South Africa’s latest unemployment figures make for sombre reading. While official unemployment is now 27.7 percent, the most affected group are young people under the age of 35 with a staggering 38.6 percent of youth unable to find work.
Interestingly, according to the 2016 Seed Academy Startup Survey results only four percent of entrepreneurs started a business because they were unable to find a job and well over 80 percent had more than one year of work experience before doing so, revealing that few South Africans venture into entrepreneurship as their first professional career move.
Donna Rachelson, Group CEO Seed Engine, says the country needs to do more to encourage and nurture young entrepreneurs. “High unemployment among the youth is an urgent concern which requires solid, innovative solutions. There’s absolutely more that can be done to guide young people in identifying business opportunities while also creating avenues for aspiring entrepreneurs to gain valuable real-world work experience to equip them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to begin their own entrepreneurial journey.”
Seed Academy believes that the youth of South Africa have the power, drive, energy, creativity and innovation to change the statistics and pursue entrepreneurship as an alternative to formal employment. While taking the brave step to becoming an entrepreneur can be daunting, each young entrepreneur can make a difference, create employment, and blaze the trail for a brighter and more prosperous South Africa. The youth of South Africa can make it happen!
Make the leap to entrepreneurship – some advice for newbies:
• Develop financial discipline early on – develop financial models that are realistic and reflect planned business growth, this will help ensure your business is funding ready when you need it.
• Build your network - you need to build a support system early on - not only with other entrepreneurs but mentors, family, friends and organisations that offer support to entrepreneurs.
• Invest in fundamentals early on e.g. registering your business; a professional email address (don’t use Gmail and consider engaging a graphic designer to come up with a professional logo and business cards) Potential clients and investors will feel more comfortable if you are ‘established’ - you need to give an impression of professionalism and stability early on.
• Celebrate small successes. Every small milestone should be seen as a step in the right direction. Learn from these successes and how the steps taken can be incorporated into your company systems and processes.
• Be kind to yourself! Entrepreneurship is not easy - don’t expect everything to be perfect first time around. Remember that even the most successful entrepreneurs fail sometimes. The trick is to learn from failures, engage with mentors and work on a plan of action to get it right the next time.
• Most importantly - never stop learning and innovating! If you don’t know something, make an effort to find out everything you can about it, talk to people in the know, seek out expert guidance, and follow the work of advice of entrepreneurs you admire.
• Build a team – don’t do it on your own. Collaborate with like-minded and passionate individuals who understand your goals and share your vision. Surrounding yourself with positive people who can share their knowledge and skills with you is invaluable to any entrepreneur who wants to go the distance.
• Be passionate – accept that failure can be part of your journey but that passion for what you do is the cornerstone of every success. Sincere passion and dedication will always be noticed and remembered.
• Do your research – take the time to fully understand your market, its challenges and opportunities. Get to know every aspect of your chosen industry and identify corporates who have Enterprise Development (ED) programmes that you can get involved in to take your business to the next level.
- Donna Rachelson, Group CEO Seed Engine