Who wants to be a millionaire?
With their phrases “You’re hired!” and “I want to make you an offer”, the hugely popular reality TV show The Apprentice and the equally popular Dragons’ Den have given us an insight into the world of the young entrepreneur and their relentless drive to succeed. Debbie Hughes meets James Hickie, who’s researched this growing phenomenon.
Last summer Universities Minister David Willetts announced that students should cast-off ‘old-fashioned’ definitions of what constitutes a graduate career and that they shouldn’t be afraid to start their own companies. But how easy is it for a young person to become the next Richard Branson. And is the entrepreneurial spirit something that manifests itself at a very young age or something that develops once we leave the education system and enter the world of work?
Research conducted by James Hickie from Loughborough’s Department of Social Sciences is the first of its kind to look in-depth at how young entrepreneurs – which he has defined as someone under 30 years old, turning over £1 million and employing five or more people – are able to build growth businesses.
Fifteen young entrepreneurs were studied as part of the research project which found that half of the young people had at least one entrepreneurial parent, while a third had another family member who they believed had been influential in their decision to become an entrepreneur
James first became interested in the way young entrepreneurs operated when, as an undergraduate attending the Cambridge Entrepreneurs student society, he saw how young people were able to grasp the concepts of business.
“There was an annual business plan competition and some of the young people entering were able to build substantial businesses and yet had had little work experience,” he says.
“My research looks at the role of the family in a young entrepreneur’s life, what entrepreneurial skills and experiences they utilised, and if they conducted any informal ventures at a young age, to see if this had had an impact on their early success.”