Why Youth Entrepreneurship Education?

I entered the world of Youth Entrepreneurship Education in 2006. Throughout my professional career as a counsellor, a corporate consultant/mentor and coach, a business owner and a parent, I often wondered why our state education system does not facilitate entrepreneurship as a core subject. In all of the youngsters that I have worked with since then, I have found within them, an entrepreneurial spirit. A spirit of adventure, of creativity, of fun, of willingness to take risks. All of them have had an interest, a talent, or a passion for something.

But this spirit and these interests, instead of being fostered, are being left untapped. The myth that entrepreneurship is something you are born with and cannot be learned still lives on in many minds. And yet, the experience of entrepreneurship teaches life and work skills simultaneously and most importantly it harnesses passion. In today’s high tech world starting up a small business has never been more feasible and learning ‘how to’, based on something for which you have a passion, can be an inspirational process for young people. If you nurture and follow a young person’s spirit and their passions and interests while they are in school - all the other things that entrepreneurship comprises can be taught, by which time they are so engaged in the spirit of their venture that they actually want to learn more!

Capturing a desire to learn by making learning a fun and engaging process about topics that are relevant to a young person’s world has always struck me as an obvious way to go about educating our young people. Teaching entrepreneurship to young people through a practical, physical, emotional and intellectual approach fulfils all of those criteria, and even more importantly it informs them about and provides them with an additional career option.

Attitude   One of the main criteria for successful entrepreneurship is ‘attitude’. Positive attitudes such as ‘I can’. But adult negative attitudes held about the principle of ‘learning entrepreneurship’ are afflicting our young people too and particularly those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, where many of these youngsters’ attitudes are entrenched in the belief that ‘I could never start up a business even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know where to start’. It’s just not on their radar screen. There is no reason whatsoever that because a parent wasn’t an entrepreneur, their child cannot be either. Research tells us this is often the case but it does not have to be so, we should be working to redress this. We call this an issue of social mobility but in fact it’s just education. We should be educating our youth emotionally and attitudinally, as well as academically. Attitudes can be impacted upon by a willingness to adapt behaviour. Any good coach will tell you that.

The experience of entrepreneurship can facilitate learning in:   people management, negotiation and feedback skills, effective communication, work ethic, accountability, responsibility, finance/money management, leadership and so much more.

With this mind-set as a backdrop, in 2006 I began on a mission: to waken the entrepreneurial spirit that is within young people, to open their minds and support them, through coaching, and mentoring to channel their passions and interests into a small money-making idea of their own that follows their interests. We would run a course in schools and see what percentage of the young people might actually be more interested in the idea of entrepreneurship afterwards.

We designed a 4-day course   With a background in experiential learning program design, and being a football fan I had always wanted to weave the ‘beautiful game’ into my work and so with the support and backing of my partner, Tony Woodcock (former England international footballer), we designed a four day course to do just that, using the game of football as the learning medium, another vehicle through which so many of life and work/business subjects can be learned. Our focus was 13-19 year olds, inner city youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. The topics of learning were Youth Entrepreneurship, Business Idea Generation, Business Finance & Money Management, Teamship & Leadership, Stress Management & Personal Development. We set off on an entrepreneurial adventure into the unknown.

Mining Entrepreneurship in our Youth   We called the course ‘Tsu’Chu Biz’. The earliest known game of football - Tsu’chu - was played in ancient China 2500 years ago and so the four day course begins with a potted history and geography lesson of all the places around the world where the game was originally played, how it has developed and changed over time, how it has moved from a hobby to a profession to a global business and now to becoming a professor! The underpinning principle of the course is to ‘work at what you love’ and our first endeavour on Day 1 is to help our youngsters discover what that is for them. Then with trained professional coaches and mentors to help them identify a small money-making idea based on their interests and passions they begin a four day journey of learning as we MINE youth entrepreneurship. Mentoring, Inspiring, Nurturing and Empowering.

The Aims of the 4-day course

  • Learn by doing at a profound and meaningful level through the power, passion and fun of football
  • Recognise and exploit personal interests, skills and talents
  • Spot a money-making opportunity
  • Develop a business idea based on personal passions/interests and talents
  • Understand the process of starting up a business
  • Experience and learn inspirational teamship, leadership, communication, feedback and social skills with a view to team entrepreneurship
  • Understand legal business models including partnerships and different approaches to leadership for today’s world
  • Become more aware of own and others’ attitudes, producing positive changes in behaviour, attitudes and increasing self-belief
  • Be encouraged and inspired to create and pursue Further Education and or Higher Educational goals
  • Engage in experiential learning activities to simulate and manage pressure and stress
  • Practise/learn techniques to gain mastery of emotions, personal balance and reduce negative stress
  • Develop and write a business plan for a small viable business based on number of hours per week available after school work and social life
  • Calculate initial costs and overheads of a small business, budget and profit margins
  • Design own promotional marketing materials
  • Practise and understand the principles of market research
  • Deliver a PowerPoint presentation of own business plan to a panel of successful entrepreneurs, peers, family and friends
  • Be offered a volunteer business mentor if wish to take forward the business

Harnessing passion and interest and teaching through fun and football was a big success. As the young ‘players’ began to understand their roles and responsibilities on the pitch, they quickly and easily understood how to transfer those same roles off the pitch for their business teams. The youngsters wanted to learn. The young men and women who arrived not liking football, left wanting more; suddenly maths became fascinating when they had to calculate how much profit (or loss!) they might make in their small business. Feedback received by peers and staff on leadership and teamship activities was well received and acted upon. Attitudes began to change. The sharp talkers became the sales people/the negotiators; the IT ‘geeks’ became the graphic designers/IT ‘directors’; the ‘creatives’ became marketing and advertising ‘directors’; maths skills turned into finance managers; the ‘people’ types became chair people and organisers. And the business ideas were all viable, small, but viable for a young person or team of youngsters to pursue. Many of the ideas are still going today. Seemingly inexplicably to maths’ teachers, exam results suddenly improved. Where more than 200 young people experienced the course in a school, a palpable difference in culture could be felt – a more entrepreneurial one emerged with students excitedly talking about their businesses to each other.

In all, approximately 1500 young people from more than 50 schools, colleges and universities have so far gone through the Tsu’Chu Biz course. It has been successfully delivered in the UK, Germany and the UAE. The majority of young people who have experienced and benefitted from the course, are inner city youth (including young offenders), all female and all male groups excelled equally, as have youngsters from mixed backgrounds and cultures. Several ‘Cup Final Events’ have taken place where winning businesses from each course are provided with voluntary business mentors from sponsor organisations as they compete against other schools.

The Big Society in Action v. Government   Premier League Football clubs provide merchandise and match tickets for business plan winners; academic institutions such as business schools or universities provide venues for the courses and Corporates sponsor. Altogether this professional tripartite of partnering, collaboration and support – a Big Society in Action initiative - has been seeding entrepreneurship in young people since 2007 and entrepreneurial spirits have been awakened. Years later we hear from alumni about the change Tsu’Chu Biz has brought to their lives and the progress they are making; we speak to heads and teachers where the course was delivered who talk of the impact it had on their students’ lives; how many went on to further education who had not planned to; their intentions to start their own business or the fact that it is still going well.

“Can I pass on the deep gratitude, love and thanks from all at St Matthew Academy for all the support you showed over the past year. I think you will have gathered that our students idolise you guys and are beginning to develop thanks in a major way to your inspiration and pure kindness.

The course changes lives. XX would have been in prison or much worse by now if he hadn’t done the course – no doubt in any of our minds. I have said it before that The Challenge of Excellence has a family feel to it and I think that security allows vulnerable kids like ours to shine”

Martin Nirsimloo Deputy Head, St Matthew Academy, Lewisham

This young man continues to run his business six years later

Young Unemployed to Young Entrepreneur   In 2012 when one million young people were long term unemployed, it just made sense to see if it was possible to nurture their entrepreneurial spirit too. Government results for getting this age group – the most challenging of unemployed groups into work was about 5%.

In 2013 we designed a one year programme for long term unemployed 18-24 year olds, all on Jobseekers Allowance. The programme, sponsored by a major high street bank kicked off with the 4-day course and was followed by a year of weekly personal development coaching, counselling where necessary and business mentoring, all delivered by a combination of paid professionals and corporate volunteers. The pilot achieved a 64% success rate of which, one year later, 50% were still taking forward their business and 50% still in fulltime jobs. A full report on the findings of this ‘Young Unemployed to Young Entrepreneur’ initiative is available – its challenges, the learning, the results. The pilot was designed and delivered with close monitoring and with a view to scale up for national rollout, in the UK and internationally. This Challenge of Excellence website is the result and creation of one of those former young unemployed participants on the above programme. A young man who has found his passion, trained, learned, overcome challenges and is now a young entrepreneur. The potential for good, for education, for society, for the economy for all kinds of target groups is untapped. If long term young unemployed can make use of this initiative and excel, how much more potential can be galvanised for our youngsters in schools?

Eight years debunking the myth that entrepreneurship cannot be learned   By the end of each 4-day course more than 80% of the young participants held a belief that they could be a successful entrepreneur one day if they wanted to. The mystery of starting up a business has been demystified. Attitudes have shifted. At the beginning of the course, just 5% of youngsters have the attitude of thinking it could be possible for them to start up a business. After more than eight years in the youth entrepreneurship world and working particularly with disenfranchised youth many of whom face seriously challenging personal issues - we believe at least 60% more of these young people, all young people, could take up entrepreneurship as a career choice than is currently believed. We are hugely wasting potential!

I remain passionate about reaching Governments with a view to their considering the merits of the 4-day course for inclusion in secondary state education curriculum and the year-long programme for 18-24 year olds to help a) prevent youth unemployment and b) inspire young people to waken and act on their entrepreneurial spirit. Such is the impact of the course, the amount of learning it facilitates both at a personal, economic and emotional level, that it has also always been our intention to seek international governments’ interest and funding support to see the course delivered for young people from third world countries and for youngsters from countries in conflict with each other. An opportunity for young people to play football together, discover other common interests and values, match complementary talents and shared passions and learn how to start a business together based on what they love – from war to peace, to mutual prosperity.

For testimonials on our Youth Entrepreneurship Education work please select from the drop down menu

Courses are delivered by our trained professional coaches and mentors. If you are interested to know more, or if you would like to explore the idea of a ‘Young Entrepreneur’ course for a group of youngsters, or for your child’s school, or for international courses, please do contact us