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Entrepreneurs should start young

by Nicola Macdonald

Mehram Sumray-Roots, co-founder of YADA and member of the EN 30 Under 30 2018, on entering the world of business early in life.

The tech industry is abundant with entrepreneurs and if we believed the hype we would think that they are all in their teens or 20s; Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook when he was 19 and Steve Jobs was only 21 when he launched Apple. But the reality tells a very different story.

According to a study by MIT the average age of an entrepreneur is much older than we think – between 42 and 45. It seems that most people wait until later in life before they start a business but why? Maybe because they felt that they needed the experience, to have some cash behind them or simply because it never occurred to them to start a business fresh from university? Perhaps they felt that it simply wasn’t the done thing – and they felt that they needed to follow a set, traditional career path first?

Whatever the reason, I think it’s actually much harder to make the move later on in your life when you have commitments, bills to pay and probably a family to support. I can understand the desire to gain experience working for someone else before stepping out on your own, but there are lots of advisors and business mentors who can allow you to tap into their wisdom and experience to compliment your passion and drive.

I met a lady in her 50s or 60s at a recent business event – she was a highly successful career woman who was giving it all up to start a business. I thought she was incredibly brave to give up everything she had achieved to start again, but she in turn thought I was brave to start a business so young and from nothing. Once you have ‘everything’ it can be a lot harder to give up and start again – not just in monetary terms, but also to lose the industry status and gravitas that a long standing career can bring.

I co-founded YADA straight from university and many of my friends thought I was mad. Many of them selected traditional graduate trainee schemes and a more ‘safe’ traditional career path – but now a few years on they have seen what I have achieved and a few are now bored and looking at ways to inject a spark into their careers. Being an entrepreneur isn’t right for everyone; not everyone has got the passion, enthusiasm, sheer determination and work ethic to be self-employed.  But why not find this out early on in your career whilst you have the passion, drive and time to do it, and also nothing to lose?

A lot of students are encouraged to take a gap year before settling into a career– so why not spend that year being an entrepreneur and starting a business? There’s a whole range of services, advice and funding options available to help start-ups, but I’d love to see more universities encouraging entrepreneurialism, more business incubators at job fairs and more acceptance that it can and should be done. Encouragement needs to be there – not just in tech, but in insurance, fashion, travel, food and drink; whatever your passion.

After all, what have you got to lose?


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