A profoundly rewarding experience - mentoring a Young Entrepreneur

Young people aren't a humongous group by any means yet are often referred to in broad brush statements as though they are. As with all sectors of society, geography, demographics, experiences, and a vast range of diversity factors exist. So, as we are in Youth Week, it seems appropriate to share my experience in supporting and championing our young CEO Emily

In researching this post I specifically looked for statistics on the appetite for youth to enter business ownership today, following the path of an entrepreneur, this 2015 report from EY [pdf] provides relatively recent survey based insight into the career prospects and aspirations of young people. 

"In general, 72% of young men and 58% of young women want to be in charge of their enterprises." 

While there is no NZ Data specifically reported, of our closest neighbour Australia 48% of youth surveyed have Entrepreneurial aspirations vs a striking 91% in Mexico. I must say it is inspiring to find so much interest and faith in the prospect of building a company and in turn contributing to their own economies and ecosystems in that capacity. 

The UK have taken a high profile approach to attracting young people into business - 57% holding this aspiration according to EY - creating the role of "Enterprise Tsar" and appointing the infamous TV personality Lord Sugar to the role. The scope of this initiative extends to enhancing apprenticeship programmes to create opportunities, build skills and foster entrepreneurial spirit. This role and focus alone should elevate the conversation and serve to educate on this potential path in life.

Another finding from EY that impressed me was how many of those who want to run their own business already have a fully formed idea - 36%. How many "grownups" reading this have a fully formed business idea after years of dreaming?

Queue Emily. When Mike and I met then 18 year old Emily her fully formed idea had already been through one Young Enterprise programme, a prototype had been made and put into operation on pilot farms, and there she was - entering a 2nd programme in the hope of taking the product to fruition. In both of these programmes Emily worked with others who for their time involved shared in the journey fueling her passion. 

We were captured by Emily's clarity of vision for the product, her energy and generosity of nature. Mentoring and working with a young entrepreneur in my experience has differed from working with mature entrepreneurs in a few distinctly positive ways:

  • Open Mindedness - everything is new as are the possibilities
  • Social Consciousness - elevated sense of community, role in and contribution to society
  • Positive Outlook - with no instilled fear of failure 

With no pre-existing experience to fall back on there are also three key things mentors of young entrepreneurs need to be conscious of as we have reminded ourselves on occasion:

  • Providing Context
  • Being very clear when giving advice
  • Never assume 

The energy and enthusiasm of youth while a fantastic asset when starting a business needs to be tempered with a sound plan to execute against and decision making framework to ensure not too many cul-de-sacs are followed en route.

For me, working with Emily has been a rewarding experience, I simply love her tireless, optimistic perspective and watching her grow from strength to strength. Injecting younger people into your workplace is an invaluable exercise so I encourage everyone to consider opportunities to do so here during Youth Week.


The header photo shows Emily with fellow young agricultural entrepreneur, Patrick Roskam, inventor of the Gudgeon Pro