzling array of dishes. This is a city where business is not just a part of its being, it is its being.

With a population of over 24m, 7m using the trains everyday (slightly less than the population of Switzerland), 5.5m using the buses daily (roughly population of Denmark) and the equivalent of a third of the worlds population making a train journey every year, this city is busy. At first glance it might seem chaotic, but it is organised chaos, everyone knows what they are doing, where they are going and there is a very real sense of a want to create work, business and money from them and their families.

This was the first of two lessons I learnt; it is all about the family.

I spent a day in the worlds most densely populated slum Dharavi, which sits in the centre of Mumbai, it houses over a million people and it wasn’t what I expected. It was safe, the people living there were welcoming and rather than there being a feeling of depression everyone I met was aiming to create a better life for them and their families. And by family I mean it in the widest possible sense.

Communities working together, creating a degree of financial independence through enterprise. In Dharavi alone there are over 10,000 businesses operating in sectors like leather, pottery and recycling. I came across larger business outside of Dharavi outsourcing the production of chapati’s to women within Dharavi, this not only provided a small income, but crucially it gave women a degree of buying power and therefor equality within the family unit.

And then there was the emphasis on education. The young children in Dharavi were immaculately turned out attending daily classes on English to math’s. Education was seen as a key way out, with the people I met seeing community enterprise as vital in helping their children to a brighter future.

Isn’t this what true social enterprise really is? Helping each other, providing support and opportunity for all, creating a better future for yourself, your children and the wider community.

There was no hiding away from it, life in Dharavi is tough, extremely tough, it left me with a lasting impression of how lucky we are. But what I did see was that through a community spirit that delivers practical solutions brought about by enterprise, there was a glimmer of hope.

My second lesson is taken from Mumbai’s world renowned dabbawalas.

So who are the dabbawalas? They transport home cooked food in dabbas (tiffins) from the homes of people who work in the city to their offices and back again. On a daily bases they move over 400,000 dabbas and have over 200,000 customers. The really interesting thing about the dabbawalas is two fold. First, they have no formal education, they are from poor backgrounds and they are recruited as dabbawalas to provide them with a skill and a career. Second, they use no form of telecommunication or IT system. It is all done by a coding system on the lid of the dabbas.

Now here is the amazing thing, they have an error rate of one in 16 million deliveries!

So why have I picked the dabbawalas as a lesson? They have been operating for 122 years, have a work force of over 5,000 people, operate a very flat structure with their board still doing deliveries and all pay is equal. So everyone is dependent on each other. Also every dabbawala is able to negotiate with their customer on the price point per delivery. They are trusted to be truthful and honest, to share all their earnings and negotiate sensibly.

It is an enterprise which has been answering a social problem for over a 100 years, they have been giving career opportunities to those in society with little or no education. And they have done this by trusting their work force and giving them real financial responsibility.

The lessons I learned in Mumbai where basic. But we often seem to forget the basics. We either focus on the next ‘big thing’ or we say it is up to someone else to sort out. Whereas it is actually up to us all to make a better future for ourselves, our families and our communities, be they local or far.

I recently said ‘all businesses will be social enterprises’ but I don’t think I got it quite right. All businesses need to be, but we all must be more social in our outlook. What I saw in Dharavi and with the dabbawalas shows what I feel is the true essence of social enterprise, delivering real change through communities and individuals addressing some of the countries toughest challenges. This is something we can learn from Mumbai. A collective responsibility and a shared awareness that will help make society better for all.

Micro-enterprise in the Dharavi Slum

My first blog focused on Mumbai’s Dabbawalas and this one is going to have a more social enterprise focus.

 

During my time in Mumbai I spent a day in Dharavi, which is in the middle of Mumbai, has over a million people living there and is the worlds most densely populated slum. 

 

Before I went there I had a lot of preconceived perceptions of what a slum would be like, however I couldn’t be more wrong. It was safe, the people living there were welcoming and instead of a give up type feeling there was a get up and go feeling. Everyone I met wanted to create a better life from them, their families and their wider communities.

 

In Dharavi alone there are over 10,000 businesses operating in sectors like leather, pottery and recycling. The leather products they produce can be made from design to fit in 24hours and are sold all over the world. No space is left empty in Dharavi and the picture at the top of this blog is of the roofs of Dharavi showing at least three different types of industries operating there.

 

In addition to the core businesses there were some excellent examples of bigger firms supporting micro enterprises in Dharavi. One such instance was a large business outside of Dharavi outsourcing the production of chapati’s to women within Dharavi, this gave a small income, but most importantly gave a degree of financial independence and control of the family finances.

 

One other interesting case study I came across was a social enterprise run by an inspiring young guy called Krishna Pujari. Krishna is Co-Founder of Reality Tours a company that takes people round Dharavi and shows them what real slum life is. It ploughs is profits back into support community and education projects in Dharavi and is making a hugely positive impact. I recorded a short interview with Krishna and if you have a moment please have watch of it here.

 

One striking thing from my time in Dharavi was the emphasis on education. The young children were immaculately turned out attending daily classes on English to math’s. Education is rightly seen as vital in helping children towards a brighter future.

 

However it shouldn’t be forgotten that life in Dharavi is extremely tough and it left me with an impression of how lucky we are and how often we take the basics for granted. But what I did see was enterprise thriving in the tough surroundings and helping to deliver a ray of hope for the families and their children in Dharavi.

 

My third and final blog on my visit to Mumbai will be on theCommonwealth Asia Alliance for Young Entrepreneurs (CAAYE) Summit and I will be sharing some thoughts from some truly remarkable young entrepreneurs from across the commonwealth countries in the Asian region.

 

You an follow me on twitter here.

The Dabbawalas of Mumbai

From the 13th to 17th December I was invited to Mumbai, India by Young Indians to address the inauguralCommonwealth Asia Alliance for Young Entrepreneurs (CAAYE) Summit on behalf of Young Brits and the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance. This is the first of three blogs I have written on the trip, this one will focus on the Dabbawalas, the second one will focus on social enterprises in the slums and the third will focus on the CAAYE and the wider role and importance of such alliances.

 

Let me start by trying to quickly put Mumbai in context. A city of 24million people, huge growth in recent years, enterprise is happening everywhere, the people are extremely welcoming and there is a real buzz/ can do feeling from the moment you step off the airplane. It feels like a city that is going places and going there fast, yes it has its problems, one of these I will try and cover in my second blog, but is trying to resolve them.

 

I commute every day to Central London, and I thought it might be interesting to put Mumbai in commuting terms… Over 7million passengers use the trains in Mumbai every day, just slightly less than the population of Switzerland and 5.5million use the buses, roughly the population of Denmark. This means that over 2.54bn people use the trains in Mumbai every year, roughly a third of the entire population of the world!

 

So who are the Dabbawalas? Well roughly translated it means box people, they transport home cooked food in dabbas ‘Indian style tiffin boxes’ from the homes of people who work in the city to their offices and back again. 

 

They transport over 400,000 dabbas a day and have over 200,000 customers. The Dabbawalas on the whole have very little formal education and they don’t use any form of telecommunication. Instead to ensure the right dabba gets to the right person they use a coding system on the lid of dabbas that tells the Dabbawalas everything they need to know from the home to the floor in the relevant office block.

 

The Dabbawalas have been going for 122 years, growing to a work force of over 5000 people and there has never been a strike in their history. They operate a very flat structure with their board being voted on by the whole workforce and all pay is equal. Also every Dabbawala is able to negotiate with their customer on the price point per delivery.

 

And here is the fact that have made them world famous. They have an error rate of 1 in 16million deliveries. This is classed as six sigma level, actually above!

 

I left my half day with them feeling utterly blown away by their organisation, professionalism and focus on service. Quite rightly Mumbai and India should be proud of them and I know that I got a chance to see something very special and truly unique.

 

I will finish with a quote from the President of the Dabbawalas Association Mr R Menge, which I felt summed up the attitude of all the Dabbawalas I met:

 

‘Work is worship , food is god. We deliver come what may, the customer will never go hungry’

All businesses will be social enterprises

NB: The following is from an article that first appeared in the Guardian on 27 Nov 2012 and it can be found here

All businesses will be social enterprises says Institute of Directors leader

As funding, and money from government is cut, business must be part of the solution, says Alex Mitchell
Social enterprise has a key role to play in building a new economy at home and abroad, says Alex Mitchell of the Institute of Directors.

Alex Mitchell, head of influencer relations at the Institute of Directors, has said that all businesses will have to become social enterprises.

Mitchell, who also co-founded a charity for disabled athletes called Kit Us Out, said: “I think all businesses, large or small are going to have to become social enterprises in one shape or form. As funding and money from government continues to be cut, business is going to have to step up to the mantle and be part of the solution. To help get young people into work, for example.”

Mitchell was speaking on the panel at UnLtd’s Global Entrepreneurship Week at the British Library, which explored the future of support for social entrepreneurs and how that support could help mainstream start-ups.

He also talked about the role of business in building a new economy in the UK and abroad, referencing Greece in particular.

In response to a question from the audience on challenging capitalism, he said that “every system should be challenged; it’s up to everyone here and outside to ensure businesses are being challenged to play an active role in society”.

Later, in response to a question about how the social enterprise movement could be speeded up, he challenged the audience on which businesses they’re helping grow as part of their everyday life.

He asked: “How many people here go to Starbucks, even though they’ve been pulled apart in the last few weeks because they possibly aren’t paying the full level of tax? We have to own up: we need to decide where we’re putting our resources – I mean our own individual cash.”

Mitchell called for social enterprises to make sure they utilise the skills and support of experts to ensure the survival of their businesses. “The reason 50% of businesses fail in first two years is not because they’re not good businesses. To create success, you’ve got to surround yourself with people who are better than you.”

Could social enterprise be an answer to the Greek crisis?

The mistakes of the past have resulted in the dire situation that all Greeks now face. Yet the crisis in Greece is not a financial one but rather a political one and the long-term solution will never be found in ministerial speeches or government buildings. It will be found where the power now truly lies, with the young unemployed throughout Greece, with any person with an idea, even with the protestors themselves.

Last month, I was lucky enough to lead a fantastic group of social entrepreneurs and young business people from across the UK to take part in Entrepreneur Week in Greece, run with the Hellenic Start up Association, founded by Dimitris Tsigos

Greece faces huge problems: an unemployment rate of almost 50% amongst young people and national debt running at over 160% of GDP. But it also lacks real support or networks for business – the current system seems to inhibit business start-ups and therefore job and wealth creation. One example of this anti-business culture is the obligatory payment of around €200 per month that has to be paid to the government, by anyone starting a business regardless of its profitability. As one of my colleagues on the UK delegation, Joanna Montgomery, Founder of Little Riot said: “There is absolutely no way I would still have my company had I been subject to a similar system.”

But not all is doom and gloom, there are rays of light over Athens, one excellent example being that of Co-Lab, a social enterprise that has been founded by Stavros Messinis. It is based in Central Athens and is a start-up hub to encourage and facilitate collaborative working as well as running regular start up weekend events. This is what Greece needs. It has the people (the second highest level of university education percentage wise of population), it has the aspiration, judging by the number of people I met who want to run their own businesses and with the current economic turmoil, it now has the reason.

Every new business that sets up in Greece could have a social impact as well as a financial one and every person, young or old, who is setting up a business can be socially entrepreneurial and in turn benefit many others. Young Greeks in particular have the chance to create a better society for themselves and generations in the future. As such they need to realise the potential they now possess and face up to the responsibility that has been thrust upon them.

The Greek government is not the change maker; the real drivers of this desperately needed shift, are the citizens of Greece. They need to create the business, economic and social solutions to the problems that Greece does and will continue to face. They need to embed a culture of responsible capitalism within business at all levels from start-up through to the established corporates. The need to create an entrepreneurial and business environment where start-ups and companies are not just job and wealth creators, but have positive impact and active engagement that creates long term social solutions within the communities in which they operate will be critical.

What Greek politicians can do is encouraging people like Dimitris and Stavros. These individuals are social entrepreneurs, creating initiatives and enterprises, which focus on a profit with wider social purpose. They highlight the power individuals can have within their local sector and the wider society. If Greece can nurture a culture and ecosystem that encourages enterprise growth alongside positive social impact, then maybe the Greek economy can be the fist one to aim for a truly national form of responsible capitalism, with individuals signing up to a wider social contract.

In the UK and across Europe, we need to ensure that the individuals within Greece who are trying to create positive change for themselves and their nation don’t stand alone. We need to help them develop the skills sets needed to create sustainable and profitable social enterprises. The power is shifting, the Greek population now have the responsibility to provide positive change for their country and we have a responsibility to help them do exactly that.

Comments from the UK delegation to Entrepreneur Week Greece:

Glynn Pegler, founder of youth media organisation Culture Group:”It was painfully obvious that no system of support for entrepreneurs in Greece exists. The private and public sectors are completely blurred. The mindset is some 10 years behind countries like the UK. Greece needs changes in infrastructure, changes in the mentalities of the facilitators and the standards that they expect. There is a need for people who can turn knowledge into change. I am pleased to support Young Brits in calling for a new fiscal framework for Greece; faster procedures for the creation of businesses there and the re-organisation of the public sector to facilitate the building of networks and peer support.”

Nathaniel Peat, Founder of The Safety Box: “Greece needs to change the whole legislation to allow young people to start business, the education system needs to be redesigned and entrepreneurship and enterprise needs to be taught on all levels both primary, secondary and post secondary education”.

Joanna Montgomery, Founder of Little Riot and Shell LiveWire Award Winner: “I feel incredibly lucky for everything the UK affords me. I have been supported and encouraged on so many levels since I started out, and organisations such as Shell LiveWIRE and others add an extra framework around young entrepreneurs like myself. I believe Greece could really flourish if similar support was made available to young entrepreneurs.”

Nathan Dicks, Founder of Rewise Learning and UnLtd Award Winner: “The key in Greece is a more equal society and a morally justified form of capitalism where everyone can benefit from growth”

Marty Bell, Founder of We Own and Virgin Media Pioneer: “Although the country is in a dark place, there was a huge amount of positivity over there. They understand that there must be a new mentality towards entrepreneurship, a mentality that fosters creativity & pushes ambitions, that won’t be linked with safety – but with innovation and creativity.”

The search is on for 25 ambitious social entrepreneurs

Recently we saw the launch of Big Venture Challenge, of which the IoD is a supporting partner, a fantastic new competition to find 25 of the nation’s most ambitious social entrepreneurs and give them the chance to fast-track their ventures to the next level. The initiative, run by UnLtd and supported by the Big Lottery Fund and the Millennium Awards Trust, is in three stages – offering 25 winning entrepreneurs £25,000, the best 10 £50,000 in matched funding, and a massive £100,000 to the very best two.

Big Venture Challenge seeks to provide the leverage for ambitious social entrepreneurs to scale their ventures up in order to meet increasing social needs in a time of significant public service budget constraints. These ventures are a key solution to fill the ever-growing gap between publicly funded services and society’s needs. As well as providing crucial services, social ventures stimulate economic growth by contributing more than £24 billion to the economy.

There is a clear gap in the social investment market between small start up funds and later stage investment for established social ventures. Big Venture Challenge will help bridge and stabilise this gulf by providing flexible co-investment finance of up to £175,000 for these mid-market social ventures, making a direct bridge between start-up and success. This competition aims to reduce the risk in the early stages of growing a social venture through business and financial support and to attract new investors into this space through the innovative co-investment model.

With 238,000 people starting or planning to start a social venture in the UK, social entrepreneurs are key to providing alternative, innovative solutions to social problems across England, and also to economic renewal.

The Challenge has received more than 1,000 registrations already, but if you or someone you know fits the description of a social entrepreneur whose venture is past the start-up stage and is in need of funds to scale up to the next level, visitwww.bigventurechallenge.com to find out more. The closing date is the end of June, so get applying and good luck.

Entrepreneurs are the solution

Be it the invention of the spear, the building of the first hut, the carving out of the first canoe, Graham Bell wishing he could pickup something to say hello to a friend far away or the Wright Brothers looking up and thinking man needs to be in the skies, entrepreneurs have lead the way, seeing a problem and developing of a solution, pushing the boundaries and challenging what we thought possible.

Entrepreneurs have been the bedrock of our civilization and they are the life blood of our future economy; it is through the development of an enterprising economy and the inspiration of a new generation of inventors and innovators that the UK will once again help to lead the world in new idea generation.

On Monday 15 November, Global Entrepreneurship Week will kick off in over 100 countries, a movement to educate and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. Initially created in 2004 by Enterprise UK (an independent charity with government support from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, founded by the UK’s largest business organizations, including the IoD) Enterprise Week started with the aim of coordinating youth enterprise activity around the UK and inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs. Good ideas travel fast and in 2008 Enterprise UK collaborated with the US-based Kauffman Foundation to co-found Global Entrepreneurship Week – an international movement to accelerate entrepreneurship around the world.

By 2009 Global Entrepreneurship Week had been replicated in 88 countries including Australia, America, Argentina, China, India and Russia. The scale and quality of events has attracted Presidents, Prime Ministers and almost 7.5 million people in 32,861 activities across the globe. In the UK, 529,083 people took part in the week in 2009 with over 4,812 events involving 2,428 partners across every Region and Devolved Administration.

The aim for Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010 is to build on this phenomenal success by getting over 100 countries involved, thereby enhancing the global networks that people can utilise as well as highlighting the UK as a true hub for global entrepreneurialism. This worldwide movement has already proven to increase confidence, skills and abilities of new and existing entrepreneurs. It also provides the opportunity to promote and support existing UK organisations and entrepreneurs, particularly those with high growth ambitions, by providing platforms for them to connect with global networks and markets.

So as we enter a decade where we will have to be more entrepreneurial, initiatives such as Global Entrepreneurship Week are an essential part of equipping a more entrepreneurial set of people in the UK. As we expect more and more of our entrepreneurs to secure a sustainable economic future for us all, then it is only right that we all get behind global movements attempted to celebrate and nurture their future successes.

To put it simply ‘Global Entrepreneurship Week – be a part of it’

 

The most inspiring afternoon of my life…

We sometimes tend to look inward; we focus on the negative, believing in all that is wrong with the world and mankind. We fail to see what can be truly amazing; we fail to see the good and the potential in people regardless of their situation.

Once in a while, if you are lucky enough, you get to meet someone who truly changes you, they make you sit up and think, they make you reassess your thoughts and ideas. They put your life in context and leave you inspired. I recently met 10 such people.

On Friday 13th, a day noted for its negative connotations, I had one of the most positive experiences of my life, and it was brought to me by one of the globes largest companies, a social enterprise from Brixton and 10 young ex-offenders.

On the afternoon of the 13th I was a ‘dragon’ for the Google Entrepreneurs Project, which, run in conjunction with Livity, was taking 10 young ex-offenders on a 3 week intensive entrepreneurial boot camp. At the end of the 3 weeks they had to pitch their business ideas to myself and 3 other dragons.

So what were their business ideas like? Frankly, they were amazing; if I was an investor I would have invested time, effort and money in to each and every one of them. I have listed all the entrepreneurs, linked through to all the businesses they are trying to set up and listed their twitter accounts at the end of this blog. When you have finished reading this, I strongly recommend that you spend a few minutes looking through their websites and read what they are trying to achieve. I guarantee you will be impressed by the broad nature and foresight of their enterprises.

Everything about their pitches was professional, from the way they dressed to the way they presented themselves, to the language they used and the answers they gave. Their eye contact was strong, their stance was open and their pitches were to the point. They had done feasibility studies, competitor analysis, business plans, financial plans, marketing strategies; they had done everything you would expect a seasoned entrepreneur/ business person would do when pitching for investment.

Then you remember that these young guys and girls in front of you are ex offenders, they don’t have MBAs and they are not entrepreneurs with a number of successful starts up under their belt.

All too often we hear that society is broken, ‘broken Britain’ seems to be a bit of a buzz word of late, we hear how young people are to blame and how it was never like this in the past. But is society truly broken? Are things worse now than they have ever been? Is the young generation out of control with no hope or want to better themselves?

Or do we now live in a 24/ 7 news culture, where we all hunger for the next news story, the next ‘breaking news’  item, telling us how bad things are. Sadly where sensationalism sells, positivity doesn’t get much of a look in. Maybe, just maybe we will get a breaking news article in future that reads ’10 young ex offenders set up successful businesses bringing wealth and job creation to the capital.’ Or is that wishful thinking?

The 10 young people I met on Friday 13th August changed me; I learnt more from them than I have ever learnt before. Yes, they had made one foolish mistake; they had made one stupid decision. But who did they have to turn to? Who was their mentor? If it was but for a different roll of the dice and without a supportive family around me and a strong group of friends to turn to, then that could have been me, it could have been you.

The re-offending rate of young offenders in the UK is simply staggering, their lives and the lives of their future families should not be ruined because of a moment of stupidity. They need a way out; they need a second chance and regardless of what has happened in the past, all they really need is a bit of support, a helping hand, someone to say I believe in you, I trust you. And isn’t that really all that anyone ever needs?

List of the 10 young people who were on the scheme and links to their businesses and twitter feeds:

  1. −- Melissa Campbell and Ola Ilesanmiola

www.aceofheartsboutique.co.uk

www.twitter.com/_Ace_Of_Hearts_

  1. −- Abubakarr Kaikai

Kai doesn’t have a website yet but you can follow him on twitter:

www.twitter.com/globalkai_ltd

  1. −- Pail Hodge

www.lemonpig.co.uk

www.twitter.com/1lemonpig

  1. −- Oskar Amir De Rocha

Oskar doesn’t have a website yet but you can follow him on twitter:

www.twitter.com/empowerthruart

  1. −- Shane Boathe

www.ecoboothe.co.uk

www.twitter.com/ecoboothe

  1. −- Saidi Kawooya and Lloyd Amarteifio

www.bankersclub.co.uk

www.twitter.com/BANKERS_CLUB

  1. −- Paul Ganbou

  2. −  Paul doesn’t have a website yet but you can follow him on twitter:

www.twitter.com/lesangenoir

  1. −- Jefferson Nonez

www.unitedliving.co.uk

www.twitter.com/United_Living